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Do Party Manifestos Matter after the Elections? The Case of the European Parliament

Harmen van der Veer, Huib Pellikaan

To what extent do promises in party manifestos, written by national parties specifically for the European Parliament elections, matter in the voting behaviour of members of the European Parliament (MEPs)? In essence, the idea stems from one simple observation: if two MEPs, elected from different national parties, have a large overlap in the promises in their election manifestos, they should also have a high overlap in the way in which they vote in the European Parliament's (EP) plenary roll-call voting sessions. The directly elected EP is a powerful actor in the EU's decision making process (e.g. Hix & Høyland 2013). Lacking the for Mayhew (1974) crucial element of an electoral connection (e.g. Yordanava 2011), MEPs can vote rather autonomously. Yet MEPs are 'agents' of two distinct principals: their Union-wide party groups and their national parties (Hix 2002). The former for positions of power in the EP, the latter for being nominated on the election ballets; elections which are national in nature (Scully 2005). These two views can lead legislators to feel little pressure coming from the electorate to act as their representatives, since what they do is of little consequence for their re-election chances (see Frech n.d.). This makes the EP an interesting venue of exploring the effects of promises in manifestos on actual legislative behaviour. By combining existing data sets and original data, we aim to empirically measure the degree to which party manifestos matter after the elections of the EP. To do so, we use a methodology common in natural science research, namely that of 'matching'. By matching pairs of legislators, their election manifestos, and voting records we can to determine to what extend similarities in election manifestos predict the voting behaviour of MEPs.

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