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Electoral systems and programmatic parties

Fri, September 1, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Westin St. Francis, Elizabethan B


What are the incentives for party ideological cohesion created by electoral systems? In this paper, we argue that the answer relies on whether party leaders have incentives to recruit for cohesion rather than relying on sheer discipline in producing voting unity. We use a formal model to distinguish between the control over rank held by leaders within list systems, with the main distinction made between open (OLPR) and closed lists (CLPR). Under OLPR, vote contributions are transparent, which gives members leverage against the leadership in resisting discipline. In CLPR, the contribution of the member to the list's vote is not directly observable and therefore allows lower costs to discipline. We show that, because discipline is costlier in OLPR, leaders that value voting unity are forced to recruit for cohesion. Meanwhile in CLPR, leaders can achieve unity by relying on discipline. To the extent that programmatic parties are more likely to form on the basis of cohesive parties, OLPR offers better prospects for programmatic party development than CLPR. Our results explain the puzzling patterns of party ideological cohesion in European parliamentary systems measured with two different expert surveys (CHES and DALP).