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Rudy B. Andeweg and Jacques Thomassen, "Pathways to party unity: Sanctions, loyalty, homogeneity and division of labour in the Dutch parliament," Party Politics, 17 (September, 2011), 655-672. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol17/issue5/ ]

First paragraph:
The extent to which political parties are unitary actors is crucial both for political science and politics. In political science, hypotheses about parties' strategies in elections or coalition-formation generally assume that parties are unitary actors. Normative theories about a 'Responsible Party Model' make that same assumption. In politics itself, party unity is an important condition for a party's impact on public policy. Hence, both the degree to which political parties act in unity (in particular in legislative votes) and its determinants have attracted considerable attention in the literature. The association between institutional characteristics and party unity in roll-call votes is vigorously debated, in particular the relative importance of the institutions in the electoral arena and those in the parliamentary arena (see Bowler, 2000).

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Four pathways to party unity
Table 1. MPs' attitudes to party discipline: 2001 and 2006
Table 2. Issue scales in Dutch Parliamentary Studies
Table 3. Ideological homogeneity of the three main parties, 1972-2006 (coefficient of agreement)
Table 4. Average homogeneity of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Conservative Liberals, 1972-2006 (coefficient of agreement)
Table 5. How an MP should vote in the case of disagreement with the parliamentary party, 1972-2006 (%)
Table 6. Personal votes and opinion on how an MP should vote in the case of disagreement with the parliamentary party, 2006 (%)
Table 7. Most influential actor in decision-making within the parliamentary party, 1979-2006 (%, Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Conservative Liberals only)
Table 8. Reactions to statement that MPs usually take their voting cues from the party specialist; 1972-2006 (%)

Last Paragraph:
Furthermore, these three situations are likely to occur under different circumstances. Cue-taking from the party specialist is likely to determine voting behaviour primarily on relatively uncontroversial issues on which the party's ideology and election manifesto are silent, and fellow MPs have too little information and time to form their own opinion. If the vote concerned is ideologically charged, however, a party specialist advising fellow party MPs to vote against the manifesto is unlikely to find many followers. On such issues the homogeneity of preferences within the party probably matters most, as these are the issue positions that have played a role in the selection of their party by MPs, and in the selection of its MPs by the party. If they follow the advice of the party specialist on such issues, it is because they agreed with him in the first place, not because they defer to his opinion. The issues for which we measured MPs' preferences are all in this category of politically controversial non-technical matters. We noted that homogeneity on most of these issues is high, but it was never complete. And occasionally an MP may disagree with the party's specialist on a technical issue. In these cases party loyalty takes over as the pathway to party unity. And yes, if all these mechanisms fail, for example when government positions and coalition compromises are at stake, the party leadership may still consider the use of sanctions.

Last updated August 2011