Catalinac, A. Positioning under Alternative Electoral Systems: Evidence from Japanese Candidate Election Manifestos. American Political Science Review, 1-18. doi: 10.1017/S0003055417000399.


In this article, the author examines whether candidates ideologically position themselves differently before and after the Japanese electoral reform from a single-nontransferable vote with multi-member districts (MMDs) to a mixed-member electoral system consisting of one PR and one SMD tier. Amy Catalinac tests the relationship between district magnitude and ideological positioning, proposing that in SMDs candidates from different parties aim to maximize votes by converging on a centrally located position in order to attract votes from the median voter. With regard to intra-party convergence, she expects that candidates’ positions also become more similar when contenders do not have to face competition from a co-partisan in the same district. In this case, candidates lack incentives to diverge from party lines but rather rely on advantages created by party labels. Drawing on more than 7,400 Japanese election manifestos produced by candidates themselves, the author finds support for both propositions. In electoral systems with SMDs, candidates form large parties with highest chances of winning seats converge ideologically, while party cohesion increases. In contrast, higher intra-party competition, which tends to grow with district magnitude, results in ideologically more diverse parties. According to these results, in PR-systems we should find less cohesive parties and more diverse ideological positions amongst candidates running for different parties. 

This study enhances our knowledge on the consequences of electoral system change on the ideological position of candidates and party cohesion and takes an interesting ankle by using candidate-generated election material to analyze this relationship. I wonder, however, which role candidate selection might play in the causal mechanism linking electoral reform to candidate ideology. Japanese parties might have adapted their selection mechanisms in the course of the wider electoral form and thus recruit different candidates under different selection rules. Hence, candidates might not necessarily have changed ideological positions consciously because of a new electoral system, but in order to convince a new selection committee – or parties might look for other types of candidates depending on the electoral rules. 


Author: Sarah C. Dingler in November 2017

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