The Portuguese MPs in Comparative Perspective: Elections, Leadership and Representation
This project is set to study the following questions: 1) What are the factors behind the growing dissatisfaction of the citizenry with the ruling class? 2) Is this dissatisfaction also addressed towards the institutions of representation? 3) How does the phenomenon of political representation function at the parliamentary level? 4) Does it make sense to speak of a ‘crisis of representation’? In order to answer these questions, the project will develop six strategies. First, it will update the existing databases containing biographical data of the Portuguese MPs (Freire 2001). Second, it will enlarge and deepen the existing knowledge regarding the role of the parties in the process of parliamentary recruitment (Freire 2001) through interviews with party leaders and MPs, as well as content analysis of party documents and press releases. Third, it will compare policy orientations of candidates (and MPs) vis-à-vis their voters (relying on surveys targeted at each of these groups). Remarkably, such a comparative analysis between elite and non-elite attitudes has never been done in Portugal, and it will allow the study of its political representation. Fourth, it will study the participation of civil society in the law-making process through an in-depth analysis of citizens’ and organized interests’ hearings in parliament. Fifth, based on a mass survey and on focus groups, it will study citizens’ attitudes towards the political elites and the institutions. Sixth, a crucial innovation of this project is its embeddedness into two international networks of research: the Candidate Survey and the PARENEL project (see references). Such a framework will allow us to insert our study in a broader comparative context and to relate the Parliament’s institutional characteristics to the whole process of political representation.