Political competition and contestability: a study of the barriers to entry in 21 democracies
Title: Political competition and contestability: a study of the barriers to entry in 21 democracies
Author: BISCHOFF, Carina S.
Citation: Florence, European University Institute, 2006
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of Political and Social Sciences
The thesis offers a theoretical clarification of the concept of political competition and an empirical study of one of its defining dimensions, namely contestability. In the first part, the relevant literature is subjected to a critical review with an eye to arriving at a model of competition suited to an empirical study of its effects. The model proposed focusses attention on the incentives political actors aspiring to positions of power have to win votes. Two dimensions are singled out as crucial for such incentives. The first is the degree of contestability. That is, how open the political arena is to the entry of new competitors. The second dimension, vulnerability, addresses how closely incumbent governments are faced with the threat of losing office. The second, and main part of the thesis, is devoted to the empirical study of contestability by examining the barriers to entry for new parties in 21 democracies. Four barriers are identified and measured in turn. The first two determine access to competition for votes. The Registration barrier captures the costs of participation, while the Recognition barrier tries to identify costs and opportunities involved in becoming known to the public. Unlike the other barriers, several indicators are proposed to capture it. The next two determine the difficulties involved in winning seats. The Representation barrier measures this by the properties of the electoral system, while the Accessibility barrier takes the interaction of electoral behaviour and the electoral system into account. Finally, the individual and combined strength of each of the barriers to entry are investigated on the number of new parties entering. The results suggest that the relative importance of the barriers varies considerably, but also that they together explain a considerable amount of variation in the entry of new parties. The implications of the findings are finally evaluated in light of competitive theory.
LC Subject Heading: Political parties; Comparative government
Defence date: 10 November 2006; Examining Board: Prof. Stefano Bartolini (University of Bologna, Supervisor) ; Prof. Richard Katz (Johns Hopkins University) ; Prof. Peter Mair (European University Institute) ; Prof. Philippe C. Schmitter (European University Institute, Professorial Fellow); First made available online on 27 May 2016.