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Digging the 'Secret Garden of Politics' – An Exploration of the Role of Formal and Informal Candidate Selection Processes Regarding Ethnic Minority Representation

Political Parties
Representation
Candidate
Immigration
Party Members
Quantitative
Elisa Deiss-Helbig
Universität Stuttgart
Elisa Deiss-Helbig
Universität Stuttgart
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Abstract

Although still at a rather low level, Western parliaments have become more and more ethnically diverse. Scholarship hypothesizes that this increase can be explained, amongst others, by the fact that parties have begun to offer more diverse sets of candidates. However, we can observe large differences not only between countries but also within countries that is at an inter-party level. In this regard scholarship mainly points to the impact of party ideology. Generally, left-wing parties are seen to be more open towards minorities because of their more egalitarian ideology (Norris 1997). Additionally, from the broader literature on candidate selection we can also infer that parties’ candidate selection methods (degree of inclusiveness, (de)centralization etc.) have an influence on the selection outcome that is the type of selected candidates (e.g., Mikulska and Scarrow 2010). However, there has been only very little research analyzing the relationship between candidate selection – known as the “secret garden of politics” – and ethnic minority representation. In particular exploring this relationship for the case of Germany seems all the more interesting as differences regarding the percentage of immigrant origin candidates can be observed not only between conservative and left-wing parties, but also within the group of left-wing parties (Deiss-Helbig 2014). That is why this paper aims to contribute to new insights into this poorly researched topic by addressing the following research question: How do formal and informal candidate selection processes shape the openness of political parties towards immigrant origin candidates? This will be done by drawing, on the one hand, on party documents such as party statutes or the party minutes of the nomination meetings, and, on the other hand, on original data gained through a Web survey of roughly 900 formal party selectors from the four German parties that have a seat in the actual Bundestag.