Abstract/Details

Democracy in Europe's regions: Party competition, government accountability, and citizen satisfaction


2005 2005

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Abstract (summary)

Decentralization of power to the regional level has been a trend across Europe over the past several decades. This transfer of political and administrative competencies is motivated by a multitude of often contradictory goals, but is most frequently presented as a means of bringing government “closer to the people” and thus enhancing democracy. Yet the claim that regional units are somehow more democratic than national units is assumed, not demonstrated.

In this dissertation, I examine the quality of regional democracy in Europe by evaluating how effectively elections let people control the actions of regional governments. For this purpose, I develop a model of electoral accountability linking electoral competitiveness with government responsiveness. This model states that when the re-election probabilities of incumbents are about even—that is, when the two main parties competing for office are equally strong—governments will be more responsive to their citizens. Conversely, when the opposition is weak, incumbents are free to ignore the wishes of voters.

To test the predictions of the model, I postulate that citizen satisfaction constitutes a good proxy for government responsiveness. This enables me to hypothesize a positive empirical relationship between electoral competitiveness and citizen satisfaction, mediated through accountability. Statistical tests using German and Spanish electoral and survey data confirm this hypothesis. The analysis also shows that incumbents cushioned by wide vote margins are better able to survive in office even if satisfaction with their performance is low. The results are maintained or even reinforced when comparing one-party and coalition governments. Finally, I demonstrate that a lack of electoral competitiveness can be found in numerous regions of several European countries, and that regions are on average far less competitive than national party systems. Paradoxically, competition tends to be weaker in regions where one may expect a stronger desire for autonomy.

Accountability is a useful frame for understanding the effectiveness of democracy. Further, electoral competitiveness constitutes a significant problem for sub-national democratic accountability. More attention should be geared toward this issue before devolving more power to regional units in the future.

Indexing (details)


Subject
Political science
Classification
0615: Political science
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Citizen satisfaction; Democracy; Europe; Government accountability; Party competition; Regional government
Title
Democracy in Europe's regions: Party competition, government accountability, and citizen satisfaction
Author
Tvinnereim, Endre Meyer
Number of pages
244
Publication year
2005
Degree date
2005
School code
0084
Source
DAI-A 66/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
ISBN
9780542119743, 0542119749
Advisor
Hall, Peter
University/institution
Harvard University
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Degree
Ph.D.
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Language
English
Document type
Dissertation/Thesis
Dissertation/thesis number
3174056
ProQuest document ID
305008896
Copyright
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
http://search.proquest.com/docview/305008896
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