Election proximity and representation focus in party-constrained environments


Do elected representatives have a time-constant representation focus or do they adapt their focus depending on election proximity? In this paper, we examine this overlooked theoretical and empirical puzzle by looking at how reelection-seeking actors adapt their legislative behavior according to the electoral cycle. In parliamentary democracies, representatives need to serve two competing principals: their party and their district. Our analysis hinges on how representatives make a strategic use of parliamentary written questions in a highly party constrained institutional context to heighten their reselection and reelection prospects. Using an original dataset of over 32000 parliamentary questions tabled by Portuguese representatives from 2005 to 2015, we examine how time interacts with two keys explanatory elements: electoral vulnerability and party size. Results shows that representation focus is not static over time and, in addition, that electoral vulnerability and party size shape strategic use of parliamentary questions.

Party Politics