Legislative Absenteeism in the European Parliament

Nuria Font

Legislative absenteeism in the European Parliament (EP) is an important but underexplored feature of parliamentary behaviour. Studies on legislative absenteeism in the EP, primarily based on roll call votes, reveal that absenteeism is widely driven by non-random reasons and is associated with MEPs probabilities to be influential in the vote results. This paper partly builds on such literatures but differs from previous approaches in several respects. First, by analyzing the 2009-2014 legislature, the study takes advantage form the change in the Rules of Procedure in 2009, according to which the European Parliament takes final votes by roll call. In this way, the study avoids the selection bias problem allegedly associated with vote request in previous parliamentary terms. Second, given that codecision has become the standard legislative procedure following the entry into effect of the Lisbon Treaty, we move the focus from analyzing the impact of different procedures towards the analysis of variations within codecision. In particular, we explore the effects of several intra- and inter-institutional features of codecision on legislators' decision not to participate on final legislative votes. Third, we provide results at EP as well as political group levels in order to detect variations across groups. Finally, we complement the quantitative, roll-call based analysis with qualitative data. The analysis combines data from a novel dataset on all final passage votes during the seventh legislature (N=403) and 26 semi-structured interviews. The paper shows that the involvement of shadow rapporteurs in the negotiating teams decreases absenteeism and that a high number of shadows as well as the bargaining actors' varying capacity to forge majorities have uneven effects on absenteeism across political groups.

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