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Party Loyalty And Constitutional Obligation

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When it comes to parliamentarians and their decision making in parliament, foundational studies into the issue have been made resulting in a number of findings and issues for open debates. Citizens delegate the representation of their political preferences to members of Parliament (MPs), who are supposed to represent their interests in the legislature. However, MPs are exposed to a variety of interest groups seeking to influence their voting behavior.

A crucial element of political representation in democracies is that there is a link between citizens and the candidates they have voted into Parliament. Parties bring together a multitude of interests within a single organization. Politicians represent a range of electoral districts, possess distinct backgrounds and personal characteristics, and hold a broad set of issue priorities and preferences. According to Powel, 2000, there is a distinction between procedural and substantive representation. Procedural representation refers to the link between the votes that citizens have cast in elections and the distribution of seats in Parliament. Substantive representation, moreover, requires that there is a link between the preferences of citizens and the policies enacted by their representatives. It is important that legislative representatives act in line with the preferences of their voters. While members of Parliament have strong incentives to please their voters in order to be reelected, they are also exposed to a wide variety of interest groups that seek to influence the policy decisions of legislative representatives (O`Brien, 2015).

Interest groups represent special interests in a society and lobby MPs to cast votes in Parliament in their favor to achieve a policy outcome that is as close as possible to their ideal point. Recent empirical studies have made considerable efforts to empirically examine the influence that interest groups exert on the outcome of legislative debates. In their study, proposed a novel methodological approach to empirically assess the impact of interest groups on voting behavior of legislative representatives in Parliament. The empirical analysis indicated that interest group pressure indeed has an effect on legislative votes in Parliament. MPs who have strong ties with sectional interest groups are considerably more likely to defect from the preferences of their voters, whereas MP ties to cause groups strengthen the electoral link between voters and their representatives.

MPs can be conceptualized as agents of two different principals. On the one hand, MPs are accountable to voters. Citizens are regarded as principals who temporarily delegate the power to make public policies on their behalf to legislative representatives who act as the citizens’ agents (Kluver, 2016). Citizens are expected to hold their legislator accountable. If a legislator were to drift too far from the preferences of her constituents, voters can punish that MP at the polls. MPs therefore have strong incentives to please their voters. Accordingly, there is ample evidence that MPs cast votes in Parliament in line with the preferences of their constituents.

Stating further, analysts stated that MPs are also accountable to their political parties. In many electoral systems, voters do not select individual candidates in elections, but instead vote for entire party lists. Political parties are in charge of drafting these lists and therefore control candidate selection. What is more, political parties can also shape the voting behavior of their representatives in the legislature as they control many of the benefits that come with a parliamentary mandate, such as assigning attractive committee positions or rapporteur ships. As a result, MPs are not only accountable to voters, but they are also responsive to their parties.

Giger & Kluverconceived of MPs as office-seeking actors who primarily strive for reelection. They act as agents of two different principals, namely, their voters and their political party, which they have to please to ensure their reelection. However, voters and political parties are not the only important actors that exert influence on legislators. Members of Parliament are additionally exposed to a wide variety of interest groups that seek to influence their legislative votes. Interest groups try to affect public policymaking by engaging in a variety of different lobbying strategies. The general aim is to shape policy decisions in their favor by seeking influence on individual MPs or party groups so that they cast legislative votes in line with the policy preferences of interest groups.

In trying to understand how parliamentarians make their day to day decisions, candidate selection is a factor that can be considered to have an effect on party discipline. Cohesion in parliamentary groups is a crucial element for political stability in parliamentary democracies, government and legislative efficiency, and for governments’ accountability. Parliamentary group cohesion is the result of MPs in a group voting similarly and it may be built and maintained through the imposition of the leadership (party discipline) or through a more deliberative approach (Cordero, 2015). Previous works have theorized that control of the design of electoral lists is one of the key elements in disciplining parliamentarians’ behavior. MPs are expected to be more loyal to those parties where the party elite is in charge of candidate selection.

Both, cohesion and discipline produce the same output in parliamentary groups– all members voting the same, producing voting blocs. Control over the candidate selection process is one of the most powerful tools for a party to achieve and maintain internal cohesion. Cordero & Coller (2008) citing Field and Siavelis (2008), states that candidate selection is a diverse phenomenon with a variety of procedures and effects. The most significant theoretical contribution on the candidate selection for legislatures is that of Rahat and Hazan (2001), who focused on the analysis of two specific elements: centrality and exclusiveness. Centrality is understood as the territorial level at which MPs get selected or designated. Exclusiveness refers to the size of the selectorate, ranging from large (all citizens) to small (party leaders). These two concepts have been widely used in different works.

On party discipline and cohesion, Depauw & Martin (2008 stated that While the shape, origin and consequences of different electoral rules are generally well documented, their impact on legislative behavior, most notably on party unity in legislative votes, is not always well understood. Cox and McCubbins (2007) argue that the ties that bind candidates’ electoral fates together are responsible for party unity. These ties reflect the party reputation based on the state of the economy, major pieces of legislation and in their argument the reputation of the president. Legislators are ready to comply with party unity when an unfavorable party reputation might seriously damage their own electoral prospects. Such an unfavorable party reputation might result from overspending, as legislators chase pork-barrel benefits for their constituencies, or even from open in-fighting in the legislature. But when candidates cannot hope to benefit from spill-over votes from copartisans, they will focus on cultivating a personal vote. In those circumstances, they are more inclined to point out differences with their party than legislators whose electoral incentives are more aligned with their party.

Depending on the ballot structure, legislators have varying incentives to appeal to voters over party leaders. In more candidate-centered electoral environments, incumbent politicians will actively respond to and build personal relations with individual constituents in their district. In more party-centered electoral systems, incumbents focused on re-elections have greater incentives to cultivate favor with their party leadership in the hopes of securing a prominent position on the party list. Carey and Shugart (1995) offer such a method to rank-order electoral systems according to the value of a personal vote on the basis of the interaction between ballot control, vote pooling, and type of votes on the one hand and district magnitude on the other hand. Where intra-party competition is present, greater district magnitude increases the need for a personal vote as the number of co-partisans on the list increases. Yet, when intra-party competition for votes is absent, the possibility of a personal vote decreases as district magnitude grows party.

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