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What Makes a Good Politician? Reassessing the Criteria Used for Political Recruitment

  • Rainbow Murray (a1)


Certain societal groups are significantly overrepresented within politics, including men, ethnic majority groups, and socioeconomic elites. This has fueled debates regarding meritocracy within political recruitment. While meritocracy is desirable, its definition and measurement are contested. The criteria used in theoretical and empirical academic studies differ from those of political parties and voters, as discussed below. Furthermore, there is bias in favor of the male status quo, with all groups preferring the qualities of existing elites. The definition of a “good” politician is therefore highly subjective. Nonetheless, political traditionalists claim that the “best” candidate should be selected even if this leads to significant gender imbalance in parliaments. Yet, if political recruitment is biased in favor of social elites, the overrecruitment of men may not derive solely from merit (Murray 2014). Without definitive criteria for evaluating prospective candidates and judging those already elected, we cannot determine whether political recruitment is meritocratic.



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