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Electoral Strategy and Coordination in Open List Proportional Systems

Grant number: 17/09619-4
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): August 25, 2017
Effective date (End): May 24, 2018
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Political Science - Political Behavior
Principal Investigator:George Avelino Filho
Grantee:George Avelino Filho
Host Investigator: Ben Schneider
Host Institution: Escola de Administração de Empresas (EAESP). Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States  
Associated research grant:13/15658-1 - Subnational political institutions: a comparative study of Brazilian States, AP.TEM


The objective of this proposal is to explain an old puzzle in Brazilian politics that relates low levels of party credibility among voters and a high correlation of parties' electoral support at municipal levels across elections.Scholarship on the Brazilian "electoral connection", that is, the activities incumbents do to increase their reelection chances, usually depart from a diagnosis about party weakness and the individualistic behavior of politicians. This individualistic behavior could be observed not only during electoral campaigns, but also during incumbents' legislative activities. Accordingly, one of the main empirical focus of these works has been on the budgetary amendments, through which incumbents would channel public resources to their respective electoral strongholds. In an environment where parties cannot work as collective organizations, the only available strategy to electoral success is to establish a direct and individual contact with voters. Not surprising, this contact with voters would strengthen the incumbent personal vote protecting her from variations on her party electoral performance.Even considering the weakness of Brazilian parties in aggregating interests, and its low importance as an informational shortcut to voters, the correlation between party electoral performances across elections still requires an explanation. If one considers that parties are organizations designed to advance the political career of their members, it is necessary also to consider other roles performed by parties during elections. Among those roles are coordination activities, such as minimizing competition among party candidates, to enhance their electoral chances. More importantly, the existence of a strong local party organization may curb variations in the local electoral support for the party.In the same way, it would be important to consider parties' heterogeneity, that is, the impact of different types of party organization on the party ability to perform those coordination activities. In sum, electoral advantages promoted by party organizations to their members may vary among parties, or even within parties. In this last case, candidates' electoral advantage promoted by parties would rely on the geographical coverage of local party organization of the electoral district. Considering other roles performed by political parties during electoral campaigns may help to solve the puzzle referred at the beginning, as weak electoral parties may be strong organizations, able to help their candidates during electoral campaigns by preventing larger variations in party support at local levels.

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