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Reasons for the Action

The main reason for advancing this Action is to strengthen the competitiveness of the European research area in the domain of the electoral studies by improving its data base, enhancing its methodological skills, and increasing its conceptual and analytical communalities.
It is the general objective of the Action to contribute to three ongoing scientific debates. One of them is the democratic quality of the political process in the European Union. There is a lively debate about the capability of the electoral mechanism to represent the views of the European Union citizenry (e.g. Andeweg 1995; Hix 2008; Schmitt & Thomassen 1999). The diversity of societal and political-institutional contexts affecting the quality of the national electoral process has not received much attention. This Action seeks to shed light on this neglected area.
A second debate concerns the nature of party competition in the newly democratizing post-communist countries of Eastern Europe. If it is true that the era of membership parties has gone and that cartel parties have taken their place (Katz & Mair 1995), post-communist systems are probably taking a different route than the one that we know from the consolidated democratic regimes in the West of Europe. They might remain rather flexible elite-driven structures and scholars (e.g. Horrowitz & Browne 2005) waiting for their stabilization might look in the wrong direction. Again, this COST Action aims at providing relevant information for answering this question.
A third debate concerns the multi-level nature of electoral politics in the European Union and, more in particular, a possible Europeanisation of national electoral politics. Note that the original approach to EU electoral politics went the other way around and understood European Parliament elections as second-order national elections (Reif & Schmitt 1980). While this still holds some of its merits (Schmitt 2005), the complimentary process of EU-level electoral processes affecting national politics gains relevance. One such repercussion is the likely spillover of low turnout levels from European Parliament to national elections (Schmitt & van der Eijk 2007). Another is the consensual style of party politics within the European Parliament which might have an impact on shrinking ideological and policy distances in national politics (van der Brug & van der Eijk 2007).
This general objective will be pursued mainly by means of capacity building. This will take at least two different forms: (a) strengthening the material preconditions of electoral research and (b) enhancing the methodological capabilities of participating scholars. The former will be provided by the identification, adaption and integration of the variety of national specific data bases on electoral behaviour. The latter will be achieved by the provision of recurring training opportunities for young scholars as well as the organisation of regular scientific exchange about the findings of the comparative analyses of all scholars involved.