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Manuscript Submission Deadline 14 October 2022
Manuscript Extension Submission Deadline 14 November 2022

A cursory glance through the statutes of Europe's political parties quickly reveals great variation in how these organisations select their leaders – perhaps the most important decisions that they make. In some, there is usually fierce, open competition for the top job. In others, competition occurs behind ...

A cursory glance through the statutes of Europe's political parties quickly reveals great variation in how these organisations select their leaders – perhaps the most important decisions that they make. In some, there is usually fierce, open competition for the top job. In others, competition occurs behind the scenes; the formal selection may be little more than the ratification of a clandestine decision already made – a so-called "coronation".

This matters. Parties mediate the link between state and citizens. Leaders can pull their parties in new directions, affecting the range of choices available to voters. Less clear is why we see such variation in leader selection. At this stage, case studies constitute a suitable approach – and a collection of such studies is what we propose in this Research Topic.

Political science has only recently begun to develop the theoretical and methodological tools with which to study variation in leader selection. There is still much work to be done on concept formation and measurement. Each selection process is a puzzle in some way, and we need a shared understanding of, for instance, the rules that apply, the actors involved, and the source of those actors' significance. We need to develop our methods, too, as we search for appropriate ways of collecting and analysing information about processes that are sometimes shrouded in secrecy.

In a typological framework developed by the Topic Editors, the emphasis is on the "pre-selection" phase, in which potential candidates are filtered and a select few – or maybe just one – emerge as the informal process moves towards the formal part (that is, what the party statutes say ought to happen). This framework allows us to classify methods of selection. But we do not yet understand enough about the ways in which the method of leader selection influences the outcome of the process. If a category of selection method indicates the power centres that tend to exercise more or less influence over the outcome, we should also explore how that influence is exercised.

In this Research Topic, the primary goal is to sharpen, through case studies, our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the pre-selection phase.

We understand social or causal mechanisms as patterns of thought and action that facilitate causal effect. Some mechanisms in leader selection will involve, for instance, (i) signalling about roles and legitimacy. In the informal pre-selection phase, how does a power broker or "steering agent", whose role is to shape the field of potential candidates, receive its mandate from intra-party power centres? How is that mandate, and thus the legitimacy of the steering agent, then communicated to the rest of the party? Closely connected to this aspect is (ii) implicit sanction. What is it that persuades aspiring leaders to drop their plans if some intra-party actor signals its displeasure at the prospect? Related to that, in turn, is (iii) organisational culture. What are the expectations among individuals within the party about others' behaviour, if and when an individual's own ambition meets resistance? How much scope is there within a party for individual careerism on the part of would-be leaders? Is there evidence of variation across parties that correlates with some other variables, such as ideology or party family?

What we seek from each case study is:

- an interesting case, chosen because it was in some way revealing – perhaps especially conflictual, or innovative, or unusual in some other way;

- a clear identification, according to the framework, of relevant actors in the case;

- careful empirical analysis, with innovative data sources – in addition to the expected ones of media reports and personal interviews – being especially welcome;

- a sense of process, with detailed narrative about events;

- perhaps most importantly, a contribution to the study of the mechanisms outlined above – in relation both to our suggestions and to the author or authors' own ideas.

Keywords: party, leader, selection, process, mechanism


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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