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Back to Paper Details
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The (s)electoral consequences of parliamentary activity: Evidence from Belgium (1995-2019)

Elections
Parliaments
Political Parties
Candidate
Gert-Jan Put
University of Leuven
Benjamin de Vet
Ghent University
Bart Maddens
University of Leuven
Gert-Jan Put
University of Leuven
Richard Schobess
Ghent University
Bram Wauters
Ghent University

Abstract

This paper analyzes how parliamentary work of individual MPs in the Belgian Lower House affects their list position and individual vote shares in subsequent elections. Earlier studies on the link between parliamentary activity and selection/re-election show that the degree of parliamentary activity indeed matters for the outcome of candidate selection processes as well as the electoral fortunes of incumbent MPs (Bouteca et al., 2019; Daübler et al., 2018; François and Navarro, 2019; Yildirim et al., 2017). Focusing on the case of Belgium, we offer an important novel contribution to this line of research. By taking into account six consecutive legislative terms in the federal Lower House, we are able to assess whether the importance of parliamentary work for selection/re-election prospects has evolved over the past 25 years. Other single country studies were limited to one up to three consecutive terms (Daübler et al., 2018). In line with the trend towards personalization of politics (Karvonen, 2010; McAllister, 2007) and the increased importance of preferential votes in Belgium as a result of electoral reforms, we can hypothesize that such individual parliamentary activities have become more important over time for MPs electoral fortunes and nomination prospects. We constructed a novel data set with information on the parliamentary activity (i.e. on oral questions in plenary and committees, written questions, co-authored and single-authored bill proposals), list positions, political experience, sociodemographic characteristics and preference vote results of 1,121 members of the Belgian Lower House (1995-2019). The availability of fine-grained information on many types of parliamentary activity allows to test whether party selectorates and voters use different criteria to evaluate MPs’ performance. Leveraging the data on individual MP characteristics, we also examine whether the effect of parliamentary activity depends on the political career status of MPs. The dependent variables in our study are re-selection, re-election, access to realistic list positions and the incumbent MP’s intra-party vote share. Future results will offer important insights on the role of parliamentary behavior in candidate selection processes and electoral careers.