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Political dynasties and elections

Van Coppenolle, Brenda (2014) Political dynasties and elections. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This dissertation studies political dynasties in democratic countries. Dynasties are common in all professions. However, for the profession of politics, in which succession depends no longer on dynastic succession but on running successful electoral campaigns, understanding how and why political power can be bequeathed is particularly important. Factors such as name recognition (the voter demand side) and political networks (the elite supply side) are potential explanations of the continued presence of dynasties in parliaments. This dissertation studies both the voter demand side and the elite supply side of the phenomenon. I first discuss the related literature on political dynasties, political selection, political quality, and the personal vote. Voting for dynasties can be rational, and the presence of dynastic legislators perfectly legitimate. Political dynasties may thrive in electoral systems that encourage personal voting, such as is used in Belgium. In a first paper, I show that in the Belgian 2010 General Election voters preferred dynastic candidates. Institutional changes may change such (dynastic) elite equilibria. In a second paper, we exploit the constituency-level variation in the franchise extension associated with the Second and Third Reform Acts in Britain. However, we find no effect of these reforms on the position of dynasties or the aristocracy in politics. Changes to the political career of legislators may also affect their chances of establishing or continuing a dynasty. The third paper studies dynasties in the UK House of Commons. I employ random variation in tenure length introduced by winning vs. losing a first re-election by a narrow margin. Surprisingly, I find no effect of tenure length on an MP’s chances of establishing a dynasty in the nineteenth century. However, selection into cabinet is more likely if the MP had a relative in the cabinet before.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Brenda Van Coppenolle
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > Methodology
Supervisor: Dewan, Torun and Benoit, Kenneth

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