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Popular Candidates and/or Party Soldiers? An Analysis of the Interactive Effect of Personalization and Candidates’ Congruence with their Party at the 2014 Belgian Elections

Elites
Parliaments
Party Manifestos
Candidate
Jérémy Dodeigne
Université catholique de Louvain
Jérémy Dodeigne
Université catholique de Louvain
Conrad Meulewaeter
Université catholique de Louvain

Abstract

In Europe, political parties are the gatekeepers of parliamentary offices and candidate selection is one of their defining functions. The literature established that patterns of legislative recruitment reflect long-term processes of transformation and modernization of representative democracies. According to some scholars, these pathways have been shifting because of the personalization of contemporary politics. At its core, the personalization hypothesis is primarily based on a notion about parliamentary democracy with its traditional emphasis on the role of collective and cohesive political parties. In this respect, personalization has stressed the tension between parties’ vote-seeking and policy-seeking strategies when they recruit their future MPs. Parties need to maximize their votes to win election but they furthermore need party unity in Parliament in order to reach their policy goals. Therefore, there is a trade-off between candidates’ popularity and their congruence with the party’s manifesto. This question has been hardly tackled in the literature, mostly because of a lack of data. Using several data sets (the 2014 PartiRep voter survey, the 2014 Belgian candidate survey, the Belgian political careers dataset and the VAA dataset), we developed fine-grained and innovative measures of ideological congruence. This allows us to test the interactive effect of personalization and candidates’ congruence to predict candidate recruitment. Two hypotheses are tested:(1) the effect of popularity to be selected on a realistic position is always positive, irrespective of the degree of party-candidate congruence; (2) the effect of congruence is always positive but its decreases as candidates’ popularity increases. Our results tend to corroborate these hypotheses even though it stresses the prevalence of personalization in candidate selection procedures which has important implications for the parties’ capacity to work as cohesive blocks once they are in office.