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Recruitment and election of political candidates by citizens residing abroad: The case of Portugal from 1979 to 2009

Manuel Abrantes
Technical University of Lisbon
Manuel Abrantes
Technical University of Lisbon
Joana Azevedo
Ana Belchior
Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia – CIES-IUL
Open Panel

Abstract

Despite the significant bulk of attention devoted by political science to the participation of migrants in the politics of their destination country, much less is known to date about their participation in the democratic structure of their country of origin, where most of the times they retain representation rights. Certainly the two topics should not be considered unrelated. Law in most European countries today ensures the right of national citizens who reside abroad to political representation, although institutional arrangements do vary. In some of the countries with massive outflows, such as Italy and Portugal, there are specific electoral districts for emigrants through which they elect a number of Members of Parliament (MPs). In this paper, we aim at studying the recruitment process of MP candidates for the emigration constituencies in Portugal and the link between the profile of MP candidates and their electoral outcomes. To accomplish this, the evolution of representation and voting rights of Portuguese emigrants since the introduction of the multi-party regime in 1974 will first be described. This national case will be framed in the European context by referring to policy alternatives adopted in other countries. Second, the profile of candidates and elected MPs by emigrants since 1979 will be characterized. Two databases on the profile of MPs allows a comparison between the candidates in the electoral districts of emigration and the candidates in the national districts. The concluding section will bring together the diverse strategies of Portuguese political parties concerning the rights of emigrants throughout the latest 30 years, the recruitment of candidates over this period, their electoral success, and potential consequences for the manner in which citizens residing abroad are politically constructed and represented.