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Promoting Gender Equality through Party Funding: Symbolic Policies at Work in Italy

  • Francesca Feo (a1) and Daniela R. Piccio (a2)


Given the growing importance of state subsidies as a source of party income, several countries have introduced policies that link the provision of party funding to the promotion of gender equality in political representation. Variations in the assignment of public funding—that is, financial incentives and cuts—are increasingly employed to promote equal gender participation in intraparty politics and in public office. However, we know little about why and how these equality promotion policies have been adopted in different countries, how they work in practice, and, most importantly, what effects they have on women's representation. To contribute to this debate, after embedding gender-targeted public funding regulations in the broader set of political representation policies and presenting a comparative overview of existing rules in the European Union, the article concentrates on the Italian case. We examine the evolution of Italian regulation of gender electoral financing and the extent to which the Italian parties have complied with the rules over time. The results show that this set of policy instruments, when poorly designed, is nothing more than symbolic policy. The lack of appropriate mechanisms for sanctions and rewards, which can induce parties to change their behavior, has hampered the effectiveness of these policy measures.

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A draft of this article was presented at the European Consortium for Political Research General Conference in Hamburg, Germany, in August 2018 and the Italian Political Science Association Congress in Turin, Italy, in September 2018. In addition to the two panels' participants, we are especially grateful to Eléonore Lépinard and Claudia Padovani for their helpful comments. We also would like to thank the editor Mary Caputi as well as two anonymous referees of this journal for their comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this work. Possible errors remain our own.



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