The Face of the Party: Party Leadership Selection, and the Role of Family and Faith

Date01 June 2022
AuthorVineeta Yadav,Amanda Fidalgo
Published date01 June 2022
Subject MatterArticles
2022, Vol. 75(2) 379 –393
Political Research Quarterly
© 2021 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129211011538
Party organizational leaders are central to a party’s opera-
tions and success. These leaders include party chairmen
and members of important organizational bodies includ-
ing the party executive board, nomination, and disciplin-
ary committees. They play key roles in allocating party
tickets, patronage, and resources; deciding party strategy;
and defining the party’s image among voters (Cross and
Pilet 2016; Kitschelt 1989; Norris 2004; Scarrow 2005).
They are also highly influential in establishing the orga-
nizational culture of a party and socializing party mem-
bers and voters into democratic or undemocratic values
and practices (Linz and Stepan 1997; Randall and
Svåsand 2002). The choices and decisions party leaders
make therefore affect the careers and political success of
individual politicians, the organization, character and
success of political parties, and the political culture of a
country. Given their impact, the question of how party
leaders are selected within parties has rightfully attracted
the attention of scholars, policymakers, and democracy
In practice, parties use a wide range of de facto selec-
tion practices for choosing their organizational leaders
ranging from direct party-wide elections in which all
party members have an equal vote to completely auto-
cratic choices made exclusively by a small clique or even
a single individual.1 While party leaders in established
Western democracies are typically selected through com-
petitive internal elections (Cross and Blais 2012; Cross
and Pilet 2016), such open selection procedures are strik-
ingly rare among developing democracies (Mainwaring
2018; Scarrow 2005).2 Instead, most parties in develop-
ing democracies, tend to use more exclusive, and less
democratic practices such as selection by a small clique
of party leaders, the previous party leader, or a single
family (Chandra 2016; Mainwaring 2018). Given the
importance of party leaders for politicians’ careers, such
practices raise an important question: Why do politicians
support such undemocratic selection practices on a deci-
sion of such importance to their careers?
1011538PRQXXX10.1177/10659129211011538Political Research QuarterlyYadav and Fidalgo
1The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA
2New College of Florida, Sarasota, USA
Corresponding Author:
Vineeta Yadav, The Pennsylvania State University, 309 Pond Lab,
University Park, PA 16802, USA.
The Face of the Party: Party
Leadership Selection, and the
Role of Family and Faith
Vineeta Yadav1 and Amanda Fidalgo2
Political parties in developing country democracies are often characterized by undemocratic internal party practices,
including for selecting party organizational leaders. Scholars identify institutional, party-level, and demographic
factors as driving such practices. In this paper, we contribute to this research by considering the effect of two
personal factors—personal religiosity and membership in a political family. Politicians act in accordance with
personal values and strategic incentives. We argue religiosity influences both in ways that undermine support
for democratic intra-party selection practices. We hypothesize that membership in a political family increases the
undemocratic effects of high religiosity because it strengthens the capacity of highly religious dynasts to access and
mobilize politically through religious and family networks. This strengthens their strategic independence from their
party, leading them to support undemocratic leadership selection practices. We test this prediction for the case of
Turkey using original data from a 2017 survey of 200 Turkish politicians. We find that religiosity is only associated
with reduced support for democratic leadership selection practices among politicians who are members of political
families. This result is robust to the inclusion of party-specific effects, religious party membership, and individual
characteristics including support for political Islam.
intra-party democracy, elite religiosity, political dynasty, Turkey

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