Do Electoral Systems Impact MPs' Behaviour in Newly Democratized Countries?
20 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2013 Last revised: 27 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
Studying party unity is important for understanding how democracy works. Legislatures, where major public policy decisions are debated and adopted, provide citizens with information through which citizens can tell whether parties deliver. Research on Parliamentary Party Group (PPG) unity in countries where Party System Institutionalization (PSI) is high has shown electoral systems to have little impact on how MPs behave, yet very few studies have been carried out on weakly institutionalized party systems. Using roll-call data I conduct a broad analysis on eighteen European countries including some from South East Europe (SEE) not studied before. I argue that the electoral system has greater impact on the way MPs behave in countries with weakly institutionalized party systems. More specifically, in low PSI countries with candidate-centred electoral systems where there is both intra-party as well as inter-party competition, PPG unity is likely to be low while, in countries with party-centred electoral systems, which lack intra-party electoral competition, PPG unity will be high. Compared to strong PSI countries, where cultural differences and MPs' loyalty to the party and the electorate seem to override any electoral system impact, in weak PSI countries politicians are seen to have little incentives to remain loyal to party labels if those labels become irrelevant to or even barriers to winning election. MPs are conscious that they can run as independents or establish political parties and still win election. This paper seeks to enrich the existing literature on the effects of electoral systems on MPs' behaviour by exploring such effects in newly-democratized countries. It further seeks to bring academic attention to the SEE region which I believe might provoke general conclusion on this field due to the weak nature of their party systems. The findings of the paper will bear implications on the functioning of parliaments in these countries.
Keywords: electoral systems, MPs' behaviour, party system institutionalization, PPG unity
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