PhD Research

European integration and electoral democracy: How the EU constrains party competition in the member states

My thesis examined the impact of EU decision-making on parties’ agendas at national elections and whether the policy choices on offer to voters narrow as more decisions are taken by the EU. The analysis used data on parties’ positions across a range of policy areas for 18 European countries, covering the period 1968-2005. By using a comparative approach and robust statistical estimation, I examined the impact across a range of countries, policy areas and individual parties. The results obtained in this thesis make an important contribution to existing studies and theoretical debates concerning the impact of external pressures -whether global or regional in scope - upon party competition and elections in democracies. 
The main theoretical contribution of this research is that it informs current debates over the structures of the EU political system and the merits or otherwise of how it takes decisions. At the centre of these debates are arguments about the ‘democratic deficit’ in EU decision-making processes. This study certainly demonstrates the need for more in-depth discussion on this issue. The ‘democratic deficit’ within the EU not only concerns the shortcomings of its own institutional framework but also involves long-established democratic structures within the member states. The process of European integration arguably undermines one of the primary functions of domestic electoral processes in translating citizens’ demands into the policies enacted by their elected governments. I have disseminated findings from my doctoral research at scholarly conferences and published an article in European Union Politics in 2006 entitled ‘European Integration, Intergovernmental Bargaining, and Convergence of Party Programmes’.

I aim to publish three papers listed in the next column from my PhD.