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Unexpected Winners: The Significance of an Open-List System on Women's Representation in Poland

  • Sheri Kunovich (a1)

Scholars have debated the impact of open-list systems on women's representation. While some argue that open lists provide a unique opportunity for voters to overcome parties' bias against women, others argue that they create additional barriers. I examine several mechanisms that impact women's representation within Poland's open-list system. Results suggest that 1) voters shift women's original list placements positively across all parties over three elections; 2) these shifts are more pronounced when women's overall presence on the list and list placement are lower, regardless of party; and 3) positive shifts often result in the election of substantially more women than would have been expected. These findings add to our understanding of open-list systems by documenting variability in the effects of preferential voting across time and party in a postcommunist context. In addition, the unexpected positive effects of preferential voting in Poland add to a growing body of evidence that voters and parties on the center and right support female candidates at rates approaching or similar to parties on the left.

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