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Comparing Candidate Selection: A Feminist Institutionalist Approach

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Abstract

This contribution evaluates the theoretical and methodological challenges of researching the gendered dynamics of candidate selection in comparative perspective. It argues that comparative studies should take into account not only the gendered nature of political parties and their wider institutional context, but must also investigate the informal aspects of the selection process and their gendered consequences. The article explores these dynamics by revisiting original in-depth research on the candidate selection process in two different settings – Thailand and Scotland. Using a common analytical framework, the article reflects on this work and points to two key aspects of the interaction between formal and informal rules – the gendered consequences of informal party recruitment and of local influence over candidate selection – which are critically important for understanding the continuity of male political dominance and female under-representation. The article concludes by outlining a research agenda for comparative work on gender, institutions and candidate selection and pointing to future directions for work in this area.
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This is an Author’s Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Government and Opposition
29 April 2016, available online http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0017257X1600004X
To cite this article: Elin Bjarnegård and Meryl Kenny (2016). Comparing Candidate Selection: A
Feminist Institutionalist Approach. Government and Opposition, 51, pp 370-392
doi:10.1017/gov.2016.4
Comparing Candidate Selection: A Feminist Institutionalist Approach
Elin Bjarnegård and Meryl Kenny
*
Abstract: This contribution evaluates the theoretical and methodological challenges of
researching the gendered dynamics of candidate selection in comparative perspective. It
argues that comparative studies should take into account not only the gendered nature of
political parties and their wider institutional context, but must also investigate the informal
aspects of the selection process and their gendered consequences. The article explores
these dynamics by revisiting original in-depth research on the candidate selection process in
two different settings Thailand and Scotland. Using a common analytical framework, the
article reflects on this work and points to two key aspects of the interaction between formal
and informal rules the gendered consequences of informal party recruitment and of local
influence over candidate selection which are critically important for understanding the
continuity of male political dominance and female under-representation. The article
concludes by outlining a research agenda for comparative work on gender, institutions and
candidate selection and pointing to future directions for work in this area.
Keywords: candidate selection, gender, feminist institutionalism, political parties, informal
institutions
Investigating the gendered and institutional dimensions of the opportunity structures within
political parties is essential in order to explain womens chronic minority status in politics as
well as the persistence of male dominance. The small but growing body of work on gender,
political parties and candidate selection has contributed many important insights about the
*
Elin Bjarnegård is Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Uppsala University. Contact email:
elin.bjarnegard@statsvet.uu.se.
Meryl Kenny is a Lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Contact email:
M.Kenny@ed.ac.uk.
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dynamics of these processes and how they should be studied (see, for example, Bjarnegård
2013; Hinojosa 2012; Kenny 2013; Kittilson 2006; Lovenduski and Norris 1993; Murray 2010;
Norris and Lovenduski 1995). That political parties are gatekeepers and should therefore be
central to the analyses is one important starting-point. Another significant insight is that
gender does not only operate at the individual level we can also understand and analyse
gender at the institutional level and therefore critically examine political parties as gendered
organizations. A third insight has to do with the importance of informal rules in the
institutional setting that parties constitute or, rather, the interaction between formal
regulations and informal practices at the party level. Research has demonstrated, usually
through detailed case studies, how all these insights are important in order to capture what
really matters when parties select candidates. Yet, while the important role of political
parties in shaping patterns of womens representation is widely recognized, there have been
surprisingly few systematic comparative studies into the secret garden of candidate
selection and recruitment.
The aim of this article is to move a step forward by assessing the comparative
potential in the field, focusing on parties as gendered organizations that are guided by both
formal and informal rules. We propose an ambitious but realistic research agenda for how to
analyse the relationship between gender, institutions and candidate selection in
comparative perspective. We begin by outlining in greater detail the theoretical and
methodological challenges of researching the gendered and comparative dynamics of the
candidate selection process. We then move on to explore the possibilities of comparing
these complex dynamics by revisiting original research on the candidate selection process in
two different settings Thailand and Scotland and two different political parties the Thai
Rak Thai and the Scottish Labour Party. We situate these earlier studies in the context of our
comparative research agenda, highlighting two key aspects of the candidate selection
process that have gendered consequences in both cases: the role of party recruitment and
the role of local influence over selection decisions. We elaborate on how and why these
mechanisms are gendered and demonstrate their importance for understanding the
continuity of male over-representation and female under-representation in both contexts.
Building on these commonalities, and elaborating on what needs to be studied, and how, the
article concludes by setting out a research agenda for future work in the field.
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CHALLENGES IN THE COMPARATIVE STUDY OF GENDER AND CANDIDATE SELECTION
Research seeking to understand male over-representation in politics has increasingly started
focusing on political parties as gendered organizations, investigating the specific set of
institutional conditions under which women can achieve concrete gains (Bjarnegård 2013;
Kittilson 2013). In this view, gender operates both as a (socially constructed) category and as
a feature of institutions and social structures (Krook and Mackay 2011). So, for example,
studies of gender and candidate selection demonstrate that gender plays out at the
individual level through direct or indirect discrimination by party gatekeepers (Norris and
Lovenduski 1995). But they also highlight that these gendered interactions take place at the
party level within a framework of both formal and informal party rules and practices that are
shaped and structured by gender norms favouring the model of the ideal candidate, who
is usually a man (Chapman 1993; Lovenduski and Norris 1989).
Establishing a clear picture of internal party dynamics, therefore, requires a
gendered lens. Parties are gendered organizations, in that they are characterized by
traditional (and often unacknowledged) conceptions of gender relations that generally
disadvantage women (Lovenduski 2005). There is, consequently, an increasing amount of
empirical contributions specifically focusing on gendered aspects of candidate selection and
recruitment (Bjarnegård 2013; Freidenvall 2006; Hinojosa 2012; Kenny 2013; Kittilson 2006;
Lovenduski and Norris 1993; Murray 2010; Norris and Lovenduski 1995). A key first step in
this research agenda is to map and analyse the gender regimes of political parties, starting
with the formal architecture and informal rules, norms and practices of the selection process
(cf. Lovenduski 2011). It is, however, often difficult to access information about internal
selection processes, partly because of the often informal and hidden character of these
practices. Much of the research in this area has, therefore, continued to focus on formal
regulations and official party rules, often at the expense of exploring the informal aspects of
candidate selection and recruitment and their gendered consequences.
This is not to argue that formal rules do not matter for gender and candidate
selection; rather, formal rules should be understood in connection to the informal practices
that they affect and are affected by (cf. Bjarnegård and Kenny 2015). There is a large
literature demonstrating how formal regulations such as electoral systems and electoral
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gender quotas can fundamentally shape and alter party selection practices in gendered
ways. Rules such as electoral systems matter because they provide political parties with
incentives that have an impact on who parties perceive to be a suitable candidate. Candidate
gender quotas, on the other hand, matter because parties are required to put gender on the
table and design their selection processes in such a way that they are able to identify not
only suitable candidates in general (who often turn out to be male) but also suitable female
candidates. The impact of other formal rules is less clear. For instance, there has been an
inconclusive discussion about whether centralized or decentralized selection procedures
favour women. While some argue that a decentralized party structure may lead to gains for
women at the grassroots level (Lovenduski and Norris 1993; Norris 1996, 1997), others
suggest that centralized party organizations give elites more power to implement and
enforce gender equality reforms when they are willing to do so (Kenny and Verge 2013;
Kittilson 2006; Murray 2010).
The reason for these inconclusive accounts is probably that the above-
mentioned studies do not necessarily investigate the same things. For example, in seeking to
answer the question of who decides in the candidate selection process, and the
consequences of this for womens representation, studies have largely focused on where
decision-making takes place, whether nationally or locally (Kenny and Verge 2013; Kittilson
2006), and on the degree of inclusiveness of the selectorate (Hinojosa 2012; Rahat and
Hazan 2001). Yet often these different dimensions are lumped together into broader
discussions of centralization that focus almost exclusively on formal rules and regulations,
or look only at particular stages of the process (or all of them at once) (cf. Bjarnegård 2013).
Candidate selection is not static, however; it is a complex and temporally specific process
that takes place in many steps, and formal rules on where decisions about candidates are
taken do not always correspond to informal practices and de facto decisions taken at
different levels. Reading and analysing party regulations is not enough even to understand
whether and to what extent formal rules guide the selection process. We need instead to
study the process that is shaped by the actual practices taking place within a specific formal
framework (Bjarnegård and Kenny 2015). Where selection procedures are bureaucratized
and in practice guided by a strong regulatory framework, the process for selecting
candidates is not only described in some detail in party documents, but what is de jure
described in the party regulations is also implemented that is, de facto how the process for
5
selecting candidates is carried out (Bjarnegård & Zetterberg forthcoming; Norris 1996).
Understanding formal rules therefore necessitates comparing their content to actual
practices. Determining how strong formal rules are, and to what extent they actually guide
how candidate selection is done on the ground, is therefore one of the first steps towards
understanding what leeway the formal framework leaves for informal practices to play a
part in candidate selection (Bjarnegård 2013; Bjarnegård and Kenny 2015; Bjarnegård &
Zetterberg forthcoming; Kenny 2013).
However, the possibilities of specifying and generalizing the gendered impact
of different types of selection procedures across parties and countries are still limited due to
the relative scarcity of systematic comparisons that take both formal and informal rules into
account. Comparative studies that do exist generally take the form of anthologies where
individual contributions on candidate selection in different countries are more or less
explicitly related to the common theme of the book, but where there are few systematic and
integrated comparisons (see, for example, Gallagher and Marsh 1988; Lovenduski and Norris
1993; Norris 1997; Siavelis and Morgenstern 2008). Studies have, however, usefully
compared candidate selection structures and gendered consequences of different political
parties operating within the same country (see, for example, Bjarnegård 2013; Freidenvall
2006; Kenny 2013; Murray 2010; Norris and Lovenduski 1995; Verge and de la Fuente 2014).
Such comparisons are well posed to chisel out behavioural differences between parties
operating under similar circumstances. However, gendered analyses of candidate selection
have, for the most part, stopped short of comparisons across parties and countries. Notable
exceptions include Caul Kittilson (2006), who studied political parties and womens
representation in Western Europe, and Hinojosa (2012), who compared Latin American
political parties and their candidate selection procedures. Very few, if any, comparative
cross-country studies of gendered aspects of candidate selection have included informal
aspects of the selection process. Hinojosa (2012: 12-13) explicitly addresses the informal
nature of candidate selection in Latin America, though she acknowledges the difficulties of
obtaining information about informal party practices, given the constant rule changes that
take place in the region and the difficulty of obtaining reliable data from parties.
Methods for collecting comparative data on candidate selection, then, are not
always straightforward, particularly as we move away from focusing only on formal
procedures and collecting written material, such as party regulations (although these are not
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always readily available either!) to focusing on informal practices and conventions that are
not written down. Gallagher and Marsh´s (1988) characterization of candidate selection as
the secret garden of politics therefore still seems relevant and important, particularly for a
gendered analysis. Candidate selection is a crucial activity in political parties, but because of
the internal power-struggles it entails, it is also often considered internal business. When
studying internal party politics one deals with events that are normally not of a public
character (Nelson 2005: 2) and political practices that some people would prefer remain
undocumented (Arghiros 2001: viii). Moreover, while informal criteria are important for
who becomes a politician, really understanding how informality matters in a certain country
requires contextual knowledge and expertise in a way that makes it difficult to quickly access
this information for a large number of countries. Recent work on gender and informal
institutions more broadly has attempted to overcome these methodological challenges by
drawing on methods from other areas of the social sciences, including institutional
ethnography (Chappell and Waylen 2013). When the aim is comparative, however, these
sorts of methods are not always feasible, and ethnographic data collection does not easily
lend itself to structured comparison. There are also particular issues that arise in dealing
with elite political organizations such as parties, which may be reluctant to grant access to
particular research settings or information, and where access may change over time (for
example, if a party is in opposition or in government) (Kenny 2014; see also Lovenduski
2016, in this issue).
COMPARING THE SECRET GARDEN: CANDIDATE SELECTION IN THAILAND AND SCOTLAND
This article constitutes a first exploration of the possibilities and limits of cross-country
comparison by comparing gendered aspects of candidate selection in two contexts that are
seemingly very different: Scotland and Thailand. The empirical data used for this comparison
was not gathered in the synchronized manner that a truly comparative research design
would require. Instead, we bring together two existing case studies and revisit data
gathered separately, but with a common analytical framework
1
focusing on the gendered
and institutional dynamics of the candidate selection process. The aim of this exercise is to
investigate what common insights can be pulled from these two cases, to identify fertile
ground for future research, and also highlight limitations and/or challenges for comparative
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research in this field. We have been careful to make sure that the similarities we find draw
on comparable stages of the election process. The fact that certain commonalities stand out,
despite the different contexts and research strategies, can also be seen as an advantage.
While there are limits to what we can generalize from this comparison, it can help us identify
common causal mechanisms (of power, of continuity, of change), which can then be
explored in future research in other contexts (cf. Pierson 2004; Mackay et al. 2010).
In particular, in order to capture what matters, we have explicitly focused on
both formal and informal aspects of the candidate selection process, and the interplay
between them (cf. Bjarnegård and Kenny 2015). We have done this by focusing our research
on how recruitment took place, and, with the narratives of actual candidates and other party
actors at hand, we have been able to revisit theories about party demand as well as the
impact of party decentralization. Both cases were investigated with a time-consuming and
field-intensive process-tracing method including semi-structured interviews with candidates
and party gatekeepers. To unearth the real rules that shape the selection process (both
formal and informal) we talked to actors themselves about how things are done around
here and why do you do X but not Y? (Lowndes 2005: 306; see also Kenny 2014). Our
interviews focused on the personal experiences of party gatekeepers and candidates and
thus concerned issues that our respondents were well placed to answer. We asked
candidates to tell us how they ended up as candidates, what they had needed to do to get
there, what their major assets were, and what hurdles they had encountered. Party
gatekeepers were asked to tell us how they reasoned about a particular candidate, why they
ended up with one candidate instead of another, to what extent the decision was in their
hands, and what influenced their decision. The narratives emanating from these kinds of
interviews give a surprisingly clear picture of what is at stake. And while these kinds of
methods may also produce divergent accounts from different participants, these
interpretations are in themselves a part of the process, shedding light on the ways in which
particular events and meanings were constructed at different times and in different
institutional sites (see Kenny 2013 on this point). Thus, starting with these process
descriptions, rather than with specifying formal institutional differences in how candidates
are selected, is a fruitful way forward for comparative research, allowing us to see the ways
in which the rules of the selection process (both formal and informal) play out on the
ground.
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In both cases, a multi-stage analysis of the selection process was also
conducted, tracing the full potential chain from being eligible to becoming an aspirant to
being selected as the official candidate of the party to being elected as an MP.
2
Most work in
the field, in contrast, takes only a partial look at the selection process, which, as we
highlighted above, can sometimes lead to inconclusive results. If our goal is to identify
gendered processes, though, we need to look at the entire chain (from application to
election) in order to identify the precise stages at which under-representation begins to
occur (Ashe and Stewart 2012; Norris and Lovenduski 1995). Each step involves different
actors, points to different characteristics and may require different methodological tools,
but they also influence one another. Although a dynamic multi-stage approach makes for
potentially complex comparisons, it is nevertheless a challenge worth accepting.
In developing a comparative research agenda on gender and candidate
selection, we also need to consider which types of cases we compare, and what the
comparison will contribute. In this analysis, we have opted to revisit the findings of two very
different cases, in order to search for similiarities that can be theoretically and empirically
explored in future research. The two parties we are looking at are the Thai Rak Thai
3
in
Thailand and the Labour Party in Scotland. Our analysis of the candidate selection process
focuses on the Thai Rak Thai candidate selection procedures for constituency seats
preceding the 2005 parliamentary elections in Thailand and the Scottish Labour Party
candidate selection procedures for constituency seats in the run-up to the 2007 Scottish
Parliament election
4
. Both these parties can be situated within a larger framework of
political reform, albeit in different ways. Both were either newcomers to the political arena,
or operating in a new political arena, with change high on the agenda.
The Scottish Labour Party is a social democratic political party in Scotland
which operates as the regional section of the UK-wide Labour Party. Processes of
institutional and constitutional restructuring in the 1990s created a new institutional
context for the party, with the creation of new parliamentary spaces and structures of
governance in Scotland and Wales, as part of the partial devolution of power from the UK
Parliament. The establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 opened up unprecedented
opportunities for innovation in the candidate selection, creating pressures that were acutely
felt in the Scottish Labour Party, which had historically been markedly less hospitable to
women candidates and officeholders than the party at the British level (Brown 2001; Mackay
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2004). Inside the party, women took advantage of the opportunities presented by
devolution and were important players in arguments over the use of gender quota measures
for Scottish Parliament elections. These internal party debates were heavily influenced by
wider agendas, most notably party modernization and centralization of candidate selection
procedures (Bradbury et al 2000). As a result, the use of quotas was also supported by key
men in the party, and Scottish Labour was ultimately the only party in Scotland to implement
formal quota measures prior to the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, using a
mechanism called twinning in constituency seats and placing women in favourable
positions on the partys regional lists, which resulted in a parliamentary group that was 50
per cent women. In subsequent elections, the party continued to lead on womens
representation in Scotland and achieved equal representation or better in its parliamentary
group until 2011. Underlying trends, however, suggest that this outcome was largely due to
the power of incumbency after 1999, rather than the institutionalization of gender balance,
and the underlying pattern of turnover suggests a re-masculinization of Labour candidacies
(Kenny and Mackay 2014).
The Thai Rak Thai, however, by itself represented a new and unprecedented
political force in the Thai political landscape. Although operating under a relatively new
system, with a constitution passed in 1997, the bigger change to Thai politics was, arguably,
that the new electoral framework facilitated the entering of Thai Rak Thai on the political
stage in 2001, in which it won a landslide election. The second election in 2005 the one
analysed here was a tremendous success for the Thai Rak Thai, and Thailand got its first
ever single-party government. The Thai Rak Thai, under the leadership of the businessman-
turned-politician Thaksin Shinawatra, had managed to mobilize large poorer segments of the
Thai population. This mobilization was enabled by a mix of new and old strategies: universal
policies introducing cheap health care and micro-credit loans were introduced and hugely
contributed to the political success but in parallel with these new policies, old strategies of
working through clientelist networks and vote-buying had to be maintained. The Thai Rak
Thai portrayed itself as a new type of Thai party and there was thus a strong emphasis on
newcomers in general, although there was little specific talk about the inclusion of women.
Despite the strong emphasis on a new type of candidates, more representative of the
electorate at large, we do not see any effects on the gendered composition of Thai Rak Thai
10
candidates. The representation of women has been consistently low in the Thai parliament,
at about 10 per cent (Bjarnegård 2013).
These are two parties that operated in very different settings and political
cultures, but they are comparable in the sense that change was on the agenda in both
parties. We thus see two cases with windows of opportunities for change, and it is in light of
these opportunity structures that we can study strategies used to preserve the status quo
(cf. Bergqvist et al 2013). Both parties also had to search actively for new candidates and
thus did not have to be as concerned with incumbents as parties usually are. Yet, while
newness is often considered to be conducive to gender equality (see Mackay 2014), neither
of the parties have lived up to expectations on womens representation. In the case of the
Thai Rak Thai, discussions about selecting a new type of politician did not address issues of
women or gender, meaning that, despite the partys strong performance in 2001 and 2005,
the party did not manage to increase the number of female candidates substantially. Instead
of inventing new ways of identifying candidates, the Thai Rak Thai invented refined ways of
enticing politicians from other parties to join it. Meanwhile, although the parliamentary
face of Scottish Labour is female, reflected in its high proportion of women
parliamentarians, gendered patterns of turnover within the party have resulted in a decline
in the selection and election of female candidates since 1999, suggesting that gender parity
and quota mechanisms have been poorly institutionalized within the party (Kenny and
Mackay 2014). Thus, rather than invent entirely new patterns of selection and recruitment,
both parties have, to some extent, fallen back on familiar formulas. They have been unable
to distance themselves from the political culture in which they operated and, perhaps more
surprisingly, they were unable to free themselves from the stickiness of the informal
institutional framework that regulates how candidates are selected.
Two key themes emerged as we compared our findings from the two studies -
informal recruitment and informal decentralization. We will now briefly elaborate on these
two themes in order to explore their gendered impact and illustrate the value-added of the
comparative study of candidate selection.
Formal Regulations and Informal Recruitment
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Our case studies shed light on the ways in which party demand is not simply formulated in
formal rules but also shaped by informal encouragement and gatekeeping practices. Both
parties had formal rules in place, but these rules were either not very specific or not
enforced, leaving large room for leeway, interpretations and loopholes on the ground.
In the case of the Scottish Labour Party, there were extensive formal party
regulations for the candidate selection process, including both Scottish and National
Executive Committee guidelines for parliamentary selections, and a Candidates Code of
Conduct. Labours initial candidate selection reforms in 1999 were aimed at creating a more
fair and open process, intending to reform what had been a relatively closed process of local
nomination and selection by unrepresentative, largely male, constituency activists more on
the basis of patronage than competence (Bradbury et al 2000: 151-152). As such, in the run-
up to the 1999 elections, the party implemented a number of formal rule changes, including
a central panel of pre-approved candidates. It also attempted to professionalize the
application process, introducing a person specification, job description and a standard
application form. In practice, however, there has been increasing slippage between the
formal rules of the recruitment process and their actual enactment and enforcement on the
ground after 1999. Formally, for example, job descriptions and person specifications are still
in place. But at the constituency level in the run-up to the 2007 elections, for instance, these
were not used in many cases, despite repeated requests from both candidate applicants and
constituency party members. While formally candidate applicants were also required to
have already been pre-selected on the Scottish Labour central panel of approved candidates,
in practice this rule did not appear to be consistently enforced in all constituencies, and
indeed, in some cases candidates were approved after the fact. Formally, there was little
evidence of the central Scottish party taking active measures to recruit particular candidates
in the run-up to the elections, but most candidate applicants cited informal encouragement
from individuals such as party activists and local party members as a key factor influencing
their decision to stand for selection.
In Thailand, in contrast, even the formal regulations for candidate selection are
rather brief and leave ample room for flexibility. The national legal framework merely
stipulated that all political parties had to have internal regulations that specify candidate
selection procedures and rules (Organic Act on Political Parties, 1998, Section 11). The
internal regulations of the Thai Rak Thai did include two sections on candidate selection, but
12
they were very brief. They basically stipulated that the formal selection be made by the
Party Executive Committee and that candidates be party members. Because the candidate
selection process is relatively unregulated, it comes as no surprise that the Thai Rak Thai
candidates interviewed had followed different paths in order to become a candidate. They
all had one thing in common, however: they had been encouraged and sometimes talked
into running for office by senior party officials or local party strongmen. None of them had
stepped forward themselves, as this was deemed inappropriate.
5
While party officials
claimed that all women had to do in order to become selected was to step forward, this was
in stark contrast to the actual process described by the (male) candidates interviewed.
Instead, people deemed suitable for political office were informally invited and encouraged
to stand for election. Often these people were not newcomers to the political arena
instead, far from going out to find a new type of person, the Thai Rak Thai worked hard to
encourage the most successful established politicians to change sides. It specifically
searched for people with a proven track record of winning elections, and its main target
group was therefore sitting members of parliament (from other parties).
6
In the Scottish case, the underlying trend of informalization was compounded
by the overall lack of intervention in the process by the central party and the inconsistent
and uneven enforcement of formal selection rules by both central and local party officials. In
some cases, the practice of rule-breaking appears to have become a rule in itself. For
example, while the partys Candidates Code of Conduct explicitly prohibits any campaigning
until after the short-listing stage, there was a general understanding among the candidates
in the constituency under study that there would be canvassing outside the formal rules:
the rules were acknowledged and ignored.
7
While this decoupling of formal and informal
rules was masked by formal stability on the surface, the day-to-day business of candidate
selection was largely guided by informal rules. In the Thai case, however, the formal rules
are, in themselves very brief. Party selectors do not have to break formal rules, because the
rules stipulate so little about what is supposed to take place. They do have to work out
informal arrangements to substitute the absence of formal rules, however (Helmke and
Levitsky 2004). Thus, while both parties operate in very different settings, in both cases,
rules of informal behaviour and recruitment existed in a context of either weak or ineffective
formal rules in which non-compliance routinely went unsanctioned. The gendered
consequences of party demand cannot be fully comprehended by analysing party
13
documents. Instead, informal networks of encouragement and recruitment often matter a
great deal.
Informal Decentralization and Gendered Local Practices
The necessity of taking formal regulations and informal practices into account is also
illustrated by the dynamics of local influence over the selection process in both Scotland and
Thailand. If we are to determine where candidate selection takes place, it is necessary to
investigate where it actually took place, not simply where the regulations say it takes place.
In both these cases, the candidate selection process was de facto, although not de jure,
decentralized. In practice, this meant that local interests came to play a large and decisive
part in the selection process, with gendered consequences. The comparison between these
two cases helps us understand why, as highlighted previously, accounts of the relationship
between party decentralization and womens representation have been inconclusive.
While the trend within the British Labour Party since the late 1980s onwards
has been one of greater centralization, evidence from Scotland suggests that the party is
now characterized by an increasing degree of territorial autonomy. The decentralization of
power within the party increased in the aftermath of the 1999 Scottish Parliament elections,
where the partys centralized approach to candidate selection had attracted criticism for
imposing certain types of candidates on reluctant local constituencies. After 1999, the
British Labour Party still retained final authority over the candidate selection process,
through the National Executive Committee. In practice, however, Scottish Labour was able to
draw up its own selection procedures without the National Executive Committee’s
intervention, although these decisions were taken within a wider framework of centrally
prescribed principles. Final selection decisions were left up to party members as a whole. Yet
while, formally, the central Scottish party still retained primary authority over candidate
selection decisions, in the constituency under study, the party appears to have withdrawn
from almost any intervention formal or informal into the process, signalling a potential
return to past practices of decentralized constituency-based selection (cf. Denver 1988). In
the Scottish case, central intervention at the constituency level was perceived to be highly
contentious, particularly in the area of gender balance.
8
The lack of central party
intervention in the process was therefore welcomed as a positive development by
14
constituency members and candidate applicants, but this de facto decentralization left
participants in the selection process with considerable leeway to circumvent and subvert
formal rules and reforms, and to fall back on familiar formulas of informal local patronage,
to which we return below.
The Thai Rak Thai was, by many, perceived to be a very centralized party, due
to the huge influence of charismatic party leader Thaksin Shinawatra and the weak
organization of its branches. Thai Rak Thai had a strong top in the party leader and a massive
base among its supporters, but no strong institutions in between. The party regulations, too,
in spite of their brevity, did point to the Party Executive Committee as the formal authority
for matters of candidate selection. The de facto process of selecting candidates was,
however, decentralized and even localized. In practice, it was often the responsibility of the
incumbent or of a local party strongman to find a new candidate.
9
Sometimes a poll
including the names of local politicians, community leaders, businessmen, teachers and
other local notables was conducted in order to find out who was popular in the area in
question.
10
Often, however, the new candidate came from a close circle surrounding a local
Thai Rak Thai strongman. If it was not a close relative, it was someone from the local
canvassing network. Although the Party Executive Committee had veto power, in most cases
it rubber-stamped a decision that was taken locally and based on very local concerns.
These de facto decentralized selection procedures also had gendered
consequences in both cases. As already highlighted, despite a detailed formal rule-book, the
Scottish Labour Party selection process largely operated in accordance with informal rules
and shared understandings. Despite the absence of formal job descriptions and person
specifications, for example, participants in the selection process at the constituency level
highlighted an informally shared understanding of what selectors were looking for,
repeatedly highlighting the importance of being seen as local.
11
Establishing localness,
though, was not an objective matter of residence, but rather relied on informal networks of
local patronage: political access and opportunities depended largely on who - rather than
what - the candidates knew. As Norris and Lovenduski (1995: 238) highlight, candidate
selection by patronage is based on subjective and informal criteria of acceptability, where
the key question for selectors is whether candidate aspirants are one of us. Decisions are
often made by a limited number of actors, who are usually predominantly male (Matland
2005). In the Scottish case study, male participants repeatedly highlighted the importance of
15
playing the game, being well-connected, local politicking and knowing the right
people.
12
When interviewees were asked to clarify, the right people were usually identified
as key local and central party men.
13
Localness also played out in internal party debates
over gender quotas. As several constituency members explained, the problem with
centrally enforced quota mechanisms was not about women candidates specifically; rather,
the problem was the central imposition of outsiders. The repeated linking of gender quotas
with imposed central intervention positioned female candidates as perpetual outsiders to
the process, marking women as Other. The constructed dichotomy of locals vs. others also
disadvantaged particular political masculinities, positioning certain male candidate
applicants as outsiders. Some saw this as part of the strategic machinations of particular
local party men, aimed at keeping certain male candidate applicants off the shortlist.
14
But
both male and female outsider candidates perceived this tension in gendered terms, as
favourite son selections
15
. Thus, despite attempts to broaden the process of candidate
selection after devolution, the evidence suggests that there has been a drift back to the
gendered model of the ideal candidate, the local man (cf. Lovenduski and Norris 1989).
Similarly, the Thai political landscape is still clearly marked by patronage and
clientelism, particularly in rural areas. Clientelism
16
is an informal institution that requires
the building and maintenance of close-knit personal informal networks. Just as in Scotland,
then, knowing the right local people and being part of the right local networks is crucial for
social acceptance and for being considered a suitable candidate. A strong clientelist network
has become close to an informal prerequisite for being a successful candidate in Thailand,
and these networks are also the main recruiting grounds for new candidates. What is more,
the clientelist networks are highly gendered. They are almost entirely male-dominated and,
when asked, male politicians say they want to they maximize their chances of electoral
success by recruiting people who are already in politically strategic positions in the local area
and who have access to localized resources to be distributed to voters. In addition,
politicians claim they need to feel that they can trust these people with secretive tasks such
as distribution of clientelist goods and money. As in the Scottish case, recruitment was never
explicitly framed as a gendered practice, it was more a question of being an outsider or an
insider. Being an insider means being someone with access to local funds, important
contacts in the local area and with large networks that can be used in the political campaign.
Equally important, however, is that the person in question is perceived as someone who can
16
be trusted. Trust is often homosocial, in the sense that we often perceive that we can trust
people of the same sex as ourselves. We tend to trust people whom we perceive we can
predict, and prediction is easier when we think we see ourselves in other people (Bjarnegård
2013; Collinson and Hearn 2005). Male recruiters in Thai Rak Thai therefore tended to bias
their selection in favour of other men. For male recruiters, this implies that other men are
seen as more competent and trustworthy and, by default, as insiders and as ideal
candidates. One seemingly secure way of choosing an insider is to select a close relative or a
son or someone who is like a son. Everyone wants to be close to and similar to the
candidate. Sometimes they even call him ´father´. The inclusion of a father and son into a
network is generally greatly encouraged and this type of relationship is even simulated
where no biological relationship exists. A fatherson relationship is seen as increasing
stability and predictability, as a son is perceived to be similar to his father, or even the same
as his father. Thai women cannot approximate the favoured son, and whereas close
relationships between two men were seen as stabilizing, close relationships between a man
and a woman in the clientelist networks are seen as endangering the predictability and
stability of the network, as well as introducing distrust and new types of problems, including
sexual relations. Women thus do not have access to the all-important homosocial capital
that Thai politicians rely on in order to build clientelist networks, make political careers and
gain electoral power.
17
In summary, in both cases localized selection processes created an uneven
playing field in which key party actors in positions of power were charged with making,
interpreting and enforcing the rules - networks that, in both contexts, continue to be
dominated by men. And by virtue of their positional power, these local insiders were able
to break the rules, or create their own set of rules, using informal and shared understandings
to their advantage and keeping outsiders out of the loop (an omission that could then be
attributed to the outsiders’ lack of local connections). Thus, in both the Thai Rak Thai and the
Scottish Labour Party, there remains a gendered process of boundary construction which
privileges certain (informal) institutional interconnections over others. And while the tension
between locals and outsiders was presented in gender-neutral terms, at the same time, this
constructed dichotomy was profoundly gendered.
CONCLUSIONS
17
The Scottish Labour Party and the Thai Rak Thai are different parties that operate in
different contexts, yet analysis of the gendered aspects of their candidate selection
processes suggests that they are also marked by some striking similarities. In both cases, the
formal rules of recruitment were either weak or ineffectually enforced, leaving considerable
room for actors on the ground to fill the gap with informal rules and implicit
understandings of how things are done. In addition, while both parties were (formally)
highly centralized, in practice the de facto process of selecting candidates was quite
decentralized and even localized. In both cases, we find evidence that localized processes
marked by informal practices of local patronage and clientelism - operate differently for men
and women, with women positioned as gendered outsiders to the process and therefore
unable to gain access to political power.
While revisiting both of these cases points to some fruitful avenues for future
study, there are still a number of theoretical and methodological challenges remaining.
Questions can be raised, for example, about the comparability of these two settings.
However, despite our expectations about the impact of the volatility of the Thai political
system, we see that both parties, in fact, attempted to keep to informal and well-known (for
insiders) processes for selecting candidates. Outsiders were perceived as less predictable
and trustworthy in both environments. Certainly, there may be even more at stake in the
Thai candidate recruitment, where the threat of system breakdown is always present, but it
is interesting to note that the logics of gendered inclusion are relatively similar in two
seemingly dissimilar cases, suggesting that common causal mechanisms may be at play.
An additional challenge, as previously highlighted, is that while institutions
have distinctly gendered cultures and are involved in active and ongoing processes of
producing and reproducing gender, no institution does this in exactly the same way. This is
particularly the case for informal institutions, which are highly contextual, raising questions
as to whether the similarities between our case studies are largely coincidental.
Nevertheless, comparisons across cases can help to develop at least limited generalizations
which may travel well across different settings (cf. Pierson 2004). Our cases point to
particular gendered mechanisms of institutional resistance and reproduction which may
have portability in other contexts. For example, both cases highlight the stickiness of
informal institutions, drawing attention to how old ways of doing things have been
18
reinvented and redeployed, even in new settings namely informal and masculinist party
practices of local patronage, clientelism and homosociality. Certainly there are parallels here
with other studies of gender and political institutions, which point to the ways in which
male-dominated political elites have shifted the locus of power from formal to informal
mechanisms in order to counteract womens increased access and presence in formal
decision-making sites (see, for example, Hawkesworth 2005; Kathlene 1995; Puwar 2004).
Studies of recruitment in other organizational settings also point to homosocial patterns of
recruitment and even to the emphasis on favoured sons (see, for example, Holgersson
2013). Our analysis also lends further weight to existing research in the field, which suggests
that decentralized candidate selection processes may have negative effects for women,
highlighting the gendered dimensions of local interests and influences over the recruitment
process, as well as their gendered effects.
Future work in the field therefore needs to explore further the internal party
dynamic, while remaining attentive to the gendered and informal dimensions of the
candidate selection process. Such a process requires an emphasis on empirical complexity
candidate selection processes operate within a broader institutional and political context
and are subject to different spatial and temporal constraints. Untangling the interplay
between formal and informal rules and gender in the candidate selection process will
require more comparative research across space and across time, as well as more in-depth
case studies that situate their findings in relation to the findings of other cases. Given the
difficulties of obtaining reliable information on the formal and informal dimensions of the
candidate selection process particularly the need for in-depth empirical research and
country- and party-specific expertise - we would suggest that other researchers follow our
lead and begin to carry out collaborative research.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors thank Tània Verge, Joni Lovenduski, panel participants at the 2014 MPSA Annual
Conference, workshop participants at the 2014 ECPR Joint Sessions and the 5th LIWEPOP
Workshop at the University of Leicester, and the anonymous reviewers of this journal for
their helpful comments and suggestions on this paper. Elin Bjarnegård wishes to
acknowledge the support of the Swedish Research Council (grant number 421-2010-1638).
Meryl Kenny wishes to acknowledge the support of the UK Economic and Social Research
19
Council (PTA-026-27-2122) and the UNSW Vice-Chancellors Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme
(RG104436). The authors are equal contributors to this article: names are listed in
alphabetical order.
NOTES
1
Our analysis draws on the findings of Bjarnegård (2013) and Kenny (2013).
2
As in both cases we conducted a multi-stage analysis of the selection process, we
distinguish between interviews with MPs, candidates (who have been successfully selected
by the parties), and applicants (aspirants who failed to be adopted) (cf. Norris and
Lovenduski 1995).
3
A party with this name does not exist any more as the Thai Rak Thai was banned following
the coup in 2006. Successor parties that, in essence, are the same party as the Thai Rak Thai
are the People´s Power Party (banned in 2008) and Pheu Thai (ousted from power by the
most recent coup d’état in 2014). Pheu Thai was led by Yingluck Shinawatra, who is the sister
of the founder of the Thai Rak Thai, Thaksin Shinawatra.
4
At the time, both operated under a mixed election system, although the analysis here
focuses on candidate selection for the first-past-the-post constituency seats. A comparison
across both constituency seats and proportional lists would be rather complex. The
proportional lists were organized quite differently and served different purposes in the two
countries. The candidate selection processes for the constituency seats are more directly
comparable.
5
For example, Interview no. 63, female member of parliament, March 2005; Interview no.
68, male member of parliament, May 2006; Interview no. 118, female member of
parliament, February 2006; Interview no. 128, female constituency candidate, March 2006.
6
Interview no. 35, male party list candidate, member of parliament and party official of the
Thai Rak Thai party, January 2006.
7
Interview no. 8, male candidate applicant, March 2008.
8
Interview no. 9, male party member, March 2008; Interview no. 3, male constituency party
officer, March 2008.
9
For example, Interview no. 47, party list candidate and deputy minister of finance, July
2006; Interview no. 118, female constituency candidate and member of parliament,
February 2006.
10
Interview no. 52, party deputy secretary general, November 2008.
11
For example, Interview no. 12, male candidate applicant, April 2008; Interview no. 7,
female candidate applicant, April 2008; Interview no. 5, female candidate applicant, March
2008; Interview no. 8, male candidate applicant, March 2008.
12
Interview no. 6, male candidate applicant, April 2008; Interview no. 4, male candidate
applicant, March 2008; Interview no. 8, male candidate applicant, March 2008.
13
Interview no. 6, male candidate applicant, April 2008; Interview no. 4, male candidate
applicant, March 2008.
14
Interview no. 6, male candidate applicant, April 2008.
20
15
Interview no. 6, male candidate applicant, April 2008; Interview no. 7, female candidate
applicant, April 2008; Interview no. 5, female candidate applicant, March 2008; Interview no.
8, male candidate applicant, March 2008.
16
Clientelism is usually defined as the exchange of personal services for political support.
17
Hinojosa (2012) highlights similar familial dynamics in her study of candidate selection in
Latin America. She finds that while many men who enter Latin American politics have family
connections to other men, women are presumed to have made it into politics because of
their personal relationships with other men. Even in the absence of such a family
relationship, the presumption is that a sexual relationship can explain womens success
(Hinojosa 2012: 119; see also Camp 1979; Jalalzai 2013).
1
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Despite academic interest in the negative effects of primaries on gender descriptive representation, we have little evidence on how this impact varies across territorial levels, especially among women with family responsibilities. We focus on Spain as a multilevel polity (national, regional, local chambers) with mandatory quotas to show that very few females with family responsibilities are selected in primaries at upper territorial levels. While primaries frequently facilitate women becoming local councillors, this method seems to exclude those with family responsibilities at regional and national levels where, to fulfil gender quotas, female candidates are more commonly appointed by the party elite. This process has repercussions since representatives selected by the leadership tend to be more disciplined and homogeneous than those selected in primaries.
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When investigating corruption's effect on female representation, research has argued that gatekeepers make or break female representation, with women often being perceived as threats to corrupt networks and being excluded from power. However, research rarely investigates who these gatekeepers are and how variation in candidate selection affects female candidates' chances of being selected. In this paper, I develop theoretical arguments on how variation in candidate selection, namely selection by high-level leadership, local leadership and primaries, shape the strategies of selectorates in high corruption contexts. I test my theoretical arguments using a novel subnational dataset collected by myself on Italian mayor elections in 2014. The results suggest that contrary to previous arguments, high-level leaderships are less likely to select a female candidate in a high corruption environment, whereas primaries do not benefit women's chances at being selected. The effect of selection by a local leadership does not depend on corruption context.
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This article scrutinizes the role of political parties in gender quota implementation. First, it theoretically specifies and operationalizes the concept of bureaucratization in relation to candidate selection. Second, it examines whether parties with bureaucratized selection procedures are better at implementing legally mandated candidate quotas than other parties. We measure implementation as the number of women candidates and women elected (the latter measuring implementation of the spirit of quota laws). Using unique data on almost 100 Latin American parties, the analysis shows that once quotas are in place, parties with bureaucratized selection procedures put substantially more women on their candidate lists than other parties. However, these parties are only better at implementing the letter of the law: they do not get more women elected.
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In this compelling book Pippa Norris and Joni Lovenduski provide the first full account of legislative recruitment in Britain for twenty-five years. Their central concern is how and why some politicians succeed in moving into the highest offices of state, while others fail. The book examines the relative dearth of women, black and working-class Members of Parliament, and whether the evident social bias in the British political élite matters for political representation. Legislative recruitment concerns the critical step from lower levels (activists, local counsellors) to a parliamentary career. The authors draw evidence from the first systematic surveys of parliamentary candidates, Members of Parliament and party selectors, as well as detailed personal interviews. The study explores how and why people become politicians, and the consequences for parties, legislatures and representative government.
Book
In Challenging Parties, Changing Parliaments, Miki Caul Kittilson examines women's presence in party politics and national legislatures, and the conditions under which their entrance occurs. She theorizes that parties are more likely to incorporate women when their strategy takes into account the institutional and political "opportunity structures" of both the party and party system. Kittilson studies how women pressed for greater representation, and how democratic party systems responded to their demands. Research on women's representation has largely focused at the national level. Yet these studies miss the substantial variations between parties within and across European democracies. This book provides systematic cross-national and case study evidence to show that political parties are the key mechanism for increasing women's parliamentary representation. Kittilson uncovers party-level mechanisms that explain the growth in women's parliamentary participation since the 1970s in ten European democracies. The inclusion of new challengers in party politics is often attributed to mounting pressures from activists and public opinion at large. This book contradicts the conventional wisdom by demonstrating that women's gains within parties flow not only from pressure from party supporters, but also from calculated efforts made by the central party leadership in a top-down fashion under specific circumstances. Certainly women's efforts are essential, and they can be most effective when they are framed, timed, and targeted toward the most opportune structures within the party hierarchy. Kittilson concludes that specific party institutions encourage women's ascendance to the top ranks of power within a political party.
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This contribution takes a look back at the supply and demand model of selection and recruitment, developed by Joni Lovenduski and Pippa Norris in Political Recruitment: Gender, Race and Class in the British Parliament (1995). The core understanding of this model was that candidate selection was an interactive process in which both selectors and aspirants affected outcomes that were organized in several sets of institutions. The model illuminates power in particular institutions – British political parties – and was designed to examine the various effects of the selection process. This contribution reflects on the model and puts forward ideas and arguments about what might be done differently, taking into account the theoretical and methodological innovations of the succeeding generation of scholars who have used the model. It also identifies remaining challenges for research on candidate selection and suggests that the supply and demand model is sufficiently flexible that it can still travel across national, system and party boundaries.
Chapter
This chapter analyzes the changing role and status of women in the Scottish Labour Party. It asks how the Labour Party, once characterized as stereotypically masculine, got to this point, and what the prospects are for the future. After giving some historical context, the chapter summarizes some of the key developments since 1979. It distinguishes between two ways of thinking about representation. First, representation as a place at the table, which means women as internal elected party office-holders and as candidates and politicians at different levels of government. Second, representation as a voice in the party, which refers to the structures and opportunities that exist for women as women to organize within the party, to share experiences and build capacity, to campaign for women to take their place in the mainstream, and to articulate gendered policy concerns.
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Although statutory quotas have considerably expanded worldwide, the bulk of gender quotas in place are party quotas used in the selection of candidates and composition of party bodies. This article aims to examine whether reforms addressing women's representation translate into greater power for women within political parties, thus providing new insights into how transformative gender quotas may (or may not) be in promoting gender equality in politics more generally. Specifically, we look beyond the distributive logic of gender quotas and examine instead the party institutional configuration in which patterns of distribution are realised, through the daily enactment of informal institutions. Our findings suggest that while unequal patterns of office distribution can be effectively fixed through gender quotas, this 'simple' solution cannot automatically subvert the main informal sources of male power in the party organisation. As change and continuity coexist, gender quota reforms are layering processes in which some elements are renegotiated while others persist.