European Parliamentary Elections: Candidates as Possible Politicisers?

  • Abstract:
    Elections to the European Parliament (EP) fall within the category of second-order elections. Because these types of elections do not lead to the formation of government there is less at stake and, consequently, voters behave differently when casting vote. Given their aggregate nature, the predictions of the second-order elections theory have mostly been tested using aggregate electoral data and election-related survey data. Recently, scholars have also started to uncover some micro-foundations of second-order election theory and confront them with micro-level empirical evidence. The question that arises then is simple: do also political parties perceive the less-at-stake dimension of second-order elections and thus behave differently which can result in depoliticisation of EP elections? Politicisation of EP elections is understood as an increase in polarization of opinions, interests or values leading to increasing prominence of party political conflict. This paper draws on a unique dataset on the political experience of party candidates in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to explicitly link the second-order election model to independent actions of political parties. In this we, it is attempted to analyze one potential manifestation of possible politicisation of EP elections by national political parties. The results show, nonetheless, that political parties indeed nominate higher-quality candidates to the first-order arena where more is at stake. Moreover and in accordance with predictions derived from the second-order election theory, we show that parties in government in first-order arena react to domestic situation and nominate lower-quality candidates to EP elections than parties in opposition at national level.