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Margit Tavits, "Effect of Local Ties On Electoral Success and Parliamentary Behaviour: The Case of Estonia," Party Politics, 16 (March 2010), 215-235. [Available at]

First paragraph:
The growing literature on personal vote assumes that candidates with strong local ties should be more successful electorally and more likely to break party unity in parliament. Using unique data from Estonia on candidates' personal vote-earning attributes, such as local birthplace and local-level political experience, this research note offers the first direct test of both of these assumptions. I find that candidates with locallevel political experience tend to be electorally more successful, and, once in parliament, they are more likely to behave independently and break party unity. Local birthplace has no effect on either personal vote or party unity. These findings have clear policy implications for the electoral and legislative strategies of political parties.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. The effect of personal vote-earning attributes on electoral performance of individual candidates
Table 2. Effect of candidates with personal vote-earning attributes on party vote
Table 3. Effect of personal vote-earning attributes on defections from party unity

Last Paragraph:
(First paragraph of conclusion) This study has provided a test of the argument that candidates' attributes signal their local orientation and are associated with increased personal votes as well as individualism in parliament. I have found that one particular attribute - lower-level political experience - serves the purpose of differentiating candidates from their co-partisans and attracting personal votes. The results imply that voters strive for a balance between national and local representation: voters vote for a party, i.e. for a programmatic promise, but within that party they wish to be represented by somebody who is familiar with local concerns. Thus, local politicians are an asset for a vote- and seatmaximizing party at election times. Indeed, I show that parties anticipate the effect of the information short cuts offered to voters by such candidate attributes when constructing party lists. However, what serves parties well at election time may undercut their ability to pursue their programmatic policies and act coherently in parliament. An interesting finding of this study is that not personal popularity per se, but specifically local-level personal experience, accounts for more individualistic behaviour in parliament.

Last updated March 2010