A PhD thesis by Michal Smrek: the study of incumbent renomination sheds light on fundamental debates related to accountability, representation and legitimacy of political systems


Michal Smrek posting his doctoral dissertation at IRES

Today on May 8 Michal posted his thesis Incumbent Renomination: Accountability and Gender Bias on the IRES “PhD posting board”. Posting means that the PhD student makes her/his thesis available for the general public. Posting is always arranged prior to the formal defence that in Michal’s case will take place on 10 May at 13:15 in Brusewitzsalen, Östra Ågatan 19. The external opponent is Johanna Kantola, Professor in Gender Studies at University of Tampere. The members of the examination committee are Professor Christer Karlsson from the Department of Government, Uppsala University; Professor Kristine Höglund from the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, Uppsala University; and Associate Professor Karl Loxbo from the Department of Political Science, Linnaeus University. General public is welcome to attend the formal part of the defence.

Incumbent Renomination: Accountability and Gender Bias

Political parties take a lot of crucial decisions on voters’ behalf without voter input or scrutiny. Candidate selection is one such example. By controlling access to the party ballots, political parties have a crucial say in determining who our legislators will be. As such, political parties can adversely affect the overall representativeness of the political system by failing to offer a candidate pool that mirrors the distribution of sexes, professions, age groups or other important social characteristics. Political parties also decide which of legislators who currently sit in the parliament will be allowed to return onto the party ballot and seek re-election. Therefore, they can influence or even directly control the behavior of incumbent legislators by the threat of no-renomination and thus adversely affect the legislators’ ability to represent the interests of their voters.

This dissertation shows that studying incumbent renomination can help us to shed light on fundamental debates related to accountability, representation and legitimacy of political systems. In particular, the dissertation assesses whether those legislators who receive a high number of preference votes are rewarded with a more electable ballot position at next election and shown that this is only rarely the case. The dissertation also maps the renomination fortunes of one politically marginalized social group – women, and shows that even if women often manifest a demonstratively superior performance as legislators, they continue to face structural impediments that make it more difficult for them to clear the renomination hurdle.

The dissertation sports four illustrations drawn by a prominent Slovak political cartoonist Shooty.

Full version of the thesis is available on DIVA website https://tinyurl.com/y279erj3

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Last modified: 2022-02-02