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Institutional Rules and Party List Construction in Unconsolidated Democracies

Sat, September 2, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Hilton Union Square, Golden Gate 3


Scholars of electoral systems have extensively assessed how institutional rules establish incentives for strategic entry and withdrawal by parties and candidates, but limited scholarship has intensively studied how candidate lists are constructed in party list systems. While extant research distinguishes between so-called “safe” and “unsafe” list positions, limited research has assessed how political parties engage in strategic list construction, especially for positions on the list that are considered to be non-competitive. This paper uses data from a transitional society that underwent electoral system change to evaluate how party list construction takes into account critical characteristics such as candidate quality, localness, and other features.

We have assembled candidate data for several Ukrainian elections using different electoral systems: a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) electoral system (2002) and a proportional representation (PR) system with a single national tier (2006 and 2007). The change in electoral systems was especially challenging because Ukraine’s MMM system did not permit dual candidacy. As the 225 constituency seats of Ukraine’s 450-member Rada were transformed into party list seats, candidates had to seek out party affiliations and list positions that would facilitate election. Parties, in turn, had to identify available candidates who could enhance vote acquisition efforts and attract them to the party list. All of this took place when the party system was inchoate and the regime experienced a major transition due to the 2004 “Orange Revolution.” 

These features of Ukraine: changing election rules, weak parties, and regime change, make it an especially fruitful environment to evaluation how parties interacted with candidates to generate competitive party lists. The changing election rules potentially extended the number of seats parties could gain on the list. Weak parties permitted candidates to seek out the best “deal” for affiliation; list position was likely one aspect of these deals. Regime change altered expectations about which parties would be successful; parties were incentivized to maximize their ability to draw citizen votes since elections were expected to be more open and competitive than before. 

Our analysis takes advantages of Ukraine’s circumstances to assess intra-party distribution of candidate features on each party’s list and inter-party variation in candidate features of the list as a whole. We use the Ukrainian case to contribute to knowledge about how parties attract candidates and strategically construct lists to enhance their competitiveness under conditions of uncertainty.