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Ties That Bind? Effects of Inter-level Mobility on MP Attitude to Local Government in Two Scandinavian Countries

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Abstract

The aim of this article is to examine to what degree the movement of elected representatives from local to central level affects the outlook of the ones who move ‘upwards’. Two Scandinavian countries – Sweden and Norway – serve as comparative cases. In both countries a high share of members of parliament (MPs) has served as local councillors before being elected to parliament. According to conventional wisdom, this high share of inter-level mobility would strengthen ties between government tiers. Hence, parliamentarians with local political background are assumed to have greater confidence in the capacities of local government. It turns out that Sweden corresponds to this assumption, while the Norwegian results to some extent contradict the same hypothesis. In the Norwegian case, MPs who previously held office as local councillors are actually more sceptical towards local government than MPs with no experience from local politics. In the last section of the article a number of explanations for the disparate findings are being discussed. For one, it appears to be a higher level of controversy related to local government in Norway than in Sweden. In turn, this accounts for some of the scepticism being expressed by the very MPs who themselves have held local office. Second, greater financial dependency in the Norwegian case creates incentives for strategic action which, in turn, might undermine confidence between levels of government. These are strategies that are harder to conceal vis-à-vis MPs who have themselves gained experience from local politics.

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