Abstract Parliamentarians greatly differ with regard to the amount and quality of their work in parliament. Students of legislator behaviour mostly view Members of Parliament (MPs) as ‘single-minded seekers of re-election’, which is often argued to be the motivation for carrying out various activities. However, less attention has been paid to what extent MPs’ efforts pay off at the next elections. The special section introduced here addresses the question if the type and volume of parliamentary activities carried out by legislators have any effect on their electoral prospects. In other words, do parties and voters take MPs’ activity record into account when deciding on the re-election and the re-selection of an incumbent? To shed some light on this topic, we bring together students of legislative and electoral behaviour from all parts of Europe. Our general aim is to disentangle the necessary conditions for personal accountability to work in representative democracies. Repeated elections are the ultimate means of holding politicians accountable. A vast empirical literature focuses on how voters keep parties and governments accountable by means of retrospective voting, but outside the US context much less is known about the relationship between individual parliamentarians and the selectorate on the one hand, and voters on the other. The majority of authors seem to agree with Mayhew’s oft-cited starting point, and consider Members of Parliament (MPs) as ‘single-minded seekers of re-election’ (Mayhew, 1974). Consequently, most of the things representatives do in the present are attributed to the MPs’ individual desire for future re-election. At the same time, securing access to the ballot (re-selection) is a necessary condition to be re-elected (Hazan and Rahat, 2010); and in electoral systems with party lists, re-election chances improve as candidates get higher on the party lists. Therefore, if parliamentarians wish to be re-elected, they must take gatekeeper preferences into account to an extent determined by electoral institutions. The special section introduced here addresses the following question that is crucial for achieving accountability: do the type and volume of parliamentary activities carried out by legislators have any effect on their electoral prospects? We know that parliamentarians greatly differ with regard to the amount and quality of their work in parliament. The main question is whether parties and voters take these differences into account when deciding on the re-selection and the re-election of an incumbent (Sulkin et al., 2015)? It would be ironic if parliamentary work had no impact on legislative careers: never before has the work of legislators been the subject of such public scrutiny as it is today. We are in an age when parliamentary monitoring organisations flourish all around the world. A recent survey (Mandelbaum, 2011) finds 191 of such organisations monitoring more than 80 national and subnational parliaments with the aim of enhancing the accountability of individual parliamentarians. The legislators’ biographical information, their level of attendance and participation, voting behaviour and the usage of oversight tools are commonly monitored, and often summarised in one single index of performance. Still, only a ‘few studies have addressed the apparent paradox of why legislators put so many resources into cultivating a personal reputation, when so little evidence demonstrates that their efforts actually pay off …’ (André et al., 2014, p. 8). The relationship between how parliamentarians represent citizens through their work in parliament and their career tracks has also profound implications for normative reasons. According to democratic theory, repeated elections are the driving forces of accountability (Manin, 1997): representatives receive a free mandate, but they know that this mandate is temporary in a sense that they will have to defend it at the next democratic elections. This quest for re-election is an important part of the democratic puzzle, because it keeps governments and parliamentarians responsive and accountable (Ferejohn, 1986). Accountability is well documented at the level of government: incumbent governments are punished for bad economic outcome and rewarded in the case of good economic performance. However, we know little about how accountability works on the level of individual legislators. Are individual parliamentarians punished or rewarded for their performances while in office? Or do their careers depend more on other choices? In other words, the key question is if citizens and parties consider the behaviour of individual legislators when making electoral decisions, and, if yes, which dimensions of the MPs’ record is taken into account, and under what conditions. To shed some light on this topic, we bring together students of legislative and electoral behaviour from all parts of Europe. Our general aim is to disentangle the necessary conditions for personal accountability to work in representative democracies. Although we are not the first to focus on a similar topic, to the best of our knowledge only a limited number of studies have investigated the consequences of parliamentary activities on incumbent careers outside the US context, and with inconsistent findings. It has been shown that at European Parliament (EP) nominations, the volume of activity carried out by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) (Navarro, 2010), the allocation of influential positions (Hermansen, 2016) and committee work in the most powerful committees (Frech, 2016) improve a MEP’s chance for re-selection. In France, Francois and Navarro (2017) find that several activities, especially bill initiation, affect both the MPs’ re-selection and re-election prospects. Scholars also find evidence that bill initiation is associated with a larger vote share in Belgium (Däubler et al., 2016), in the UK (Bowler, 2010) and in Canada (Loewen et al., 2014), while early day motions help vulnerable MPs to increase re-election chances in the UK (Kellermann, 2013). However, in Israel, no relationship is found between activities and both the MPs’ re-selection (Sheafer and Tzionit, 2006) and re-election (Akirav, 2015). Similarly, in the Slovak case, Crisp et al. (2013) show that positions on the party lists are not influenced by the number of sponsored bills. The majority of the above studies focus on the effect of legislative activities (i.e. bill sponsorship) on re-selection and re-election, and only a few look at parliamentary work as a whole. Articles in this special section aim to widen our knowledge on the relationship of activities and electoral prospects by widening the scope of study in two respects. First, they cover a broader universe of parliamentary activities, including parliamentary questions, which have already been shown to serve representative functions (Raunio, 1996; Martin, 2011; Russo, 2011; Papp, 2016). Secondly, the articles investigate countries that have been outside the center of attention so far. Two studies take Southern European countries as cases (Italy and Portugal), two focus on Eastern Europe (Hungary and Romania), while one article presents a combined analysis of Sweden and the Czech Republic. In the following section, we discuss how this topic links to existing work and normative aspects of representation which is followed by a discussion of the framework adopted in this issue. Next, we summarise the findings of the case studies, discussing their contribution to the literature of personal representation. In the conclusion, we discuss how future studies can shed light further on the link between parliamentary work and the legislator’ career prospects. 1. The role of the individual legislator in legislative studies Adding to the increasing public interest, scholars are devoting more and more attention to individual activities, also in parliaments that are traditionally dominated by strong and cohesive parties. This new wave of micro-level studies revived a tradition that was labelled old-fashioned after the heyday of behaviourism, when individual legislators, their attitudes, roles and behaviour used to be the favourite subjects of analysis for legislative scholars (Wahlke et al., 1962, Miller and Stokes, 1963; Fenno, 1978; Cain et al., 1987). One of the main reasons for the decline of these studies was the awareness that, in European Parliaments, cohesive and disciplined parties left a narrow space for individual-level variation, not only regarding behavior but even attitudes (Converse and Pierce, 1986). After the neo-institutionalist turn in legislative studies, a new generation of scholars developed renewed interest on individual-level research. A number of studies confirmed that institutional incentives and socialisation influence MPs, especially if we look at activities that are less constrained by party discipline. In particular, studies informed by rational neo-institutionalism were able to produce and corroborate several hypotheses on the relationship between electoral incentives and MP behaviour. By contrast, only a few studies investigated the political consequences of parliamentary activities, a goal that we pursue in this special section. For that, we first need to answer the question: what is the relevance of the MPs’ individual activities for the quality of representation? Although this question is not directly discussed in this special section, we still feel that it deserves attention, because it is the starting point for studies of personal representation. Representative democracy is based on the idea that someone is standing for the citizens and giving them voice within the democratic institutions. The principal–agent view of democratic representation proceeds through sequential chains of delegation and accountability, ensuring that the preferences of citizens have an impact on the selection of representatives and, eventually, on the process of policymaking. However, the identity of the representative is subject to different and often conflicting interpretations. The dyadic model, which theorises the relationship between the legislators and the citizens, adequately describes the connection between constituents and legislators only when parties are relatively weak, such as in the USA, while the responsible party model that focuses on the party–voter connection, is a more accurate description of how representation works in parliamentary systems with strong and cohesive parties. These conceptions differ with regards to how representatives are held accountable. Whereas in the dyadic model delegation runs from voters in each district to the elected representative(s), in the responsible party model, voters choose a party which, in turn, delegates to legislators, making parliamentarians directly accountable to their parties instead of the voters. Nevertheless, one must keep in mind that these models are ideal types. In practice, every parliamentarian is likely to feel the tension between the expectations of representing her party and her electors, especially when the two have different preferences. How this conflict is resolved depends very much on the electoral rules. In general, there is little doubt that contemporary electoral systems are mainly based on party representation. However, many of them give voters a choice to influence the allocation of seats to individuals within parties,1 thereby establishing a linkage of accountability between them and individual representatives. Colomer convincingly argues that finding a balance between personal and party representation is not only possible but desirable too because ‘… fair party representation can be satisfactory for achieving consistent political parties and clear-cutting policy design, but adding some degree of personal representation can improve legislative and policy performance’ (Colomer, 2011, p. 7). The importance of personal representation can be fully understood if we go beyond the concept of policy responsiveness which is only one component of the broader idea of political representation (Eulau and Karps, 1977): several authors suggest that personal representation matters most for the other three forms, symbolic, allocation and service responsiveness. Building on theoretical analyses of representation (Pitkin, 1967; Brito Vieira and Runciman, 2008), Leston-Bandeira (2012, p. 524) argues that representation is not only about interest representation but identification and shared identities as well. In socially and economically heterogeneous contemporary societies it is impossible for all relevant interests to be constantly represented in parliament. However, the fact that some MPs enjoy especially high levels of trust signals the importance of connection through identification, which is considered a form of symbolic representation. Furthermore, while Thomassen and Andeweg (2004) note that the party-collectivist view of representation is the most relevant in terms of policy representation, they also argue that personal (or dyadic) representation is central for the representation of specific interests, what Eulau and Karps (1977) describe as allocation and service responsiveness.2 Thus, along with representation through identification, personal representation entails acting for a well-defined group of people; hence, it appears as a series of concrete and observable activities. 2. Theoretical framework and case selection Articles in this special section follow the rational neo-institutional framework, in which the behaviour of parliamentarians is a function of the incentives and constraints to which they are subject. Adopting this perspective on parliaments has produced interesting and consistent findings, especially with regard to the effect of electoral systems on legislator behaviour. Evidence that supports the role of institutional incentives in shaping legislator behaviour is abundant, and demonstrates that it is justified to treat MPs as ‘single-minded seekers of re-election’. Consequently, it is surprising that we know much less about whether or not the behavioural strategies generated by the institutions are indeed useful to achieve re-election. In this special section our aim lies not in explaining MPs’ behaviour, but rather in assessing if and under what conditions working hard in parliament results in MPs reaching re-selection and re-election. By doing so, we shift the focus from MPs to party selectorates and voters, and observe how they evaluate parliamentary work. In other words, we indirectly focus on the preferences of parties and voters, to understand whether they are also consistently affected by institutional incentives. As very often in legislative studies, our starting point is also the effect of electoral systems on the behaviour of the different actors. It is the electoral rules that define the logic of distributing seats to both parties and individual candidates. From the viewpoint of incumbents seeking re-election, electoral systems identify the most relevant principals. Given the importance of the topic, it is not surprising that electoral systems have been classified in several ways with regard to their effects on MP behaviour. The rank order of seat allocation formulas along the incentives to cultivate a personal vote has become a classic starting point (Carey and Shugart, 1995). Based on the electoral formula and ballot structure, Colomer (2011) proposes a typology that is explicitly developed to evaluate how different systems balance personal and party representation. But no matter which classification we employ, the effect of electoral systems on MP behaviour eventually breaks down to the parties’ power to allow access to the party label, and the voters’ ability to choose candidates besides parties. The larger the former and the weaker the latter, the more important parties become as principles in the accountability link. Among the cases included in the special issue, closed-list proportional systems adopted in Italy and Portugal represent the typical situation where parties exert significant control over representatives. List positions are decided during the candidate selection stage, and as voters may only pick a party list, they cannot change the rank of the candidates. This procedure gives selectors a significant impact on who gets elected from a party list, which guarantees them great power over MPs and candidates. Under such rules, MPs are more accountable to the party leadership than to the electorate (Norris, 2004), making the contest for re-election a fight for higher positions on the party list (Curtice and Shively, 2009). On the other end of the scale, if voters are given the opportunity to choose between candidates of the same party by casting preference votes, political competition is likely to become more personalised (Carey and Shugart, 1995; Curtice and Shively, 2009). In such systems, incumbents must rely on the personal vote to ensure election, which in turn will not primarily depend on the candidate’s original position on the party list. Two of the country cases (the Czech Republic and Sweden) included in this special issue have flexible-list proportional systems. Interestingly, electoral systems with single-member districts (SMDs) fall between the two above cases. While Cain et al. (1987) argue that SMDs create the largest incentive to cultivate a personal vote in the USA, in the European context with strong parties, SMDs may be viewed as closed lists with only one candidate (Carey and Shugart, 1995; Rudolph and Däubler, 2016). However, compared to the ‘traditional’ closed lists, candidates in the SMDs put a human face to the party label, which is especially important when the margin between the winner and the loser is expected to be narrow (André et al., 2014, p. 235). On the other hand, again based on the US literature, majority systems are credited with the capacity to create a strong linkage of accountability (Lancaster, 1986; Scholl, 1986; Norris, 2000) appointing citizens as the main principals. Hungary and Romania, in the elections covered in this special issue, have mixed-member electoral systems with SMDs. Mixed systems in which voters have two votes (Hungary)—one for a candidate and one for a party—give way to more personal vote, because voters may express party preferences separately from other, candidate-specific aspects of the vote. By contrast, in mixed systems that only allow voters to vote for a candidate (Romania), the candidate and the party preferences must be expressed in the very same vote, which mostly gives dominance to the latter. In summary, articles in this special section discuss the cases of two countries with closed-list Proportional Representation (PR) where incumbents are only accountable to their parties, two countries with mixed systems where MPs running in SMDs may benefit from personal votes, and two countries with flexible list systems where cultivating voters’ support is almost necessary. In the next section we summarise and discuss the most important findings. 3. Findings Most articles in this special issue develop arguments that travel beyond the cases under investigation. Working hard in parliament, initiating bills and tabling questions often have little immediate policy effects. The reason why parliamentarians devote much time to these activities regardless of their apparent futility is perhaps because they can be useful to achieve name recognition in the constituency, to claim credit and to establish the reputation of a responsive representative. The importance of visibility should not be overlooked, especially when considering that only the most sophisticated voters are aware of the details of politics. Introducing bills, questions and similar parliamentary activities can help the MP to get media coverage, and thus are an effective way to advertise one’s own work in the constituency. Furthermore, parliamentary activities with local focus are regarded as special forms of constituency service, and are effective in building the image of caring and hardworking representatives. Since both the quantity and content of the activities may increase vote share, it is in the interest of vote-maximising parties to nominate well-performing MPs at the next elections. Thus, we argue that while productivity is increasing re-election chances, re-selection prospects are also improved. On the other hand, parties may have different strategies in mind when deciding on the re-selection of individual legislators. Party leaders may not assess MP activities in the same way across the various groups of MPs. For instance, some MPs are required to engage into casework that is done outside of parliament, reducing the amount of time spent with parliamentary work. Voters could be more interested in this particularistic style of representation than in policy-related questions, in which case the level of parliamentary activity will hardly translate into good reputation with the voters, encouraging parties to select candidates who perform better in carrying out such tasks. Other MPs may have less obligations towards a well-defined local area, and thus can focus their efforts on parliament matters. Thus, parties may evaluate MP performance based on the specific task the MP was expected to carry out. For some it is casework, for others work in parliament. Therefore, the effect of parliamentary activity on re-selection prospects is conditional upon the expectation of the selectorate towards the individual legislators. This may especially be the case under mixed electoral rules, where representatives face different institutional incentives according to their mandate type. All the articles in this special issue use some form of parliamentary work as independent variable to predict a dependent variable that best characterises the incentives provided by the countries’ different electoral rules: re-selection, party list positions, SMD vote share or preference votes. Most authors measure the parliamentarians’ productivity relying on the volume of legislative and non-legislative activities promoted. Däubler et al. also include a measure of attendance. Instead of focusing only on the volume of parliamentary tasks, in his study, Chiru content analyses parliamentary questions and uses the number of constituency questions as the main independent variable. Main results are summarised in Table 1, but while it may be useful to have a sense of the general trend, each article brings a more nuanced contribution to the topic. Table 1 Summary of the main results by country Country Electoral system Dependent variable Independent variable Results Italy Closed-list PR Re-selection and list positions Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and Bills Conditional effect on re-selection, not on list positions Portugal Closed-list PR Re-selection and list positions PQs and Bills Conditional effect on re-selection, not on list positions Hungary SMD and closed list (Mixed) Re-selection PQs and Bills (combined) Effect only for list-candidate MPs (substantively small) Vote share (Only in SMD) Constituency-oriented PQs No effect Romania SMD (Mixed in 2008, FPTP in 2012) Vote share Constituency-oriented PQs Positive effect Czech Republic Flexible-list PR Re-selection, list positions, preferences Combined index of effort Positive effect of effort and attendance on re-selection (some years), not on list positions. Attendance Mixed evidence for effect of activity on preferences, no effect of attendance. Sweden Flexible-list PR Re-selection, list positions, preferences Combined index of effort Positive effect of effort on re-selection, no effect of attendance. Attendance No effect on list positions. No effect of effort on preferences, mixed findings for attendance. Country Electoral system Dependent variable Independent variable Results Italy Closed-list PR Re-selection and list positions Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and Bills Conditional effect on re-selection, not on list positions Portugal Closed-list PR Re-selection and list positions PQs and Bills Conditional effect on re-selection, not on list positions Hungary SMD and closed list (Mixed) Re-selection PQs and Bills (combined) Effect only for list-candidate MPs (substantively small) Vote share (Only in SMD) Constituency-oriented PQs No effect Romania SMD (Mixed in 2008, FPTP in 2012) Vote share Constituency-oriented PQs Positive effect Czech Republic Flexible-list PR Re-selection, list positions, preferences Combined index of effort Positive effect of effort and attendance on re-selection (some years), not on list positions. Attendance Mixed evidence for effect of activity on preferences, no effect of attendance. Sweden Flexible-list PR Re-selection, list positions, preferences Combined index of effort Positive effect of effort on re-selection, no effect of attendance. Attendance No effect on list positions. No effect of effort on preferences, mixed findings for attendance. Table 1 Summary of the main results by country Country Electoral system Dependent variable Independent variable Results Italy Closed-list PR Re-selection and list positions Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and Bills Conditional effect on re-selection, not on list positions Portugal Closed-list PR Re-selection and list positions PQs and Bills Conditional effect on re-selection, not on list positions Hungary SMD and closed list (Mixed) Re-selection PQs and Bills (combined) Effect only for list-candidate MPs (substantively small) Vote share (Only in SMD) Constituency-oriented PQs No effect Romania SMD (Mixed in 2008, FPTP in 2012) Vote share Constituency-oriented PQs Positive effect Czech Republic Flexible-list PR Re-selection, list positions, preferences Combined index of effort Positive effect of effort and attendance on re-selection (some years), not on list positions. Attendance Mixed evidence for effect of activity on preferences, no effect of attendance. Sweden Flexible-list PR Re-selection, list positions, preferences Combined index of effort Positive effect of effort on re-selection, no effect of attendance. Attendance No effect on list positions. No effect of effort on preferences, mixed findings for attendance. Country Electoral system Dependent variable Independent variable Results Italy Closed-list PR Re-selection and list positions Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and Bills Conditional effect on re-selection, not on list positions Portugal Closed-list PR Re-selection and list positions PQs and Bills Conditional effect on re-selection, not on list positions Hungary SMD and closed list (Mixed) Re-selection PQs and Bills (combined) Effect only for list-candidate MPs (substantively small) Vote share (Only in SMD) Constituency-oriented PQs No effect Romania SMD (Mixed in 2008, FPTP in 2012) Vote share Constituency-oriented PQs Positive effect Czech Republic Flexible-list PR Re-selection, list positions, preferences Combined index of effort Positive effect of effort and attendance on re-selection (some years), not on list positions. Attendance Mixed evidence for effect of activity on preferences, no effect of attendance. Sweden Flexible-list PR Re-selection, list positions, preferences Combined index of effort Positive effect of effort on re-selection, no effect of attendance. Attendance No effect on list positions. No effect of effort on preferences, mixed findings for attendance. Borghetto and Lisi focus their article on the re-selection chances of Portuguese MPs at three general elections (2009, 2011, 2015). In a party-based environment, with a closed-list PR system where ‘legislators’ careers are heavily constrained by party organisations’ and centralised candidate selection, Portugal offers a least likely case for finding a connection between individual action and re-selection. Using the number of legislative bills and written questions, the authors explain whether or not the MPs are re-selected at the next elections, and if their position on the party lists increases compared to the previous election. The major finding of the article is that re-selection chances are strongly related to productivity. Furthermore, hardworking but electorally vulnerable legislators do not benefit from the extra work at the re-selection stage. Interviews suggest that the quality of work may be more important than the sheer quantity. Additionally, the authors find that the effect of productivity is significantly larger in bigger districts, where intra-party competition is high, and representing local issues is somewhat less important. As to the change in the legislators’ list positions, productivity is not a good predictor of the MPs’ movements on the party lists, a finding that is corroborated by other studies in this issue (Däubler et al.; Russo and Marangoni). Focusing on the Italian case, Russo and Marangoni investigate the connection between productivity in parliament and re-selection. Using data on bill sponsorship and parliamentary questions from two legislatures (2008–2013), they show that party selectorates appreciate legislator productivity in a closed-list PR system. They also show that the effect of productivity is conditional upon the electoral district. The relationship between work in parliament and re-selection chances is mostly evident in regions traditionally characterised by a personalised style of representation (Southern Italy). In other words, parties mostly take productivity into account if they believe that voters pay attention to candidate qualities. The article points to that the electoral context may adjust the expected effects of electoral rules, in this case, that closed-list PR does not necessarily constrain the importance of individual action. Finally, confirming the results of Borghetto and Lisi in the Portuguese case, also in Italy legislative productivity it proved to have no effect on party list positions. In her article, Papp investigates whether or not the amount of work legislators carry out in parliament affects their chances of re-selection in the SMD and party list tiers in a mixed-member electoral system. The analysis covers three Hungarian elections (2002, 2006, 2010) and uses an aggregate index of productivity taking into account the number of bills, questions and speeches as predictor. The article concludes that party selectorates evaluate legislators along how well they carry out the tasks dedicated to each mandate type. For MPs elected in SMDs, and for those who are likely to be nominated in such districts, productivity in parliament does not improve re-selection chances. These MPs are expected to build relations with the constituency, which diverts them away from parliament matters. By contrast, in the case of party list nominations, within the group of those formerly not having been nominated in SMDs, more active legislators manage to increase the probability of re-selection. Nevertheless, the effects size indicates that MPs have to work enormously hard to considerably better the re-selection prospects. The low effect size raises the question whether—despite the significant results—MPs are encouraged at all to working harder in parliament to achieve re-selection. The article of Däubler et al. presents mixed evidence from two countries with flexible-list electoral systems, the Czech Republic and Sweden. To measure parliamentary activities, the authors use activities that are subject to less party control. In the Czech Republic, they utilise the number of single-authored private member bills (PMBs), oral interpellations and amendments submitted during the second reading of a bill (in the time period between 2002 and 2013). For Sweden, single-authored PMBs, oral interpellations and written questions (2006–2014) are included. The results indicate that party selectors as gatekeepers sort out underperforming MPs, while there is no evidence that parliamentary activities affect legislators’ positions on the party lists. This pattern suggests that representatives who wish to be re-selected are encouraged to work in parliament, but as their extra effort does not improve list positions, re-selection-related incentives may be limited. As to the relationship between activities and the personal vote, the authors find that individual work in parliament increased the personal vote in one of the three Czech elections (which had followed a corruption scandal). The optimistic message is that under conducive conditions, voters can learn about what MPs do in parliament, and make this a part of the accountability mechanism. In the case of Sweden, there is a small negative association between attendance and the personal vote. One interpretation is that Swedish MPs shirk in parliamentary work, while mobilising voters through other channels. According to a more optimistic view, however, MPs trade their time in parliament for additional opportunities to carry out constituency service. In his article, Mihail Chiru draws on data from two countries electing representatives in SMDs: Romania in 2008 and Hungary in 2014 applying mixed-member electoral systems, and Romania with First-Past-The-Post in 2012. Parliamentary questions are used to measure the legislators’ local orientation. In Romania, all questions and interpellations asked by MPs between 2004 and 2012 are coded, while in Hungary, oral and written questions between 2010 and 2012 are included. Results are mixed. On the one hand, a positive effect of constituency questioning was found at both Romanian elections under investigation. On the other hand, constituency questions did not help Hungarian legislators to increase their vote shares. Results suggest that constituency questions can positively affect the MPs’ electoral performance where voters may cast a personal vote. However, if the electoral debate is entirely focused on the parties’ record in office, legislators do no benefit from the extra parliamentary work. Hence, electoral institutions themselves are not enough to ensure the personal accountability of the MPs. 4. Concluding remarks The articles of this special issue lead to a major advancement of what we know about the relationship between parliamentary work and the two basic aims of most parliamentarians, re-selection and re-election. Likewise, they warn us to avoid over-simplified hypotheses linking patterns of behaviour to formal rules. Although there is overwhelming evidence in the literature on how electoral institutions affect MP behaviour, these fail to take into account the expectations of parties and voters towards representatives. As articles in this issue have shown, expectations may vary across country regions or political power relations. Furthermore, on the one hand, candidate-centered electoral rules do not always ensure a steady connection between MP activities and electoral prospects; on the other hand, the most party-centered electoral systems also may allow for individual productivity to matter. Perhaps the relation between electoral systems and incentives is not as deterministic as it is often assumed. What seems to be more important is whether, under the given conditions, parties and voters appreciate productive MPs and are willing to make their decisions accordingly. Although the articles in this special section did make a great step into describing the accountability link, there is a lot more to be done in this field. First, future studies need to disentangle the causal relation between parliamentary work and re-selection. Relaxing Mayhew’s ‘single-mindedness’ assumption, and acknowledging that MPs are not necessarily seeking only re-election, one might argue that those parliamentarians working less than their colleagues did so because they had already decided to pursue a different career. Perhaps, they are looking for a position in local or national government, or they have just decided to quit politics and go back to their previous occupation. Secondly, except for Chiru, authors in this special section focused on the amount of work MPs carry out, and not its content and quality. Hence, it remains unexploited whether or not these features affect how MPs perform at the candidate selection stage and during elections. Further research should take into account the representation of special interests as a characteristic of the representatives’ work. Thirdly, further harmonisation of our coding schemes is needed to ensure the application of a truly comparative design. This would enable us to take institutional-level factors into account upon which the link between legislator activities and electoral outcomes may be conditional. Fourthly, the role of intra-party groups, and—especially in Eastern Europe—the party leadership should receive more of the spotlight in future studies. In the European context, parties do not only have a great say in who gets nominated—as in extremes cases such as closed party list systems who gets elected—but largely influence the distribution of work between parliamentarians. Therefore, we cannot look at the relationship between MPs’ work and electoral performance without putting the party into the mix. Acknowledgements The authors are grateful for the European Consortium for Political Research for organizing and funding the ECPR Research Sessions (8–11 July 2014) where we first discussed this project. Earlier versions of the articles in this special section were presented in the panel ‘Parliamentary Activities, Career Tracks and Accountability’ at the IPSA Congress in Poznan (25 July 2016). We want to express our gratitude to Julien Navarro who contributed to organize both events. Conflict of Interest The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest regarding the publication of this article. Funding The work of Zsófia Papp was supported by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NKFIH) [ PD115747]. Zsófia Papp is a recipient of the János Bolyai Research Scholarship. 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Parliamentary Affairs – Oxford University Press
Published: Oct 1, 2018
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