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Ideological Appeals or Improvised Messages – Electoral Manifestoes in Post-communist Democracies

Mikolaj Czesnik
SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities
Mikolaj Czesnik
SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities
Open Panel

Abstract

Electoral manifestoes are written by reason of many diverse rationales. However, two major sets of motivations can be distinguished. On the one hand, parties in their electoral manifestoes are usually encouraged to present their ideological profile. On the other hand, they often are compelled to react to the present-day situation in their countries, reflect on current problems and propose relevant, appropriate solutions. Though each electoral manifesto is probably written due to both sets of reasons, in general it is possible to discriminate between two groups of these documents: ideological appeals (focused on long-term objectives derived from ideology) and improvised messages (focused on short-term objectives indicated by current situation). It is an empirical question which of these motivations prevail in post-communist democracies. Thus the main research question of this paper is whether in post-communist democracies electoral manifestoes either are written in order to mainly present and propagate ideology, or they are rather designed with the principal aim of reacting to current affairs and problems. Consequently, two testable predictions can be formulated. According to the first hypothesis parties in post-communist democracies focus primarily on ideology. According to the second hypothesis parties in post-communist democracies focus primarily on up-to-date political competition. If the former expectation is true, we shall see intra-party homogeneity (all electoral manifestoes of a given party should be relatively similar); if the latter expectation is true, we shall see intra-campaign homogeneity (all electoral manifestoes from a given campaign should be relatively similar). These hypotheses are tested using data from the MRG/CMP/MARPOR projects. Electoral manifestoes from ten post-communist countries (new EU member-states), covering the whole post-communist period, are analysed. They are compared both synchronically (cross-country comparison) and diachronically (time comparison). Because of the main research question of the paper and due to the character of the data multidimensional scaling is employed. It seems to be the most relevant statistical technique – it allows for efficient and comprehensive comparison of the post-communist electoral manifestoes. The results of the analysis serve as a test for the two hypotheses put forward, and help answer the very fundamental question of how and why electoral manifestoes are shaped in post-communist democracies.