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Institutional Foundations of Legislative Speech


  • Sven-Oliver Proksch is a Research Fellow at the Mannheim Center for European Social Research (MZES) and the Research Center SFB 884 “Political Economy of Reforms,” University of Mannheim, 68131 Mannheim, Germany ( Jonathan B. Slapin is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Houston, Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall, Room 447, Houston, TX 77204-3011 (

  • The authors are listed alphabetically. Both authors have contributed equally to all work. We thank Kira Killermann, Linh Nguyen, and Sander Ensink for excellent research assistance and Serra Boranbay, Thomas Bräuninger, Thomas Gschwend, Christopher Kam, Thomas König, Elisabeth Schulte, Georg Vanberg, Jonathan Woon, and seminar participants at the University of Mannheim, Rice University, EITM Europe, and the DVPW Working Group on Behavioral Decision Making for helpful comments and suggestions. We especially thank Thomas Gschwend, Hermann Schmitt, Andreas Wüst, and Thomas Zittel for sharing the German candidate survey data. Sven-Oliver Proksch acknowledges that the research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement number 239268 (Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant).


Participation in legislative debates is among the most visible activities of members of parliament (MPs), yet debates remain an understudied form of legislative behavior. This study introduces a comparative theory of legislative speech with two major implications. First, party rules for debates are endogenous to strategic considerations and will favor either party leadership control or backbencher MP exposure. Second, in some systems, backbenchers will receive less time on the floor as their ideological distance to the party leadership increases. This leads to speeches that do not reflect true party cohesion. Where party reputation matters less for reelection, leaders allow dissidents to express their views on the floor. We demonstrate the implications of our model for different political systems and present evidence using speech data from Germany and the United Kingdom.