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Electoral Control in New Democracies: The Perverse Incentives of Fluid Party Systems

  • Jakub Zielinski, Kazimierz M. Slomczynski (a1) and Goldie Shabad (a1)

How do fluid party systems that exist in many new democracies affect democratic accountability? To address this question, the authors analyze a new database of all legislative incumbents and all competitive elections that took place in Poland since 1991. They find that when district-level economic outcomes are bad, voters in that country punish legislators from a governing party and reward legislators from an opposition party. As a result, electoral control in Poland works through political parties just as it does in mature democracies. However, the authors also find that, in contrast to mature democracies, legislators from a governing party tend to switch to an opposition party when the economy in their district deteriorates. When they do so, their chances of reelection are better than those of politicians who remained loyal to governing parties and are no worse than those of incumbents who ran as opposition party loyalists. These empirical results suggest that while elections in new democracies function as a mechanism of political control, fluid party systems undermine the extent to which elections promote democratic accountability.

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1 For Eastern Europe, see Kreuzer, Marcus and Pettai, Velio, “Patterns of Political Instability: Affiliation Patterns of Politicians and Voters in Postcommunist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,” Studies in Comparative Development 3 (Summer 2003); idem, “The Calculus of Party Affiliation in Post-Communist Democracies: Party Switching, Fusions, Fissions and the Institutionalization of Party Systems” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, August 28–31, 2003); Herron, Erik S., “The Causes and Consequences of Fluid Factional Membership in Ukraine,” Europe-Asia Studies 54 (June 2002); Birch, Sarah, Elections and Democratization in Ukraine (London: Macmillan Press 2000); idem, “The Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine, March 2002,” Electoral Studies 22 (September 2003); Ilonszki, Gabriella, “Belated Professionalization of Parliamentary Elites: Hungary, 1848–1999,” in Best, Heinrich and Cotta, Maurizio, eds., Parliamentary Representatives in Europe 1848–2000: Legislative Recruitment in Eleven European Countries (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2000); and Shabad, Goldie and Slomczynski, Kazimierz M., “Inter-party Mobility among Parliamentary Candidates in Post-communist East-Central Europe,” Party Politics 10 (March 2004). For Latin America, see Mainwaring, Scott and Scully, Thomas R., eds., Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press 1995); Mainwaring, Scott, Rethinking Party Systems in the Third Wave ofDemocracy: The Case ofBrazil (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press 1999); and Scott Desposato, “Parties for Rent? Ambition, Ideology, and Party Switching in Brazil's Chamber of Deputies” (Manuscript, Department of Political Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, 2002).

2 Desposato (fn.l).

3 See the several chapters in Przeworski, Adam, Stokes, Susan C., and Manin, Bernard, eds., Democ racy, Accountability and Representation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999).

4 See, for example, Barro, Robert J., “Control over Politicians: An Economic Model,” Public Choice 17 (Spring 1973); Ferejohn, John, “Incumbent Performance and Electoral Control,” Public Choice 30 (Fall 1986); Austen-Smith, David and Banks, Jeffrey, “Electoral Accountability and Incumbency,” in Ordeshook, Peter C., ed., Models of Strategic Choice in Politics (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1989); Banks, Jeffrey and Sundaram, Rangarajan K., “Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard in a Repeated Election Model,” in Barnett, William A., Hinich, Melvin J., and Schoenfeld, Norman J., eds., Political Economy: Institutions, Competition and Representation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1993); and James D. Fearon, “Electoral Accountability and the Control of Politicians: Selecting Good Types versus Sanctioning Poor Performance,” in Przeworski, Stokes, and Manin (fn. 3).

5 See, for example, Goodhart, C. A. E. and Bhansali, R. J., “Political Economy,” Political Studies 18 (March 1970); Mueller, John E., “Presidential Popularity from Truman to Johnson,” American Political Science Review 64 (March 1970); Kramer, Gerald H., “Short-term Fluctuations in U.S. Voting Behavior, 1896–1964,” American Political Science Review 65 (March 1971); and Tufte, Edward, Political Control of the Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1978).

6 For Western Europe, see Paldam, Martin, “How Robust Is the Vote Function: A Study of Seventeen Nations over Four Decades,” in Norpoth, Helmut, Lewis Beck, Michael S., and Lafay, Jean-Dominique, eds., Economics and Politics: The Calculus of Support (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1991); Powell, G. Bingham Jr., and Whitten, Guy D., “A Cross-National Analysis of Economic Voting: Taking Account of Political Context,” American Journal of Political Science 37 (May 1993); and Powell, G. Bingham Jr., Elections as Instruments ofDemocracy: Majorttarian and Proportional Visions (New Haven: Yale University Press 2000). For Eastern Europe, see Pacek, Alexander C., “Macroeconomic Conditions and Electoral Politics in East-Central Europe,” American Journal of Political Science 38 (August 1994); Joshua A. Tucker, “Taking Account of Institutional Effects: How Institutions Mediate the Effect of Economic Conditions on Election Results—Evidence from Russia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, 1990–1996” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., August 31—September 3, 2000); idem, “Transitional Economic Voting: Economic Conditions and Election Results in Russia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic from 1990–1999” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Boston, November 2004); Gibson, John and Cielecka, Anna, “Economic Influences on the Political Support for Market Reform in Post-communist Transitions: Some Evidence from the 1993 Polish Parliamentary Elections,” Europe-Asia Studies 47 (July 1995); Bell, Janice, “Unemployment Matters: Voting Patterns during the Economic Transition in Poland, 1990–1995,” Europe-Asia Studies 49 (November 1997); and Fidrmuc, Jan, “Economic Voting in Post-communist Countries,” Electoral Studies 19 (June 2000).

7 For Western Europe, see Lewis-Beck, Michael S., Economics and Elections (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1988); and Anderson, Christopher, “Economic Voting and Political Context: A Comparative Perspective,” Electoral Studies 19 (June 2000); for Eastern Europe, see Przeworski, Adam, “Public Support for Economic Reform in Poland,” Comparative Political Studies 29 (October 1996); Denise V. Powers and James H. Cox, “Echoes from the Past: The Relationship between Satisfaction with Economic Reforms and Voting Behavior in Poland,” American Political Science Review (September 1997); and Duch, Raymond, “A Developmental Model of Heterogeneous Economic Voting in New Democracies,” American Political Science Review 95 (December 2001). For Latin America, see Stokes, Susan C., “Public Opinion and Market Reforms: The Limits of Economic Voting,” Comparative Political Studies 29 (October 1996).

8 For a thorough review of the findings of the literature on economic voting, see Lewis-Beck, Michael S. and Stegmaier, Mary, “Economic Determinants of Electoral Outcomes,” Annual Review of Political Science 3 (June 2000). For a similarly thorough review of findings related to Eastern Europe, see Tucker, Joshua A., “The First Decade of Post-communist Elections and Voting: What Have We Studied and How Have We Studied It?” Annual Review of Political Science 5 (June 2002).

9 The original arguments about political control are explicit about the importance of individual-level incentives. Thomas Hobbes, for instance, stresses that representatives are “naturall Persons” who pursue their private interests and argues that in order to create a good government these private interests must be aligned with the interest of the public; see , Hobbes, Leviathan (London: Penguin Group 1985). James Madison, in turn, argues that repeated elections align private and public interests because they keep individual politicians dependent on their constituents for reelection; see Madison, Federalist No. 57, in Rossiter, Clinton, ed., The Federalist Papers (New York: New American Library 1961).

10 The link between performance and reelection certainly depends upon the degree to which voters attribute responsibility for performance to incumbents of various elected of fices (executive, legislative, or subnational) or to other actors; see Powers and Cox (fn.7); and Rudolph, Thomas J., “Who's Responsible for the Economy? The Formation and Consequences of Responsibility Attributions,” American Journal of Political Science 47 (October 2003). Formal institutional arrangements and the nature of the party system (its fluidity and fragmentation) affect the clarity of responsibility for performance by making it “objectively” easier or more difficult for voters to know which set of elected of ficials to hold accountable for governmental performance—if in fact they do hold elected of ficials responsible rather than other actors; see Powell and Whitten (fn. 6); Powell (fn. 6); and David Samuels and Timothy Hellwig, “Democratic Regimes and Accountability for the Economy in Comparative Perspective” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, September 1–4, 2004). Formal institutional arrangements and the nature of the party system also affect clarity of responsibility by making it easier or more difficult for politicians to take the credit for good performance and to blame others for poor performance and thus to undermine further the ability of voters to figure out whom to hold responsible. These are important questions related to electoral control. To address these issues adequately, however, would require survey data pertaining to perceptions of and attributions of responsibility for good and bad performance.

11 See Fearon (fn. 4).

12 For exemplars of this debate, see Burke, Edmund, “Speech to the Electors of Bristol,” in Hoffman, Ross J. S. and Levack, Paul, eds., Burkes Politics: Selected Writings and Speeches (New York: A. A. Knopf 1949); Mill, John Stuart, Considerations on Representative Government (New York: Prometheus Press 1991); and Pitkin, Hanna F., The Concept of Representation (Berkeley: University of California Press 1967).

13 For various articulations of the concept of prospective voting, see Schumpeter, Joseph A., Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York: Harper 1942); Downs, Anthony, An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: Harper and Row 1957); Key, V. O., The Responsible Electorate (New York: Vintage Books 1966); and Fearon (fn. 4).

14 For a discussion of the distinction between the two, see Carey, John M. and Shugart, Matthew S., “Incentives to Cultivate a Personal Vote: A Rank Ordering of Electoral Formulas,” Electoral Studies 14 (December 1995).

15 Mainwaring and Scully (fn. 1); Mainwaring (fn. 1); and Desposato (fn. 1).

16 This is not to say that the type of reputation politicians develop (personal versus party) is unimportant to the student of electoral accountability. To the contrary, there are good reasons to suspect that reputation type most likely affects the degree of electoral accountability. For example, it might very well be the case that the relationship between policy outcomes and probability of reelection is much more pronounced in democracies where politicians cultivate strong party reputations than in democracies where they develop strong personal reputations. Our point is simply that the notion of a personal vote is conceptually distinct from the study of individual-level electoral incentives.

17 For survey results, see Blanchard, Olivier J., The Economics of Post-Communist Transitions (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1997).

18 Although the 1997 constitution introduced a number of revisions to the constitutional arrangements that emerged after the roundtable negotiations of 1989, these basic contours remained unchanged.

19 Although the specific details of these rules were changed on several occasions, this basic structure of open-list proportional representation remained unaltered.

20 It should be noted that, according to the findings of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, 1996–2000, 62 percent of respondents in Poland could not remember the name of any candidate for the Sejm who ran in their electoral district; see Norris, Pippa, Electoral Engineering: Voting Rules and Political Behavior (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2004), 239. Under closed-list proportional representation, voters can influence only the distribution of seats among political parties. Under this arrangement, the distribution of seats to specific candidates is based on their list placement rather than on their vote totals.

21 The volatility score is equal to where is a vote share received by party i at time t, and I = {1,2,... n} is the set of all parties.

22 In 1993 the following parties were new: Center Alliance, Catholic Electoral Committee/Fatherland, Non-party Bloc for Support of Reforms, Serf-Defense, Coalition for the Republic, Democratic Women's Forum. In 1997 new parties were Block for Poland, National Pensioners' and Retired Persons' Alliance, National Party of Pensioners and Retired Persons, Solidarity Electoral Action, Movement for Reconstruction of Poland. Finally, in 2001 the list of new parties included Law and Justice, Citizen Platform, League of Polish Families, Alternative Social Movement.

23 In 1991 governing parties were Democratic Union, Democratic Party, Peasant Alliance. In 1993 governing parties were Democratic Union, Liberal-Democratic Congress, Polish Economic Alliance business lobby, Peasant Alliance, and Catholic Electoral Action Fatherland (Christian/National Union, Christian Peasant Alliance, Christian Democratic Party). In 1997 governing parties were Union of Democratic Left (SLD) and Polish Agrarian Party (PSL). In 2001 governing parties were Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and Freedom Union (uw). (Our results are robust to different classification criteria.)

24 Since all incumbents who run on the national list also run in their districts, we observe Δu for these candidates as well.

25 For any βi + βj, the standard error of βi + βj is equal to . Ours is not a sample but the inventory (record) of the appropriate units of observation. Thus, an inferential statistic, p value in particular, has only hypothetical (counterfactual) interpretation. Moreover, since some parliamentarians run more than once, the units of observation are not independent. Using various versions of mixed-effects logistic regression models and different procedures for controlling for a subset of dependent observations convinced us that the results presented here are relatively robust and solid.

26 The inclusion of candidates from the national list biases our analysis against the hypothesis that elections function as a mechanism of accountability. Since candidates whose names appear on the national list may be able to enter the parliament even though they lose in their districts, they are frequently reelected, although Δu is high. As a result, the conclusion that elections function as a mechanism of accountability is based on a conservative test.

In additional regression models, we used two other variables, besides unemployment, that are related to economic performance: inflation rate (on the national level) and change in earnings per capita (at the district level). The effects of each of these variables taken alone and in the interaction terms are substantively similar to the effects of unemployment, but the estimated coefficients have large standard errors, thus making them statistically insignificant. In this article we focus on unemployment to make our statistical models as parsimonious as possible. We think that fruitful extensions of our models would take into account noneconomic measures of performance (such as corruption) rather than supplementary measures of economic performance (such as inflation). However, such data are not yet available at the district level.

27 In addition to references cited in fn. 1, see Carol Mershon and William B. Heller, “Party Fluidity and Legislators' Vote Choices: The Italian Chamber of Deputies, 1996–2000” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, August 30-September 2, 2001); William B. Heller and Carol Mershon, “Switching in Parliamentary Parties: Exits and Entries in Parliamentary Groups in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, 1995–2001” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, August 28–31,2003); Carol Mershon and William B. Heller, “Party Switching and Political Careers in the Spanish Congress of Deputies, 1982–1996” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April 3–6,2003); and Scott W. Desposato, “The Impact of Party Switching on Legislative Behavior in Brazil's Chamber of Deputies” (Manuscript, Department of Political Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, 2004).

28 See Desposato (fn. 1); Grose, Christian R. and Yoshinaka, Antoine, “The Electoral Consequences of Party Switching by Incumbent Members of Congress, 1947–2000,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 28 (February 2003); and Pereira, Carlos and Renno, Lucio, “Successful Re-election Strategies in Brazil: The Electoral Impact of District Institutional Incentives,” Electoral Studies 22 (September 2003).

29 See Mainwaring and Scully (fn. 1); Mainwaring (fn. 1); Mershon and Heller (fn. 27, 2001); and Desposato (fn. 27).

30 This model does not include g and g × Δu because the information on membership in a governing party is contained in s and s × Δu.

31 See, for example, Staniszkis, Jadwiga, The Dynamics of Breakthrough in Eastern Europe: The Polish Experience (Berkeley: University of California Press 1991); Jowitt, Kenneth, “The Leninist Legacy,” in Banac, Ivo, ed., Eastern Europe in Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press 1992); Wyman, Matthew, White, Stephen, Miller, Bill, and Heywood, Paul, The Place of ‘Party’ in Post-communist Europe, Party Politics 1, no. 4 (1995); Gebethner, Stanislaw, “Parliamentary and Electoral Politics in Poland,” in Lewis, Paul, ed., Party Structure and Organization in East-Central Europe (Cheltanham: Edward Elgar 1996); Tworzecki, Hubert, Parties and Politics in Post-1989 Poland (Boulder, Colo.: West-view Press 1999); and Lewis, Paul, Political Parties in Post-Communist Europe (New York: Routledge 2001).

32 For similar findings, see Dinissa Duvanova, “Legislative Accountability in a New Presidential Democracy: Analysis of the Single Member District Elections to the Russian State Duma” (Manuscript, Department of Political Science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, 2004); and for Ukraine, see Kazimierz M. Slomczynski, Goldie Shabad, and Jakub Zielinski, “Fluid Party Systems, Electoral Rules and Accountability of Legislators in Emerging Democracies: The Case of Ukraine” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, September 1–4, 2004).

33 See for example, Mainwaring and Scully (fn. 1); Kitschelt, Herbert, Mansfeldova, Zdenka, Markowski, Radoslaw, and Toka, Gabor, Post-communist Party Systems: Competition, Representation and Inter-party Competition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999); and Herbert Kitschelt and Elizabeth Zechmeister, “Patterns of Party Competition and Electoral Accountability in Latin America: An Overview” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, August 28–31,2003).

34 For discussions of the relationship between institutions that promote clarity of responsibility and electoral accountability, see Powell and Whitten (fn. 6); Powell (fn. 6); Carey and Shugart (fn. 14); Cox, Gary, Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination in the World's Electoral Systems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1997); Shugart, Matthew S. and Wattenberg, Martin P., Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Possible Worlds? (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001); Rudolph (fn. 10); Norris (fn. 20); and Samuels and Hellwig (fn. 10).

* Correspondence should be directed to Goldie Shabad, Department of Political Science, 2080 Derby Hall, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210 ( Earlier versions of this article were presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, August 28–31,2003, the meeting of the Council of European Studies, Chicago, March 11–14,2004, and various seminars. The data collection for this study was partially funded by The Mershon Center at The Ohio State University and the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw. We thank the National Electoral Office in Poland for making the data available and Ewa Adamczyk for preparing usable data files. We also thank Pamela Paxton, Randy Hodson, Lisa Keister and the World Politics reviewers for their extensive and helpful comments.

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