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Abstract

Political parties sometimes set up formal criteria to define the pool of potential candidates. This article represents the first large-scale comparative analysis of potential unintended gendered consequences of these formal selection criteria on parliamentary representation. Using unique data on 101 political parties in 32 African, Asian, and post-communist European countries, we find that there is indeed a relationship between formal selection criteria and men's and women's political representation. Criteria that concern ethnic or geographic background and intra-party experiences are harmful to women. On the other hand, gendered consequences are not as pronounced as a result of criteria concerning qualifications or requirements in relation to electability. Taken together, the analysis points to the need to pay increased attention to formal selection criteria and how this under-researched aspect of candidate selection shapes the parliamentary representation of underrepresented groups.
This is an Author’s Accepted Manuscript of a manuscript accepted for publication in Party
Politics (accepted on May 22, 2017).
How to cite this article: Bjarnegård, Elin and Pär Zetterberg. “Political parties, formal
selection criteria and gendered parliamentary representation”. Party Politics (Forthcoming).
Political parties, formal selection criteria and gendered parliamentary
representation
Elin Bjarnegård*
elin.bjarnegard@statsvet.uu.se
Pär Zetterberg
par.zetterberg@statsvet.uu.se
Department of Government, Uppsala University
Box 514, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
*Corresponding Author
Abstract
Political parties sometimes set up formal criteria to define the pool of potential candidates.
This article represents the first large-scale comparative analysis of potential unintended
gendered consequences of these formal selection criteria on parliamentary representation.
Using unique data on 101 political parties in 32 African, Asian, and post-communist
European countries, we find that there is indeed a relationship between formal selection
criteria and men’s and women’s political representation. Criteria that concern ethnic or
geographic background and intra-party experiences are harmful to women. On the other hand,
gendered consequences are not as pronounced as a result of criteria concerning qualifications
or requirements in relation to electability. Taken together, the analysis points to the need to
pay increased attention to formal selection criteria and how this under-researched aspect of
candidate selection shapes the parliamentary representation of underrepresented groups.
Keywords: political parties, gender, representation, candidate selection, formal selection
criteria
Author biographies:
Elin Bjarnegård is Associate Professor at the Department of Government at Uppsala
University, Sweden. Her research has been published in journals such as Comparative
Politics, Government & Opposition and International Interactions. She is the author of
Gender, Informal Institutions and Political Recruitment: Explaining Male Dominance in
Parliamentary Representation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
Pär Zetterberg is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Department of Government at
Uppsala University in Sweden. His main research interests include candidate recruitment and
political representation in a comparative perspective. He has published his research in journals
such as Political Behavior, Comparative Politics, and Political Research Quarterly.
Acknowledgements:
This article is based on work supported by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond [grant no. P10-
0801:1]. We are grateful to International IDEA for granting us access to data. We would also
like to acknowledge the Electoral Integrity Project at the University of Sydney for the
fellowship it provided to work on this paper. We wish to thank participants in the gender and
politics seminar at Uppsala University and in the Electoral Integrity Research Seminar for
fruitful discussions. A special thanks to Anna Boucher, Olle Folke, Pippa Norris and Michal
Smrek for useful comments and to Malin Holm, Nina Carlsson, and Neshat Alizadeh for
excellent research assistance. Any remaining errors are the responsibility of the authors. The
authors are equal contributors to this article; names are listed in alphabetical order.
Political parties sometimes set up formal selection criteria to define the required qualities in a
person who is to stand for election for the party. Despite the fact that such formal criteria may
substantially circumscribe the pool of potential candidates, including in ways that
unconsciously favor members of certain groups but exclude others, “the scholarly literature
rarely covers this aspect of candidate selection, if at all” (Hazan & Rahat 2010, 23). This
article aims at filling this gap in the literature by examining political parties’ formal selection
criteria from a gender perspective. More specifically, it is the first analysis to use cross-party
comparative data to empirically investigate potential unintended gendered consequences of
seemingly gender neutral formal selection criteria on the political representation of men and
women.
To conduct the analysis, we draw on researchers who apply a feminist institutionalist
perspective on party politics and candidate selection. Informed by a feminist institutionalist
framework, candidate selection has increasingly been studied as a process that is influenced
by both formal and informal rules. Informal institutions and their gendered effects on party
recruitment practices have received particular attention (Bjarnegård and Kenny, 2016; Verge
and Claveria, 2016; Bjarnegård and Kenny, 2015; Franchescet and Piscopo, 2014; Bjarnegård,
2013; Kenny, 2013; Hinojosa, 2012; Cheng and Tavits, 2011; Murray, 2010a). These studies
have demonstrated that gendered norms and practices within political parties shape the
opportunities for male and female aspirants. Informally emphasizing seemingly gender neutral
merits - such as to what extent an aspirant has access to clientelistic networks (Franceschet
and Piscopo, 2014; Bjarnegård, 2013), is a key local figure (Kenny, 2013) or has experience
of holding visible party office (Verge and Claveria, 2016) - has nevertheless generated
selection patterns resulting in more men than women candidates.
The gendered impact of parties’ formalized selection criteria has, however, not been
thoroughly investigated in previous studies. Formal selection criteria are interesting because
they are officially recognized and can be expected to mirror party priorities as they are
publically presented. It is uncommon that the criteria parties set up will be about gender per
se, but it is possible that the criteria interact with gender hierarchies in the surrounding
context so as to produce gendered consequences(cf. Gains and Lowndes, 2014). In this way,
the requirements that political parties put on candidates may implicitly favor some groups
over others. Therefore, there is a need to enlarge the scope of the scholarly focus to
encompass the possibility that parties, by formalizing certain requirements, may
unconsciously circumscribe the supply of potential candidates.
The empirical analysis combines two sources of data: cross-sectional survey data from
International IDEA on formal party selection criteria within 101 political parties in 32
African, Asian, and post-communist European countries, and our own data collection on
gendered parliamentary representation in these parties in the election that followed the
International IDEA data collection (for a full list of the political parties that are included in
the analysis, see Appendix). The analysis focuses on four distinct formal selection criteria that
are not specifically about gender, but that may have gendered consequences: criteria about
candidate background, candidate qualifications, candidate experience and candidate
electability. These requirements are manifest and formalized expressions of the political party
demand for candidates, at the same time as they effectively control and limit the supply of
potential candidates. In this way, formal selection criteria constitute clear examples of recent
arguments in the literature on gender and political recruitment: that party demand for
candidates cannot, in practice, be separated from the supply of candidates (Broockman, 2014;
Bjarnegård, 2013; Kenny, 2013; Krook, 2010).
To preview the results, our OLS regression analyses suggest that seemingly gender-neutral
selection criteria sometimes have unintended gendered consequences, consistently benefitting
men over women. Requirements that concern candidate background (in terms of coming from
a certain geographical area or belonging to a specific ethnic group) and experience (measured
as having experience of a certain party position) seem to be harmful to the inclusion of
women. On the other hand, the gendered consequence is not as pronounced as a result of
existing criteria for qualifications (such as having a certain level of education), nor is there a
clear gendered pattern regarding requirements that aim to gauge the electability of the
candidate among party members/voters (in terms of collecting a certain number of signatures).
The analysis points to the need to focus on gendered consequences of seemingly gender
neutral formal party rules. By thus looking at party politics with a gendered lens, we can
understand both how parties make gender and how gender makes parties (Kenny and Verge,
2016) and how these processes are sometimes even formalized. It is in the careful unpacking
of the different formal selection criteria and how gender plays out in relation to them that we
can properly begin to understand their distinct consequences on gendered parliamentary
representation.
Candidate selection and gendered parliamentary representation
Selecting candidates is one of the defining functions of a political party. Research has
emphasized the power struggles that take place during candidate selection processes, i.e. the
processes by which candidates are chosen from among the pool of aspirants (Kenny and
Verge, 2016; Bjarnegård and Kenny, 2015; Gallagher and Marsh, 1988; Siavelis and
Morgenstern, 2008; Rahat and Hazan, 2001). At stake is control over who gets to represent
the party in election campaigns and subsequently in the legislature and consequently control
over what the party does and stands for (Hazan and Rahat, 2010). However, the scholarly
literature on how political parties across the globe select their candidates has, at least until
recently, been largely underdeveloped (Hazan and Rahat, 2010). Although parties operate in a
wide variety of political settings and constitute a heterogeneous group of organizations, their
recruitment practices nested within certain institutional constraints and opportunity
structures are largely a private affair: political parties have a large leeway in designing these
internal processes themselves (Epstein 1967). It is difficult to access information about the
nature of these procedures, partly because they are often of an informal character (Kenny,
2013; Bjarnegård, 2013; Rahat and Hazan, 2001; Norris, 1996; Gallagher and Marsh, 1988).
As a consequence, candidate selection has been likened to a “black box” (Kenny and Verge,
2016) and called “the secret garden of politics” (Bjarnegård and Kenny, 2015; Gallagher and
Marsh, 1988).
This article draws on, and speaks to, research on the political importance of candidate
selection methods. In their creation of a broad theoretical framework, Hazan and Rahat (2010)
develop a fourfold classification of relevant aspects of candidate selection: candidacy
requirements, the composition of the selectorate, the level of decision making
(decentralization), and the appointment and voting systems employed. They put these four
aspects in relation to four democratic dimensions: participation, representation, competition,
and responsiveness. Here, we pay attention to one of the democratic dimensions political
representation and more specifically to the representation of politically marginalized groups
in society.
In research on candidate selection procedures and group representation, the bulk of studies
focus on women’s political representation. Over the last few decades, the gendered
consequences of candidate selection have received increased attention (Gauja and Cross,
2015; Bjarnegård, 2013; Kenny, 2013; Hinojosa, 2012; Murray, 2010a; Escobar-Lemmon and
Taylor-Robinson, 2008; Caul Kittilson, 2006; Norris and Lovenduski, 1995; Lovenduski and
Norris, 1993). Out of Hazan and Rahat’s (2010) four dimensions of candidate selection,
emphasis has been on the impact of the level of decision-making (centralized or
decentralized) or of the inclusiveness of the selectorate (see e.g. Hinojosa, 2012; Norris and
Lovenduski, 1995). In this article, we pay attention to an aspect of candidate selection that has
received significantly less attention, namely the impact of the formal candidacy requirements
of political parties on gendered parliamentary representation.
Such formal selection criteria refer to the limitations and priorities that a single party lays out
in internal party documents concerning who may stand as a candidate for the party. These
requirements complement the general eligibility criteria (e.g. age) that are documented in a
country’s constitution or electoral law. The formal selection criteria of political parties
provide a bridge between supply-side factors (the pool of eligible and willing aspirants) and
demand-side factors (the criteria and priorities applied by the political parties) in Norris and
Lovenduski’s (1995) influential model. Whereas supply and demand can be analytically
distinguished, recent work has pointed to the ways in which supply is often endogenous to
demand (Bjarnegård, 2013; Kenny, 2013; Lawless and Fox, 2010; Murray, 2010a). For
instance, party gatekeepers sometimes actively encourage certain types of individuals to stand
for office, and such encouragement is often reported to be a main motivating factor for
individual decisions to step forward as an aspirant. Such outspoken party demand thus shapes
the supply of candidates and structures the pool of aspirants for public office. This difficulty
of separating between supply and demand is particularly evident when it comes to the study of
the impact of formal selection criteria. These criteria are set up by political parties and are, as
such, indicators of the demands political parties have on the characteristics of their
prospective candidates. As such, these criteria are tools that parties may use to foster a certain
party culture and assure certain behavior (Hazan and Rahat, 2010), and they are thus
fundamental for understanding the subsequent candidate selection process. These demands
can also, however, shape the supply of potential candidates in certain, sometimes unforeseen
and usually unintentional, ways.
Theorizing the gendered consequences of formal selection criteria
Theorizing how formal selection criteria relate to gendered parliamentary representation, our
point of departure is a suggestion that has been brought up in research on gender and
candidate recruitment: that the very existence of rules formally regulating candidate selection
may be beneficial for women’s possibilities to accede to political office. Commonly such a
focus on formal party rules is referred to as the level of bureaucratization (also labeled
institutionalization, formalization, or rule-boundedness) of candidate selection (e.g.
Bjarnegård and Zetterberg, 2016; Escobar-Lemmon and Taylor-Robinson, 2008; Caul
Kittilson, 2006; Bruhn, 2003; Guadagnini, 1993; Lovenduski and Norris, 1993; Czudnowski,
1976).
1
The basic argument concerning the gender-friendliness of formal party rules is that
women fare better in parties whose candidate selection procedures are rule-bound and
formalized rather than patronage-based and informal because it is easier for outsiders to
understand what it takes to get in and on what grounds to appeal if s/he feels unjustly treated
(e.g. Escobar-Lemmon and Taylor-Robinson, 2008; Caul Kittilson, 2006; Lovenduski and
Norris, 1993; Czudnowski, 1976). In contrast to formalized processes, patronage-based
procedures are generally characterized by party rules that are either brief or simply not
implemented. Informal arrangements and personal relationships trump written rules, which
also means that “procedures may vary from one selection to another” (Norris, 1996: , 203).
These arguments can easily be applied to the formal selection criteria that political parties
specify: with more written rules specifying who the ideal candidate is, the priorities of
1
“Bureaucratization” has been described as a candidate selection procedure that is carried out according to
written rules that are “detailed, explicit, standardized, implemented by party officials, and authorized in party
documents” (Norris 1996).
political parties are made transparent. It is thereby easier for outsiders to understand what
parties are looking for and to challenge decisions that do not seem to be based on the formal
selection criteria. Conversely, it becomes more difficult for parties to justify decisions based
on an informal set of rules or on arbitrary criteria.
On the other hand, research on candidate selection has suggested that party-specific formal
selection criteria, by effectively limiting the pool of potential candidates, may result in an
exclusion of outsiders (e.g. Hazan and Rahat, 2010). Thus, this kind of formalization may
unintentionally be harmful to relative newcomers such as women and other politically under-
represented and marginalized groups. In most cases, these groups do not set these criteria:
majority men in party leadership positions do. They get to decide which merits that count, and
which experiences that are considered useful for candidacy. It is highly likely that these merits
and experiences resemble those that the party decision-makers themselves have. Kenny and
Verge suggest that parties make gender in this way, because “party ‘rules of the game’ [are]
established by and in benefit of the in-group (men)” (Kenny and Verge, 2016, 358). They also
suggest that gender makes parties, because “gender norms and stereotypes [are] embedded in
political parties’ norms, rules and practices” (Kenny and Verge, 2016). As a consequence,
formal selection criteria may serve to reproduce biases that already exist within a party and,
indeed, in the surrounding political context.
By focusing on how the criteria required for candidacy are constructed by party gatekeepers,
our focus is on the content of formal selection criteria. We believe that such a focus is
warranted in research on the gendered consequences of political parties’ selection criteria,
because the rules do not in themselves stipulate the essence of the restrictions they impose on
candidate selection. In theory, political parties may stipulate any kinds of formal rules
including outright sexist or racist rules, or selection criteria directly excluding certain groups.
Here, we do not focus on such direct discriminatory practices. Rather, we consider the
potential unintentional exclusionary mechanisms of certain formal selection criteria. Although
the focus is on seemingly gender-neutral formal selection criteria, feminist institutionalism
has pointed to the fact that formal rules interact with gendered institutions within and outside
of the political sphere so that even this type of criteria may have unintended gendered
consequences (Gains and Lowndes, 2014; Lilliefeldt, 2011). There are at least two different
ways in which such unintended gendered consequences may arise from interaction between
formal rules and the context: formal criteria may prescribe qualities that are more common in
men than in women (Murray, 2010a, 64), or they may indirectly feed in to gendered norms
and practices that favor men over women (Lilliefeldt, 2011, 27; see also Gains and Lowndes,
2014). The former can be said to be an example of how parties make gender, while the latter
is an example of how gender also makes, or influences, parties (Kenny and Verge, 2016). In
both these instances, one sex is more likely to meet the established criteria than the other, but
for somewhat different reasons. In the first case, it is simply the fact that the criteria are
unevenly distributed between men and women, while in the second case, the criteria map on
to existing stereotypical constructions of politicians that rest on an often undisputed male
template (Murray, 2014; Bjarnegård, 2013; Puwar, 2004). In this way, it is possible that
parties, by formalizing candidate criteria, may be institutionalizing discrimination against one
of the sexes “even if they are not aware that they are doing so(Murray, 2010a). Different
sets of rules should thus not be studied in isolation from each other. Rather, it is the interplay
between formal and informal rules, or the ‘gendered institutional configurations’ (Krook,
2010), within and outside of the political sphere that need to be in focus.
What do parties look for in an ideal candidate? There are a number of desirable candidate
characteristics that can and have been formulated and formalized as explicit candidate criteria
(for a brief overview of the most common selection criteria, see e.g. Hazan and Rahat, 2010).
Potential criteria can range from the origin of the candidate and achievements outside of the
political sphere, to criteria based on political merits. Here, we look closer at four sets of
criteria corresponding to different stages in life when relevant merits for candidacy may be
accumulated. First, a party may consider the background characteristics of a candidate by
requiring that candidates come from a certain geographical area, or belong to a particular
ethnic group. Second, parties may consider the non-political qualifications of a candidate,
such as educational attainment. Third, the political experience of candidates may be
formalized into criteria. Finally, a party may look for a candidate that is, above all, electable
in the eyes of the constituents. These four different criteria thus focus on different types of
merits that can be achieved at different points in life: background, qualifications, experience,
and electability.
Applying a gender lens on these criteria we expect two of them background and experience
to favor men, whereas the other two criteria qualifications and electability - are expected
to have no gendered consequences. We base these expectations on previous research about the
gendered consequences of mainly informal practices and priorities in political parties,
assuming that they will give an indication about what to expect when they are codified into
formal party rules.
Developing these thoughts, criteria about background refer to requirements that candidates are
of a certain origin, live in a certain geographical area, or belong to a certain ethnic group.
Such criteria are seemingly gender-neutral, as the distribution of men and women is unlikely
to be highly uneven either in geographical settings or in ethnic groups. However, in
interaction with the strong male norm that exists in most political parties, it may be difficult
for party gatekeepers to think “intersectionally”. When it is seen as important that a candidate
lives in the constituency, it maps onto a political stereotype of local key figures or local
strongmen that have favored male candidates over female in contexts as diverse as Scotland
and Thailand (Bjarnegård and Kenny, 2016). Previous research has also suggested that when
parties politicize, and give guarantees to, identity groups that are not based on sex, women are
at a disadvantage (Arriola and Johnson, 2014; Holmsten et al., 2010). In other words, we
expect formalized, seemingly non-gendered, criteria about candidate background to tap onto
informal constructions and ideas about politicians that will favor male politicians.
Criteria about qualifications refer to requirements that candidates should have a certain level
of knowledge and skills before running for office. Usually, these criteria focus on educational
attainment. If such a formal criterion interacts with a highly uneven educational performance
among men and women, it might create gendered patterns of representation. However, most
countries of the world experience a closing gender gap in education in general; and in higher
education in more affluent countries the gender gap is even reversed, so that more women
than men attain college degrees (OECD, 2016). Even in the global South, where there is a
remaining gender gap in education to the detriment of girls, the pool of educated women
should nevertheless be sufficiently large for educational requirements not to play a decisive
part in the exclusion of women from candidate selection procedures. Previous research on a
variety of political and developmental contexts has also shown that female candidates and
representatives are as qualified with regards to education as are their male colleagues
(O'Brien, 2012; Murray, 2010b; Beer and Camp, 2016). As a consequence, we do not expect
that formalized criteria about qualifications will favor men over women.
Criteria about political experience refer to requirements that candidates possess certain
leadership experiences, that they have served the party, or that they are incumbents. Where
parties prefer that candidates have served the party before becoming candidates it becomes a
way of coopting and/or rewarding loyal members and promoting people who already know
the rules of the game (Verge and Claveria, 2016). On the other hand, “outsiders” are
perceived as less trusted and with fewer networks. Based on previous research, which has
shown that most intra-party positions are held by men (see e.g. Cheng and Tavits, 2011),
requiring manifested party seniority is likely to be harmful for women and other under-
represented groups (see also Hazan and Rahat, 2010). The most obvious example of this is
probably incumbency. We know from a wide range of literature that incumbency is one of the
key factors that reproduce male dominance in candidate selection processes, because political
parties often have informal rules stipulating that incumbents should be renominated to
electable positions (Hazan and Rahat, 2010). Such more or less automatic renomination of
incumbents implies a continuous reproduction of a male dominated status quo. Similar
mechanisms seem to be at play with regard to access to different springboard positions in
political parties (Murray, 2014). As long as party positions are unevenly distributed between
men and women, we thus expect that a seemingly non-gendered rule formalizing such
political experience as an explicit criterion for candidacy will favor men over women.
Finally, criteria about electability refer to requirements that candidates prove that they have
the support of constituents and that they stand a chance of winning the election. In addition to
the above-mentioned incumbency rules, which clearly speak (also) to the issue of electability,
parties sometimes include rules in their party statutes that require aspirants to collect a
minimum number of signatures to prove that s/he has electoral support in the constituency
in order be eligible for candidacy (Murray, 2010a; Hazan and Rahat, 2010). Formalizing rules
about proven electability would favor men over women only if they map on to and gauge
strong stereotypes about male and female candidates in the electorate. However, although the
findings are somewhat mixed, most studies have demonstrated that women are not
discriminated against by the electorate (see e.g. Welch and Studlar, 1996; Norris et al., 1992;
McElroy and Marsh, 2010). Thus, we expect formal criteria about electability to have no
gendered effects.
Data and methods
We undertake the empirical analysis by moving beyond a focus on well-established Western
democracies, which has been common in research on gender, political parties, and candidate
selection (see e.g. Verge and Claveria, 2016 on Spain; Kenny, 2013 on Scotland; Murray,
2010a on France; Caul Kittilson, 2006 on Western Europe; Davidson-Schmich, 2006 on
Germany; Norris and Lovenduski, 1995 and 1993 on the United Kingdom; for rare
exceptions, see Hinojosa, 2012 on Latin America and Bjarnegård, 2013 on Thailand). More
specifically, we make use of unique data collected by International IDEA in 2005/2006
complemented by data collected by ourselves covering 101 political parties in 32 countries in
Africa, Asia, and post-communist Europe. The selected political parties operate in countries
that span the democratic continuum, from relatively developed democracies (e.g. Lithuania)
to authoritarian regimes (e.g. Sudan), with a majority operating in countries that are
considered as being democratic but where challenges to democracy are numerous (see also
Tremblay, 2007).
2
For instance, with a few exceptions problems of corruption are quite
substantial in the selected countries, levels of socio-economic development are relatively low,
and women have historically been largely excluded from politics. From a political party
research perspective, examining formal party rules in less developed democracies (and in
electoral autocracies) is particularly interesting. Previous research has shown that there is an
important variation not only in the extent to which parties in these countries have women in
their party parliamentary group but also in the extent to which they have bureaucratized (or
formally institutionalized) their candidate selection process (see e.g. Bjarnegård and
Zetterberg, 2016). Thus, there is likely to be substantial variation both in the dependent and
independent variables.
2
The median value of the Polity score, which we use to measure the level of democracy and which ranges from -
10 to +10, is +8. This equals the value of countries such as Kenya and Senegal.
The data contains party level data about formal selection criteria. We were granted access to
internal data collected by International IDEA on the functioning of political parties. Data was
collected via questionnaires given to party officials at different levels in the party
organization.
3
Thus, the unit of analysis is a single political party in one of the 32 countries.
The IDEA data is complemented with data that we have collected on women’s political
representation in the selected parties. We have used the websites of parliaments as sources for
the share of women within each party’s parliamentary group following the first election after
the IDEA data was collected. This represents the dependent variable of the analysis. On
average, the political parties have approximately 17 percent women and 83 percent men in the
party parliamentary group. However, the numbers range from zero all the way to 100 percent.
It could, for good reasons, be argued that an analysis of the gendered consequences of
political parties’ selection criteria should ideally have data on candidates and not on elected
representatives. However, comparative data on candidates in a large number of parties and
countries is very rare. Breaking down the number of women in parliament by party is the
second best option that we believe does not make the results biased in a substantial way. Most
of the surveyed countries have either a majoritarian system or a proportional system with
closed lists; as a consequence, voters are rarely able to change the order of the candidate(s).
Thus, in reality there is rarely a difference in our setting between an empirical focus on
candidates and a focus on representatives.
4
As for the independent variable(s), we look at four selection criteria that are established by the
party rules and thus considered formal and that were developed in the theory section: whether
3
We are restricted to analyzing the political parties that International IDEA selected for their study. Usually, but
not always, it includes the major parties in a country. Quite often it also includes small parties with few
representatives. We have run robustness tests excluding small parties, and the results remain robust.
4
Adding support to our argument, research has shown that open-list PR systems do not provide significantly
fewer women representatives than closed-list PR systems (Jones 2009). Thus, when voters are given the chance
to change the order of candidate lists, they do not necessarily do so in gendered ways.
a party’s internal regulations require a person to (i) come from a certain geographical area or
belong to a certain ethnic group (measuring candidate background); (ii) have certain
qualifications
5
(measuring qualifications); (iii) have a certain position in the party (measuring
experience); or (iv) have obtained a specific number of signatures (measuring electability) to
be able to be selected as a party candidate for the single (or lower) chamber of the national
legislature. The most common selection criteria is qualifications (almost 40 percent of the
parties have such rules), whereas approximately half as many parties (about 20 percent) have
the other criteria.
We run four sets of analyses with each of the four formal selection criteria as the main
independent variable to assess how each of the formal selection criteria are associated with
women’s political representation (at the party level). To take potential confounders into
account, we use a set of control variables at the party level and national level. More
specifically, at the party level we use the IDEA dataset to control for the age of the party as
well as for whether or not the party has adopted voluntary party quotas in its regulations. Both
these variables may be associated with a party’s propensity to adopt formal rules into its
regulations and, potentially, also with women’s political representation. At the national level
we make use of the Quality of Government Dataset
6
(Teorell et al. 2013) to control, first, for a
country’s level of democracy using a linear democracy score from Polity IV (Marshall,
Jaggers and Gurr 2011) as well as a curvilinear function of the measurement. It is likely that
very democratic countries as well as very autocratic countries have a relatively large number
of parties that are internally bureaucratic. In addition, democracy is conducive to women’s
candidacy in general elections once a country reaches a certain level of democracy (Fallon et
5
In the dataset, most qualifications refer to educational attainment.
6
All national level variables are collected from the Quality of Government (QoG) Dataset, except for the gender
quota variable. The QoG dataset compiles data from more than 100 data sources and demands that its users also
cite the original source. These are cited when we present each control variable.
al., 2012) and semi-democracies tend to have a stronger male dominance in parliament than
either democracies or autocracies (Bjarnegård and Melander, 2011). Second, we take into
account a country’s level of socio-economic development using the Human Development
Index, HDI (UNDP 2013). A socio-economically developed country is likely to bring more
women into the labor force and thus into public life. This might have an impact both on
political party organizations and on the number of women within the party parliamentary
group. Third, we control for a politico-institutional variable, the electoral system, by singling
out majoritarian systems from others.
7
Various analyses have shown that majoritarian systems
result in more male dominated parliaments than their more proportional counterparts (e.g.
Rule, 1987; Studlar and McAllister, 2002; Paxton et al., 2010). Fourth, we control for whether
a country has adopted a gender quota law or not (Quota Database, 2013). This is a formal rule
in the candidate selection process that attempts to affect the gender balance in parliament.
Fifth and finally, we control for the level of corruption (Transparency International, 2012).
This factor is likely to spur informality and be beneficial for men in politics (Bjarnegård,
2013; Esarey and Chirillo, 2013).
A limitation in the empirical analysis is its use of cross-sectional data. Ideally, we would need
time-series data to address issues of causality. Such data, however, does not exist in
comparative research on political parties’ candidate selection procedures and women’s
representation in party parliamentary groups. Nevertheless, we use control variables at the
national level that are measured by the time of the IDEA data collection, that is, before the
specific election that we analyze.
8
By measuring the control variables at a time prior to the
7
We have coded this variable ourselves based mainly on information from the Database of Political Institutions
(Beck et al. 2001). In a few unclear cases we have also consulted the Election Guide of the International
Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
8
All control variables are from 2005, except for election system which was only available from 2006.
election, we can at least design our model so that it accounts for the time order inherent in our
argument.
The analytical model is performed using ordinary least squares (OLS) regression analysis.
There are a few limitations with OLS regression in analyses that have data at different levels
of analysis (here, party level and national level). First, the assumption that observations (in
this case, political parties) are independent from each other is likely to be violated. Thus, there
are likely to be so-called auto-correlation problems. Second, the error terms are not likely to
be randomly distributed across an explanatory factor; that is, we are likely to have problems
with heteroscedasticity. We take the former problem into account by clustering the standard
errors, that is, by treating only political parties from different countries as independent from
each other. The second limitation is overcome by including robust standard errors in the
analysis.
Results
[TABLE 1 HERE]
Models 1-4 in Table 1 present the results of the analyses in which we examine the relationship
between each of the four selection criteria and women’s political representation (by party). In
short, Table 1 shows that, in line with our expectations, two of the selection criteria
background and experience are negatively associated with women’s representation in
legislative bodies. As for the other two criteria qualifications and electability there are
similarly negative relationships with women’s political representation but the relationships are
not statistically significant. Thus, the content of the selection criteria to some extent seems to
matter for the degree to which women are disadvantaged by political parties’ self-constraining
rules.
Looking more closely at the results, and starting with candidate background, Model 1 shows
that parties that have restrictions concerning a candidate’s ethnic or geographic background
tend to have more than 6 percentage points fewer women in their party parliamentary group
than other parties (significant at 95 percent level). In addition, Model 3 in Table 1 shows that
parties that have requirements that a person must have had a certain party position to be able
to run for office are likely to have almost 7 percentage points fewer women in the party
parliamentary group than other parties. The relationship is statistically significant at
95 percent level of significance.
Regarding formal criteria for qualifications (such as a certain level of education) and
electability (requirements for a number of signatures), on the other hand, their presence does
not predict any significant gendered bias in the candidate selection. To reiterate, they certainly
do not benefit women, as the direction of the relationship is the same as with the other
criteria: if anything they benefit men. However, the regression coefficients are smaller than in
the other two cases and none of them are statistically significant. Thus, different selection
criteria appear to shape gendered patterns in parliament somewhat differently.
The findings presented in Table 1 are insensitive to model specification: they hold even if we
drop some of the control variables or, alternatively, add one or two. They also hold if we vary
the number of observations by removing very small parties that only have one Member of
Parliament.
9
The control variables as such behave more or less as expected throughout the
analyses, based on what we know from previous cross-national research on gendered
parliamentary representation. Gender quota policies, PR systems, and low levels of corruption
9
In addition to robustness checks, we also analyzed whether the findings were driven by parties in countries with
a certain level of democracy. However, no such pattern emerged. We also ran geographic and ethnic background
separately, and the coefficients are almost the same size. However, because of the low number of parties with
requirements for ethnic background, only geographic background is significant when they are separated. We thus
opted for measuring background as requirements regarding ethnic or geographic background (or both) in order to
increase the number of observations.
are generally positive for women. And a curvilinear relationship can be observed with regard
to the level of democracy: women’s representation is lower in semi-democratic countries than
in authoritarian states and liberal democracies (see also Fallon et al., 2012; Bjarnegård and
Melander, 2011).
Building on our expectations, and attempting to understand why two seemingly gender neutral
party selection criteria have gendered consequences, we suggest that a power analysis as well
as an intersectionality perspective on intra-party politics constitute useful tools. In many of
the surveyed political parties, women have traditionally been largely excluded from powerful
intraparty positions. As a consequence, they have not been given as good a chance as men to
prove their party loyalty, build necessary alliances, or learn the ‘know-how’ of politics – and
they are not seen as deserving of candidature as a reward, as they have not reached the same
levels of seniority. As an example, several parties in the dataset like the Congolese Rally for
Democracy, the Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Nepal Communist
Party have a past as guerilla rebel organizations and were almost entirely dominated by men
when they formally registered or started acting as political parties. It is, thus, not very
surprising that an internal regulation requiring a potential candidate to have a certain position
within the party will tend to reproduce male dominance in politics. In other words, women
and other underrepresented groups in society continue to be excluded from elected bodies
because they lack useful political resources such as their own power base within the party. As
long as the criterion applied refers to a resource that is disproportionately lacking among
women, its implementation will benefit men. On the other hand, in societies where women
have found pathways to power, and are and have been present as actors in party politics for a
longer period of time, the gendered consequences of such a selection criterion are likely to
evaporate. Thus, the specific political context probably matters here.
As for geographic or ethnic background, we have suggested that these gendered consequences
may be a result of stereotypical constructions of politicians that does not allow for
intersectional thinking. Political parties that constrain their pool of aspirants according to
background are likely to have identities other than gender as their primary focus. The
presence of such a selection criterion implies that a party’s legislators should represent not
only their party but also a certain ethnic group or region. Constructions of local strongmen are
inherently connected to maleness, to the extent that a requirement about being from a certain
region may implicitly preclude women candidates. Previous research has demonstrated that
party gatekeepers are sometimes unable to think intersectionally, and that when one identity is
in focus representation across other cleavages may be seen as less important (see also Arriola
and Johnson, 2014).
10
Importantly, women do not appear to be as negatively affected by formal qualifications that
are unrelated to political resources and experiences. Although the specific wording of the
qualifications variable is a bit vague, and the variable should be interpreted with some
caution, this finding, to reiterate, supports results from other studies: women in politics tend to
be just as qualified and well-educated as men (e.g. O'Brien, 2012). The fear that reforms such
as quotas would cause political parties to recruit unqualified women is strange, particularly
when qualifications are measured as educational attainment. In most countries the pool of
well-educated women is certainly large enough to give political parties a large group to select
from. These results are corroborated in this analysis as requirements about qualifications do
not discriminate against women. Similarly, the finding that signature requirements have no
gendered consequences also supports most previous research, showing that women, once they
10
Interestingly, this finding somewhat speaks against intersectional approaches on Western Europe that have
shown that women may benefit from the politicization of other cleavages (Celis, Erzeel, Mügge et al., 2014).
get as far as running for office, are not at a great disadvantage and receive electoral support
comparable to their male counterparts (e.g. Welch and Studlar, 1996).
Taken together, the analysis emphasizes that formal selection criteria indeed may have
gendered consequences, but that we need to look closer at the content of different selection
criteria. Whereas some are unrelated to gender, other seemingly gender neutral factors appear
to shape the chances for individuals of different groups to become selected by parties and
ultimately elected by voters. More broadly, the analysis calls on scholars to expand the
research agenda on the gendered consequences of candidate selection, to encompass also a
focus on the specific selection criteria that political parties choose to include in their internal
party regulations.
Conclusion
This article has analyzed the gendered consequences of political parties’ self-imposed
constraints regarding who may run for national parliament. Using party data on 101 political
parties in in 32 African, Asian, and post-communist European countries, we investigate how
four specific sets of selection criteria background (measured by the geographical or ethnical
background of the candidate), qualifications (measured by qualifications such as education),
experience (measured by having experience of certain positions in the party), and electability
(measured by the collection of a minimum number of signatures) are related to women’s
political representation (by party). In line with our expectations, parties that require
candidates to have a particular ethnic or geographic background or a certain position within
the party tend to have fewer women representatives than other parties. On the other hand, no
such relationship is found with selection criteria regarding formal (non-political)
qualifications or the collection of signatures for candidature.
There are several implications of these findings: First, they emphasize the need to broaden the
research agenda on candidate selection methods and look more closely at the consequences of
political parties own formal selection criteria. Within research on gender and candidate
selection, it is not only the decision-making process as such (e.g. where are candidates
selected, by whom, and how) that matters for women’s chances to be selected and elected
(e.g. Hinojosa 2012, Caul Kittilson 2006, Norris and Lovenduski 1995), but also the basic
requirements concerning who has the right to run for office in the first place. Second, when
analyzing the gendered consequences of formal selection criteria, it makes sense to scrutinize
the content of the rules. Some formal selection criteria have gendered consequences, whereas
others do not.
To push comparative research on gender and candidate recruitment further, a first-order
priority should thus be to examine the gendered consequences of different party selection
criteria in different empirical settings. Here, we have restricted the analysis to four such
criteria, examining their impact using large-scale data on a set of both big and small political
parties that, with a few exceptions, operate in less developed democracies (or even
autocracies). It is possible that some selection criteria have gendered consequences in certain
contexts and not in others, depending on for instance women’s power within the party or a
party’s level of bureaucratization in processes of candidate selection. This possibility should
be addressed in future empirical work.
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Table 1: The relationship between formal selection criteria and the proportion of women
representatives per party (multivariate analysis).
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Background
-6.50**
(2.63)
Qualifications
-2.43
(3.22)
Experience
-6.69**
(3.10)
Electability
Party age
0.14**
(0.07)
0.12*
(0.07)
0.13*
(0.07)
Party quotas
4.52
(3.71)
3.84
(3.56)
3.89
(3.62)
Democracy
-1.22**
(0.48)
-1.07*
(0.58)
-1.62***
(0.59)
Democracy
(squared)
0.20*
(0.10)
0.19
(0.12)
0.24**
(0.10)
Low corruption
3.59**
(1.53)
3.68**
(1.55)
3.56**
(1.49)
Socio-economic
development
-8.84
(16.74)
-11.56
(16.97)
-10.27
(16.75)
Gender quota law
10.75**
(4.86)
11.26**
(5.49)
8.66
(5.64)
Electoral system
(Majoritarian)
-6.29*
(3.46)
-5.27
(3.40)
-6.24*
(3.51)
Constant
4.04
(7.68)
5.15
(7.34)
6.34
(7.50)
R² (N)
0.23
(101)
0.22
(101)
0.24
(101)
Notes: Unstandardized OLS regression coefficients. clustered robust standard error in brackets. Checked by VIF
statistics to be free of multicollinearity problems. *** = sign. at < 0.01; ** = sign. at < 0.05¸* = sign. at < 0.10.
Appendix
List of countries and political parties included in the analyses
1. Albania;
Democratic Party of Albania (DP); Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI); New
Democratic Party; Republican Party of Albania (PR); Socialist Party (PSS)
2. Armenia;
Republican Party of Armenia; National Unity (SSNJ)
3. Bangladesh;
Bangladesh Awami League (AL); Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP); Islamic Assembly of
Bangladesh (JIB)
4. Burkina Faso;
Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP)
5. Congo, Dem Rep;
Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD)
6. Estonia;
Estonian Center Party (EK); Estonian Reform Party (ER); Res Publica Party (RP);
Socialdemocratic Party (SDE); Isamaliit (Pro Patria Union, PPU) (merged)
7. Georgia;
Labor Party (LP); United National Movement (NM); Republican party of Georgia (RPG);
Conservative Party of Georgia (SKP)
8. Ghana;
National Democratic Congress (NDC); New Patriotic Party (NPP)
9. India;
All India Trinamool Congress (AITC); Biju Janata Dal (BJD); Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP);
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP); Communist Party of India (CPI); Communist Party of India
(Marxist) (CPM); Indian National Congress (INC); Akali Religious Party (SAD); Samajwadi
Party (SP); Party for Telugu Land (TDP)
10. Kenya;
Ford-Kenya (F-K); Kenya African National Union (KANU)
11. Latvia;
Latvia's Way (LC); People's Party (TP)
12. Lesotho;
Basotho National Party (BNP); Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD); National
Independence Party (NIP); Popular Front for Democracy (PFD)
13. Lithuania;
Liberal and Centre Union (LCS); Order and Justice (TT); Lithuanian Social Democratic
Party (LSP); Union of Peasants and Peoples; The New Union (Social Liberals) (NS);
Homeland Union-Lithuanian Conservatives (TS/LK)
14. Macadonia;
Democratic Union of Integration (DUI); Liberal Democratic Party (LDP); Social Democratic
Union of Macedonia (SDSM); VRMO
15. Malawi;
Alliance for Democracy (AFORD); United Democratic Front (UDF); Malawi Congress Party
(MCP)
16. Mali;
Sudanese Union - African Democratic Rally; Malian People's Rally (RPM); Democratic
Republican Union (URD)
17. Mauritius;
Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM); Mauritian Socialist Movement (MSM); Labour Party
18. Namibia;
Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA); National Union of Democratic Organisations
(NUDO); SWAPO (merged)
19. Nepal;
Nepali Congress (Democratic) (NC(D)) (merged with NC); Nepali Congress Party (NC);
Nepal Communist Party-United Marxist Leninist (NCP-UML)
20. Nigeria;
All Nigeria's People's Party (ANPP); People's Democratic Party (PDP)
21. Pakistan;
Assembly of Islamic Clergy (JUI); Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM); Pakistan Muslim
League-Nawaz (PML-N); Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)
22. Poland;
Civic Platform (PO); Democratic Left Alliance (SLD)
23. Romania;
National Liberal Party (PNL); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Democratic Union of
Hungarians in Romania (UDMR)
24. Senegal;
Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS); Union for Democratic Renewal (URD)
25. Slovakia;
Slovak Christian Democratic Union - Democratic Party (SDKU); Direction-Social
Democracy (SMER)
26. South Africa;
African National Congress (ANC); Democratic Alliance (DA); Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)
27. Sri Lanka;
United National Party (UNP); Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP); Sri Lanka Muslim Congress
(SLMC)
28. Sudan;
Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLM)
29. Tanzania;
Revolutionary State Party (CCM); Party for Democracy and Progress (CHADEMA); Civic
United Front (CUF); National Convention for Construction and Reform-Mageuzi (NCCR-
Mageuzi)
30. Uganda;
Democratic Party (DP); Justice Forum (JEEMA); Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC)
31. Zambia;
Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD); Movement for Multiparty Democracy
(MMD); United National Independence Party (UNIP); United Party for National
Development (UPND)
32. Zimbabwe;
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC); Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic
Front (ZANU-PF)
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Party office is a crucial political resource for those seeking a political career. It provides advantageous access to the distribution of the patronage parties are entitled to in party government democracies. This article aims at measuring this comparative advantage while simultaneously investigating whether it benefits women and men equally in political recruitment processes. We concentrate on viable candidacy for parliamentary office, ministerial appointments, as well as post-ministerial offices in public and semi-public life that are also in the hands of political parties to distribute. Our cross-national analysis of advanced industrial democracies shows that men are much more likely than women to benefit from holding party office in their ascendant political careers, even when controlling for other political resources, sociodemographic factors and country-level variables. This suggests that party office is a gendered political resource and that gender power dynamics are deeply entrenched in political parties.
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