Edoardo Alberto Viganò

Geographical Representation in Parliament: Electoral Incentives and Party Control

A crucial dimension of representative democracy is how politicians represent voters. Politicians are often viewed as agents of their parties, which are held accountable by voters (collective representation) or as delegates of their constituents (dyadic representation). Even in contexts where collective representation has emerged as the dominant model, MPs devote a considerable part of their work in parliament to representing their local constituents – a phenomenon called geographical representation. Despite its prevalence, our understanding of the drivers and consequences of this phenomenon remains limited. This thesis examines whether the institutional setting, defined by electoral and parliamentary rules, affects MPs’ efforts to deliver geographical representation in parliament. In addition, it investigates whether adopting a geographical focus helps MPs secure their seat in party-centred contexts, where parties heavily control these processes. The empirical analyses reveal three findings. First, electoral incentives (controlling for selection effects) are not a significant driver of geographical representation. Second, parliamentary rules that increase party control hinder geographical representation in legislative speeches. Third, specific groups of MPs (backbenchers, MPs with local experience, and MPs sitting in distributive committees) who use lawmaking activities to deliver geographical representation enjoy lower chances of being re-selected by their parties. Overall, the thesis indicates that the effects of electoral incentives on legislators’ behaviour found in previous research might be overstated. Moreover, contrary to the prevailing expectation, geographical representation may not necessarily supplement party representation, suggesting a potential trade-off between collective and dyadic representation.


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