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Party Leaders' Pathways to Power

Applicant Claessen Clint
Number 200150
Funding scheme Doc.Mobility
Research institution Department of Methodology London School of Economics and Political Science
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.09.2021 - 31.08.2022
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Keywords (3)

political science; party leaders; legislative careers

Lay Summary (German)

Parteivorsitzende spielen eine wichtige Rolle in parlamentarischen Demokratien. Sie sind das öffentliche Gesicht ihrer Parteien bei politischen Debatten, im Wahlkampf Kampagnen und führen anschliessend Koalitionsverhandlungen. Die Frage, wie Parteivorsitzende auf ihre Positionen gelangen, ist aber immer noch ein unterbeleuchtetes Thema.
Lay summary

Mein Forschungsplan untersucht Parteivorsitzende in zwei Schritten. Der erste Schritt konzentriert sich darauf, wie Vorsitzende zu ihren Positionen gekommen sind. Im zweiten Schritt gehe ich der Frage nach, welchen Einfluss diese Karriereverläufe haben auf den Erfolg leitender Parteifunktionäre. Konkret ist meine Forschungsfrage zweigeteilt: Welche politischen Karrieren haben Parteivorsitzende in verschiedenen Ländern und Parteien? Und, wie wirken sich ihre Karrieren auf ihre Partei aus?

Bisher hat die Literatur sich noch nicht vergleichend mit den politischen Karrieren von Parteifunktionären und den Auswirkungen unterschiedlicher Karrierewege auf die Partei befasst. Ich werde daher untersuchen, ob der vermeintliche Weg mit umfassender politischer Erfahrung am besten dazu beiträgt, ein höheres Amt zu erreichen, und ob dies je nach Partei und Land unterschiedlich ist. Im zweiten Teil untersuche ich die Auswirkungen dieser Karrierewege auf die Einheit der Parteien, auf die Beteiligung an Regierungen und auf den Stimmen- / Sitzanteil der Parteien bei Wahlen.

Im Bezug auf die wissenschaftliche Relevanz präsentiert dieser Forschungsplan die erste vergleichende Studie über die Karrieren von Parteivorsitzenden in vier parlamentarischen Demokratien. Darüber hinaus wird eines der Endprodukte eine neue Datenbank sein, welche neue und umfassende Datensätze zu politischen Karrieren, namentlichen Abstimmungen und Parlamentsreden verbindet und ergänzt.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 13.04.2021

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Summary of the Research PlanParty leaders play an important role in parliamentary democracies. They are the face of political campaigns during elections and lead coalition negotiations afterwards. Once a coalition is formed, party leaders often become prime minister or obtain an important cabinet position. While the literature on party leaders extensively addresses what kind of leaders are selected and how they are selected, how they got there remains an underexposed topic. My research plan seeks to study party leaders in two steps. The first step is focused on how party leaders got to their positions and the second step focuses on how these pathways matter once they reach the highest party office. Concretely, my research question is twofold: What political careers do party leaders have, how do they vary between countries and parties? And how do their careers impact their party?Until now, the literature addressed both party leaders and political careers, but has not yet looked quantitatively and with a comparative focus at the political careers of party leaders and the impact different career pathways have on the party (Strøm, 1993; Pilet and Cross, 2014; Somer-Topcu, 2017; Musella, 2018; Ennser-Jedenastik and Schumacher, 2020; Turner-Zwinkels, 2020). Some studies show that careers as sequences better capture the complexity of political careers than traditional measures of tenure and political seniority (Bailer et al., 2013; Ohmura et al., 2018; Snagovsky and Mills, 2019; Turner-Zwinkels and Mills, 2019). This sequence approach provides a more diverse and empirically based distinction that goes beyond the binary classifications of party leaders that are often used in party leader research. Moreover, the literature provides some indication that certain types of political experience, like experience as a head of a committee, previous cabinet positions or national party experience are conducive to reaching, not only individual career goals, but also the three main party goals of policy, office and votes (Müller and Strøm, 1999). In other words, there is a research gap that benefits from a systematic, cross-national study into the political careers of party leaders and how they matter to the party. In particular, I seek to address this gap by looking at party leaders’ political careers and their impact in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Currently, I have collected quantitative data on 411 party leaders and I am doing qualitative case studies of party leaders to be able to better understand and theorize about the impact of party leaders’ political careers. Methodologically, I employ sequence analysis to capture the structure of pre-party leader careers (Abbot, 1995; Gabadinho et al., 2011). I will test whether the supposed path with extensive political experience is most conducive to reaching higher office, or whether alternatives exist and if this varies according to party and country. In a second part, I then investigate the impact of these career pathways on party unity, government participation and vote/seat share. To measure party unity, I look at roll-call votes and I employ word embeddings (Wu, 2018; Spirling, 2020) to approximate unity from parliamentary speeches. The latter is a relatively new text analysis technique that has only recently found its application in political science (Rheault and Cochrane, 2019). In terms of scientific relevance, this research plan presents the first comparative study of party leaders’ careers in four parliamentary democracies and a thorough investigation into the impact of these careers on the goals of political parties. In addition, one of the end products will be a new database interface that connects and supplements new and encompassing datasets on political careers, roll-call votes and parliamentary speeches. Lastly, these results then form the basis for two journal articles and a possible monograph that is planned at the end of my dissertation.