MPs of Traditional Parties’ Perceptions on Candidate Selection in Times of Political Crisis and Reform

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Palgrave Macmillan
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In the middle of the 2010s, Spanish parties are in a transition towards a more inclusive candidate selection system. Until now, traditional parties had maintained opaque and tightly controlled selection systems. However, despite the lack of democratic zest among the traditional elites, diverse factors, such as the sharpened representation crisis, citizens’ demands, poor electoral results and the emergence of new parties, like Podemos and Ciudadanos, with a clear emphasis on internal democracy have stimulated discourses in favour of reforming candidate and leadership selection mechanisms. This chapter explores this transition from the usually neglected perspective of elected representatives. Interviews were conducted in 2014–2015, with members of Spanish regional parliaments, at that time dominated by traditional parties, such as the PSOE and the PP. Discourses show the relevance of informal practices in candidate selection and, in most cases, highlight the deciding role played by the leadership and party elites in the preparation of candidate lists. In keeping with the closed nature of party organisations in Spain, discourses about the eligibility qualities or requirements point to the utmost importance of having previously worked for the party. We also analyse their opinions on whether these mechanisms could be improved and, in particular, their positions regarding the introduction of primaries. These opinions contrast with previous descriptions of how they were chosen as candidates themselves. As we shall see, most of the interviewees consider it necessary to reinforce the role of party members and encourage citizens’ involvement in internal party life. Within this majority perception, we find wide support for the introduction of party primaries. Nevertheless, even supporters are aware of the organisational challenges or problems this type of reform may entail and the need to introduce them cautiously, to counterbalance potential negative effects.
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This work is part of the research project: “Parliamentarians and society”, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Grant num. CSO2012-32564)
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Jiménez-Sánchez, M., Coller, X., Portillo-Pérez, M. (2018). MPs of Traditional Parties’ Perceptions on Candidate Selection in Times of Political Crisis and Reform. In: Cordero, G., Coller, X. (eds) Democratizing Candidate Selection. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
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