Seminar with Øyvind Skorge (Oslo New University College)

Title of the presentation: "Partiaization: How National Parties Took Hold of Local Politics"


The development of political competition and conflict between individuals or loosely organized groups into competition between parties, is one of the hallmarks of modern democracies. A remaining puzzle is how national parties came to penetrate and later dominate local politics—what we label “partiaization”. We argue that controlling local politics enhance parties’ abilities to mobilize voters in national elections. Yet the electoral system and communication technologies conditions the incentives for partiaization. Whereas proportional representation (PR) system rewards parties for mobilizing across all national electoral districts, a plurality system only rewards mobilization in districts with tight races. PR also centers the campaign on parties rather than candidates. The incentives for partiaization are thus more encompassing in PR than in plurality systems. In addition, we argue that better communication technologies—including railways and telecommunication in early 20th century—reduce the costs of establishing and controlling local branches and thus speeds up parties' ability to control local politics. To test our argument, we exploit the Norwegian 1919 national electoral reform in Norway, which sharply replaced plurality with PR, and couple this with our newly reconstructed lost data on Norwegian local elections between 1898 to 1963 . We find (i) that the introduction of PR funneled out partiaization and enabled subsequent voter mobilization in national elections; and (ii) that the expansion of railways enabled faster (but not broader) partiaization in both plurality and PR elections. Our study consequently helps to explain how national parties became a central tenant of modern democracy.

To receive the Zoom link, please contact Marina Povitkina 

Published Sep. 8, 2022 4:12 PM - Last modified Nov. 18, 2022 1:16 PM