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Seniority-Based Nominations and Political Careers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 September 2020

Cornell University
Stanford University
BI Norwegian Business School
Alexandra Cirone, Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Cornell University,
Gary W. Cox, William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Stanford University,
Jon H. Fiva, Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, BI Norwegian Business School,


This paper investigates party use of seniority systems to allocate nominations for elected and appointed offices. Such systems, which can regulate party members’ access to offices at multiple levels of their careers, are defined by two main rules or norms: an incumbent re-nomination norm and a seniority progression norm. Using comprehensive electoral and candidate data from Norwegian local and national elections from 1945 to 2019, we find systematic patterns consistent with these two norms. Our work illuminates an institutional aspect of candidate selection that the current literature has ignored while noting some of the important consequences of seniority-based nominations for party cohesion and stability.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

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We are grateful to Michael Becher, Jens Olav Dahlgaard, Henning Finseraas, Helene Røhr, Chris Skovron, Dan Smith, and referees, for useful comments on an earlier draft. We thank Johannes Piene, Sigmund Tveit (Norwegian Centre for Research Data), Tuva Værøy, and Reidar Vøllo for excellent research assistance and help with data collection. Cirone and Fiva gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Norwegian Research Council (grant nr. 281191). Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:


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