Resource Allocation, Party Policy Positioning, and the Exit of Party Factions

Abstract

Party unity is a key feature of the political landscape. Observed party unity is considered an important element of the strength of party labels. Yet we do observe that party factions and members exist from the established party in Western democratic countries over election periods. In this paper, I argue that, with abundant party resources, the exercise of party discipline does not necessarily promote cooperative outcomes among intraparty actors. Parties with ideological positions that are close to other parties’ publicly established positions (i.e. in relative terms, “proximate”) create opportunities for factions to receive electoral assistance and, consequently, reduce their incentives to support their leaders. I formalize this argument in a game-theoretic model and test it empirically using party positioning data drawn from comparative election manifestos and legislative roll-call records in 24 democratic countries covering election periods from 1945 to 1998. Overall, the analysis shows that, with the presence of a wealth of party resources high levels of observed unity may increase the likelihood of factions to split from the established parties.