Government of the people and for the people? Legislative specialisation and party representation in the European Parliament.
PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
This thesis develops and tests a model of political representation based on the
participation and specialisation decisions of individual MEPs. Political
representation is determined by the institutional and party-political incentives
that guide legislative behaviour at different stages of the policy process.
Proportionality requirements, majority rule and intra-party politics affect whether
MEPs engage in different legislative activities in the European Parliament and
the extent to which they specialise in the policy areas that their national party
stands for. The model can be adapted to a wide range of legislative activities and
to different institutional environments.
At the decision-making stage, majority rule makes participation most
attractive to MEPs from party groups that are pivotal under the majority
thresholds required to pass legislation. In contrast, minority MEPs limit their
participation to the policy areas that are salient to their national party. In other
words, minority legislators are more responsive than majority MEPs.
In policy formulation, an auction system enforces a proportional allocation of
committee reports, which favours the representation of a broad range of values
and interests across the political spectrum. However, competition among party
groups affects who gets the most desirable reports. Open rule enforces a
distribution of salient reports in line with voting coalitions in the plenary and on
the committee floor. Within party groups, the leadership distributes reports in an
effort to maintain group cohesion. As a result, majority legislators who are loyal
to their party groups are more responsive than other MEPs.
Finally, in parliamentary oversight at Question-Time, party groups do not
have any gate-keeping powers. Also, national parties rather than party groups are the primary actors in legislative-executive relations. MEPs without national party
ties to the Commission attribute a greater role to overseeing the executive in a
large range of policy areas than 'governing' MEPs. As a result, such 'opposition'
MEPs are better represented at this stage of the policy process but they specialise
less in salient policy areas.
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