ECPR Joint Sessions
University of Nottingham, Nottingham
25 - 30 April 2017




Intra-party Cohesion at Grassroots: Ideological Proximity of Croatian and Slovenian Local Councilors to their National Parties in the Context of Party Transformation

Candidate
 
Comparative Politics
 
Local Government
 
Party Members
 
Political Parties
 
Quantitative
 
Survey Research
 
Presenter
Marko Kukec
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Authors
Marko Kukec
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Abstract
While studies on intra-party cohesion examine party dissent of various groups and individuals, few if any give credence to local councilors. Local councilors are a distinctive group of party members, who share several important characteristics, making the research on their dissent from party lines a valuable endeavor. First, they represent their party locally, which is the level closest to the voters. If the party leadership is to send a consistent message across its electorate, councilors as interlocutors between national party and electorate should be on the line of their national party. Secondly, local councilors make up a pool of candidates for higher-level offices, and local political arena offers the possibility for national party to pre-screen and ideologically shape incoming national party elites. However, party transformation potentially diminishes these benefits from local councilors. In the context of opening up of candidate selection processes, as well as party membership decline which is most severely felt in local party branches, this study investigates the effects that (1) council candidate selection process, (2) degree of intra-party competition for local council candidacy and (3) councilor progressive ambition have on councilor ideological proximity to her national party. The study uses data from the original survey of Croatian and Slovenian local councilors (autumn 2016), where councilors were asked to position themselves and their national party on the same left-right scale, which meaningfully captures the intent of councilors to signal dissent. Apart from these three factors, the survey allows for evaluating the micro-level effects of socialization, individual resources and councilor’s position in party hierarchy. The very first results point to the positive contribution of intra-party competition and progressive ambition for reducing councilor dissent. The study will help to understand how intra-party cohesion is forged at the party grassroots, and brings empirical evidence from an understudied context.
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"Politics determines the process of "who gets what, when, and how"" - Harold Lasswell


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