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Selection and Sanctioning in European Parliamentary Elections


Elections are inherently about selecting good candidates for public office and sanctioning incumbents for past performance. Yet, in the low salience context of ‘second-order elections’ to the European Parliament, empirical evidence suggests that voters sanction first-order national incumbents. However, no previous study has examined whether voters also use these elections to select good candidates. This article draws on a unique dataset on the political experience of party representatives in eighty-five national elections to the European Parliament to evaluate the extent to which voters prefer candidates with more political experience. The results show that selection considerations do matter. Parties that choose experienced top candidates are rewarded by voters. This effect is greatest when European elections are held in the middle of the national electoral cycle.

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James D. Fearon , ‘Electoral Accountability and Control of Politicians: Selecting Good Types versus Sanctioning Poor Performance’, in Adam Przeworski, Susan C. Stokes and Bernard Manin, eds, Democracy, Accountability, and Representation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 5597

Raymond M. Duch and Randolph Stevenson , The Economic Vote: How Political And Economic Institutions Condition Election Results (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Cees van der Eijk and Mark Franklin , Choosing Europe? The European Electorate and National Politics in the Face of the Union (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996)

V. O. Key , The Responsible Electorate (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966)

Bernard Manin , The Principles of Representative Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

David M. Farrell and Roger M. Scully , Representing Europe's Citizens? Electoral Institutions and the Failure of Parliamentary Representation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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