Institut for Statskundskab

Don't air your dirty laundry: Party leadership contests and parliamentary election outcomes

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

DOI

  • Florence So

Staging an open contest is a democratic method to choose a party leader, though its electoral consequences remain unclear. I argue that leadership contests are electorally detrimental to governing parties. Competitive contests signal intraparty policy and/or personality conflict to voters, which damages governing parties’ perceived unity as well as competence in the policy-making process. Thus, leadership contests undermine governing parties’ performances in parliamentary elections. Moreover, since voters evaluate governing parties’ record in office more than their rhetoric, unlike opposition parties, they cannot repair the image of incompetence/disunity by reshaping their rhetoric and/or policy direction. This implies that leadership contests damage governing parties’ electoral prospects more than they do to opposition parties’ electoral performances. Results from statistical testing with original data from 14 countries support my argument. In addition, these results are not endogenous to the contests’ timing; degree of competitiveness; leadership selection rules; whether or not the incumbent retains office; norms of contests; or how predecessors left office. These findings underscore the need to investigate the relationship between intraparty dynamics and election outcomes.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftEuropean Journal of Political Research
Vol/bind60
Nummer1
Sider (fra-til)3-24
Antal sider22
ISSN0304-4130
DOI
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2021

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