Do electoral reforms tend to favour the incumbents? A quantitative analysis

Patkós, Veronika and Stump, Árpád (2023) Do electoral reforms tend to favour the incumbents? A quantitative analysis. ACTA POLITICA, 58 (1). pp. 118-140. ISSN 0001-6810 (print); 1741-1416 (online)


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Electoral reforms offer an opportunity to incumbents to change the rules strategi- cally, for their own benefits. From this aspect, the low number of studies address- ing the effect of incumbents’ potential strategic manipulations of the electoral rules is striking. Most research analyses single reform cases, offering an overview of the context, the negotiations, and the outcome of the reform process. Comparative research on strategic electoral manipulation, however, is scarce, and almost non- existent on non-transitional settings or established democracies. To fill this gap, the present study examines whether European electoral reforms have served the short- term interest of the incumbent parties, analysing data in 30 European countries of all relevant electoral reforms carried out between 1960 and 2011. Interestingly, the results do not support the assumption that incumbent parties generally benefit from carrying out a reform. Moreover, it finds no substantial differences in this regard between major and minor reforms, and neither the age of democracies nor the timing of the reform has a significant effect on reformers’ gains. The paper discusses possi- ble explanations for the negative effect found, and it concludes that, apart from pro- moting self-interest and the unpredictability of the reforms’ effects, the most prob- able causes are the reformers’ alternative goals.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: J Political Science / politológia > JA Political science (General) / politológia általában
J Political Science / politológia > JN Political institutions (Europe) / politikai intézmények, államigazgatás, Európa
Depositing User: Dr. Veronika Patkós
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2023 10:08
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2023 10:08

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