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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Evaluating Campaigning Candidates as Representative Claim-Makers? The Case of Lampedusa's Municipal Elections

Sara Trovato
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Sara Trovato
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Soumia Akachar
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The Constructivist turn in representation theory sensitizes the scholarship to the role of elected and non-elected actors in calling constituencies into being through representative claims.While there is a growing literature on the potential of non-elected actors to put representative claims forward, this is less the case for the pool of campaigning candidates and even less so for the wide array of claims they make. In an era of growing personalization of politics, comparing and contrasting the different kind of claims through which candidates seek to establish a connection with (segments of) the electorate allows for a better understanding of why certain candidates gain representativeness while others fail to do so. The representativeness of candidates’ claims may depend on issue and/or interest congruence, descriptive characteristics they stress with constituency/ies, and potentially also on the type of strategic claims that candidates make about each other while seeking election. Indeed, candidates may not only present claims that emphasize their ability to represent a constituency, but may also use such claims to disqualify or refute other competing claims vis-a-vis the same constituency. This paper explores these understudied dimensions of candidates’ representativeness by looking into the municipal election campaign that took place in Lampedusa (Italy) in June 2017. The study focuses on the platforms presented by the four candidates in their party manifestos (i.e. Programma del Sindaco) and the public speeches they delivered during the campaign. The candidates’ speeches and manifestos may not only target the electorate regarding issues, interests and other subjects that have the potential to resonate with the electorate, but also target other candidates’ (lack of) representativeness. The local nature of this case, where mediatization of the campaign and the influence of parties’ financial leverage play a rather limited role in the electoral success of candidates and where the central focus lies on the candidates rather than on their political parties, allows for an exclusive microscopic analysis of the process of candidates as representative claim-makers pre- and post-elections.
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