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|IPSA-ECP focuses on the analysis of elections and electoral systems, citizen activism, and political parties, within and across nation-states. |
In a world rapidly moving towards elections as the main channel of political legitimacy for regimes worldwide, where the study of elections and parties is now truly global, the aim to is make sure that IPSA is at the forefront of scholarly research and scientific inquiry on elections, citizens and parties.
Thematic overviewThe analysis of elections and electoral systems is central to political science in countries around the world, not least the role of electoral rules and electoral management in states transitioning from autocracy, as well as renewed interest in the issue of electoral reform, political representation, gender quotas, and the regulation of campaign and party funding in consolidating and long-established democracies. Elections and electoral systems set the institutional context for party competition and voting behavior.
Similarly ever since the classic work of Maurice Duverger, political parties have been at the core of the profession, generating a massive literature seeking to understanding their structure and organization, funding, and strategic electoral appeals. The erosion of party membership in Western Europe has generated concern about the future of the mass party organization, and the fragmentation of party systems has also attracted widespread scholarly interest. Parties are the key actors on the ‘supply-side’ of electoral competition, structuring voting choices, selecting candidates, offering policy platforms, organizing the allocation of legislative and executive offices.
Lastly, the study of citizen activism (broadly defined) has been at the heart of political science for more than 90 years. Comparisons have been transformed in recent decades by the globalization of survey research to cover countries in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia. This sub-field includes studies of political participation and voting behavior, the ‘demand-side’ of electoral competition determining party performance.
Thus the vision informing the design of the RC is to integrate the study of the electoral marketplace, including the overarching institutions context of electoral rules, the ‘supply’ of parties and the ‘demand’ of citizens, rather than focusing narrowly upon only one or another dimension of this complex inter-relationship.
IPSA-ECP welcomes scholarly research on these issues from multiple methodological approaches, including normative and analytical political theory, mass and elite survey research, historical case studies, the study of legal institutions, rational choice, econometric analysis, experimental techniques, focus groups, content analysis and organizational analysis. One of the most important developments in the sub-field has been the growing use of multilevel analysis linking the study of electoral systems and party strategy with voting behavior. Thus the committee is certain to attract widespread interest amongst the IPSA membership.
The focus is distinctive although it naturally complements areas of interest covered by other Research Committees, notably RC 10 on Electronic Democracy, RC 20 on Political Finance, RC 22 on Political Communication, RC 06 on political sociology, and the new RC 17 Comparative Public Opinion. IPSA-ECP will replace the older committee on Comparative Representation and Electoral Systems, serving members who continue to be interested in these issues but also revising, broadening and updating the scope of the area. The research focus is similar to the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties specialist group of the PSA UK, one of the most active and successful networks which has held a series of annual conferences and generated its own journal.