Do parties matter in proportional representation systems? A regression discontinuity analysis of environmental policy in Swedish municipalities
Sammanfattning: Proportional representation electoral systems can be considered more democratic than majoritarian systems since they better represent minority interests. We study the support for this claim by investigating whether individual parties are able to affect the outcome of a secondary policy, environmental policy. We employ a regression discontinuity design across multiple seat allocation thresholds in Swedish municipalities for the years 2010-2018 and measure environmental policy as an annual index compiled by an environmental journal. Our main finding suggests that a seat share increase of 1 percentage points (pp) for the Green Party increases environmental policy by 1.19 pp. This effect is indicated to be driven by the Green Party being included in the governing coalition, independent of the coalition composition. Our contribution to the public choice theory is two-fold. First, our results indicate that bargaining power can be increased by the mere inclusion in a governing coalition, independent of the type of coalition. Secondly, our results support the theoretical suggestion that parties can benefit from taking on more extreme policy positions when prioritising a well-established secondary policy. Additionally, we provide further empirical support to the existence of partisan effects in a proportional context.
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