Centralized or decentralized personalization? Measuring intra-party competition in open and flexible list PR systems

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Jérémy Dodeigne et Jean-Benoit Pilet
Sage Journals
Party Politics

This article offers a comparative analysis of electoral intra-party competition in four countries – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland and Luxembourg – based on an original data set of 79,621 candidates and 3150 party lists covering the last quarter century (1994–2017). We use two measures to describe the nature of intra-party competition over time, across countries and across party lists: a Gini coefficient and a measure of the effective number of candidates. First, in terms of change over time (personalization) – unlike hypothesized in the presidentialization thesis – there is no concentration of intra-party competition around a few leaders over time. Second, in terms of the dynamics of concentration of votes (personalized politics), the results invite to move beyond the clear-cut divide found in the literature between centralized and decentralized forms of personalized politics. Instead, personalized politics is best described by the concept of ‘elitization’, meaning the concentration of most votes on a medium-sized group of candidates (5–10 per lists). Finally, three sets of factors condition intra-party electoral competition: the electoral rules organizing preference votes, the level of elections (European, national and regional) and the presence on the party lists of incumbent politicians (party leaders, ministers and parliamentarians).