One Small Step for Candidates, One Giant Leap for Europarties?

One Small Step for Candidates, One Giant Leap for Europarties? The consequence of the Spitzenkandidaten instrument in the European Elections 2014 on their subsequent institutionalization

For the first time in 2014 the Europarties, i.e. transnational party federations on European level, presented leading party candidates for the European elections, who – taking into account Art. 17 (7) of the Lisbon treaty – competed for the office of the Commission president. Observers saw this as one step towards a true party democracy: Parties had to agree on rules to nominate their candidates and balance the election manifesto with the profile of the chosen frontrunner. The European wide tv debate of the Spitzenkandidaten created a short first moment of a European public. For the elections 2019 the parties aim to repeat this process. Applying a framework based on institutionalization theory, we assess the impact this change had on the state of the Europarties – we assume that this means a push for further institutionalization. In party institutionalization literature the external dimension (i.e. the perception of a party as a player in the system by the public, other parties or the media) has particular importance for the way to a fully institutionalized party. With indicators for a combination of external, internal and objective dimensions we analyze the parties institutionalization process before and after the introduction of the Spitzenkandidaten. We draw on earlier comparative studies and multiple data sources like surveys, primary party documents and observations of the tv debates.

Status of Research or Work: 
In progress
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