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Who do parties select as their electoral leaders and why?

In modern parliamentary democracies, it is nowadays common for political parties to feature electoral leaders for upcoming parliamentary elections. This fact makes intuitive sense for major parties, having a clear shot of providing the head of government, but also small parties nominate leading candidates. Although electoral leaders figure prominently in electoral campaigns and influence individual voting behavior, there exist no systematic insights about how parties assign the role of the electoral leader.

At the party level, we capture whether electoral leaders hold additional top positions in the party (party chair, parliamentary party leader, governmental party leader). At the level of electoral leaders, we analyze the party careers of these individuals to identify typical career paths. Subsequently, we study how processes at the system level (presidentialization and personalization), party characteristics, and gender influence the allocation of leadership positions and the occurrence of certain career types.

The quantitative analysis will cover political parties from 20 developed parliamentary democracies. In a first step, we will create two datasets. The first dataset will capture the fillings of the different leadership positions to uncover whether electoral leaders hold additional top positions.  The second dataset documents the party careers of electoral leaders in yearly intervals from their party entry up to the election for which they serve as the leading candidate for the first time. We code positions in the extra-parliamentary party, the party in parliament, and the party in government. Based on this career data, we will carry out a sequence analysis for identifying typical career types. Further on, we will use regression analyses to investigate the influence of the factors mentioned above on the role allocation at the leadership level and the occurrence of certain career types. Following up on the findings of the quantitative analyses, a comparative case study will illuminate the underlying decision-making processes for the selection of electoral leaders.


Funding: German Research Foundation

Grant sum: 334.415,- €

Duration: 1st April 2019 to 30th March 2022

Project manager: Dr. Gregor Zons

Research and student assistants: Melina Dahmen, Anna Halstenbach und Gerrit Philipps

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