The End of Silent Elections. The Birth of Electoral Competition, 1832–1915 | Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung

Daniele Caramani
The End of Silent Elections. The Birth of Electoral Competition, 1832–1915

Party Politics, 2003: 9, Heft 4, S. 411-443
ISSN: 154-1088

This article explores empirically the competitive strategies of political parties aimed at maximizing electoral support in the early years of democratic elections. By spreading through geographical space in search of votes, candidates and parties challenged adversaries in their strongholds - a process that led to a reduction in the number of safe seats and uncontested constituencies. Evidence covers eight European countries from the early nineteenth century until World War I and is based on constituency-level data. The increasing competition among parties is described, and the impact of the 'massification of politics' evaluated: (1) the extension of voting rights; (2) the challenge to conservatives and liberals by mass parties (mainly social democrats after the Industrial Revolution) and the supremacy of the left-right cleavage over cultural resistances; and (3) the change from a majoritarian to PR formula as an incentive for parties to spread across constituencies. The analogy between competition in the geographical and ideological space is illustrated.