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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: October 2009

5 - Parties, Leaders, and Voters in the Parliamentary Election


Students of regime change trenchantly argue that the more election campaigning and voting behavior are pegged to political parties, and the less to candidates, the brighter the prospects for nurturing democracy (e.g., see Aldrich 1995; Mainwaring 1999). This claim rests on two pillars. The first is the observation that, as collective actors with professional staffs, parties are better suited than solo leaders to presenting citizens with principled choices. A party-based mass politics will tend to be richer in issue content than a leader-based politics revolving around personal virtues and vices, populist rhetoric, and clientelistic networks. It should enable citizens to make more judicious and more value-impelled voting decisions and to be more forceful in demanding governmental accountability to them after election day. The second rationale for the superiority of parties has to do with their perseverance over time. Parties and the loyalties they engender are capable of persisting for many more years than the political career or the life span of a single president, prime minister, or party chairman. Specialists on the micro-foundations of voting come away, in the words of a classic text, “impressed by the degree to which the emotional attachments formed by voters toward specific political parties … become remarkably durable … as well as pervasive in their effects, lending a predictable coloration to all manner of political evaluations” (Converse and Pierce 1986, 68).