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Power within Parties: The Strength of the Local Party and MP Independence in Postcommunist Europe


  • I would like to thank Taavi Annus, Brian Crisp, Joshua Potter, Guillermo Rosas, and the anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on this manuscript. I am also grateful to Santiago Olivella for expert research assistance, to Magdalena Drabik, Tomas Lacina, Michal Pawlak, Jan Prouza, Aleksandra Sabik, Agnes Simon, and Eszter Simon for help with data collection, and to Zsolt Enyedi, Sylwia Gołaszewska, Pavel Kuklik, Natalia Letki, Jan Outly, and Vaclav Sklenar for help in locating and accessing data. Support for this research was provided by the Weidenbaum Center at Washington University in St. Louis. Data for replication purposes will be posted at on publication.

Margit Tavits is Associate Professor of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1063, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130 (


This study argues that organizationally stronger local party branches are more powerful within the party than organizationally weaker branches: they can better perform the tasks central to the party, which include communication with, and mobilization of, voters. I further argue that this subunit power should be manifested in the parliamentary behavior and status of MPs: those from districts where the local party organization is strong are more likely (1) to behave independently in parliament and break party unity and (2) to hold leadership positions in parliamentary committees. I find support for these propositions in the analysis of 12 legislatures from four postcommunist democracies—Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, and Poland. The results remain robust against various alternative explanations.