AuthorMuntean, Ioana
  1. Introduction

    We aim to prove that, according to the public opinion, there is a negative selection in the Romanian election process, and that the voting system, as well as the recruitment criteria of candidates, have led to low quality MPs.

    After revising the models and theories regarding political elections we analyze the recruitment and selection processes of Romanian MPs during the last three legislative terms: 2004, 2008 and 2012. We highlight the consequences that stem from the 2008 change of the voting system for general elections--from the party-list proportional representation voting system, to the majoritarian voting system with single member districts. The MPs formal competence level is evaluated by analyzing the diplomas mentioned in their official CVs which are available on the Parliament's website [1]. Next, the diplomas were ranked according to the 2011 Romanian official university classification. Our research is mainly focused on the selection of individuals promoted as election candidates, as well as on election results, without analyzing the election process.

  2. Theoretical perspectives on the recruitment and selection of political party candidates

    Recruiting and training the parliamentarian elite are aspects specific to democracies and one of the functions of the political parties that propose and support candidates. The selection of candidates is an essential step for any party, as the influence of the party, as well as the quality of the future policies promoted by parliaments, all depend on the success of these candidates. This stage usually takes place within the parties and it does not depend on national laws, with a few exceptions--United States, Germany, Finland, Norway, Turkey and Argentina (Norris and Lovenduski, 1995, p. 28).

    The recruitment of MPs is a mix of political opportunities, usually managed by political parties, an individual's traits at a particular moment, and their social background. The result of the interaction between the structure (the rules of the political establishment, the class structures, the power structures, etc.) and the agency (the candidates' ability to act within these constraints, to break the resistance of the system's structure, to impose themselves in the internal selection process, up until their names appear on the electoral lists) is then put to public vote.

    Hazan and Rahat (2006) propose that the selection of candidates should be analyzed considering four dimensions: (1) candidacy (who is eligible to be a candidate?); (2) selectorate (who chooses/selects the candidates?); (3) centralization vs. decentralization (are selectorates on a national or local level?); (4) appointing candidates vs. voting candidates. These four dimensions are situated on a continuum which starts at an inclusive point and goes all the way to an exclusive point; the selectorate (Figure 1) may include the whole population of a state, particularly those who have the right to vote, or a single person, usually the president of a party. Obviously, the latter represents an exclusive selectorate.

    A different political recruitment model for candidates is proposed by Pippa Norris and Joni Lovenduski (1995). The supply and demand model studies the recruitment process as the interaction between something supplied (the ones who wish to candidate) and something demanded (from the gatekeepers of the parties). Norris and Lovenduski (1995) also developed a comparative model of recruiting candidates (Figure 1), which can be applied in several political systems. Thus, the MPs recruitment and selection process analysis is carried out while taking into consideration three categories of factors. Firstly, any country places great importance on both the system factors in a broader sense (political system, electoral system, legal system) and the structure of opportunities (context structure). Secondly, there are factors related to the party, from organization to ideology. Thirdly, there are process factors which dynamically and directly influence the election process, the candidates' motivations and resources in particular, as well as the party's important decision-makers' or the gatekeepers' attitudes (Norris and Lovenduski, 1995, p. 183).

    The system factors practically generate the rules of the game or the conditions established before the actual selection process. For instance, according to the Romanian laws in force [2], the minimum age for the members of the Chamber of Deputies is 23 years, while for the members of the Senate, it is 33. Moreover, the internal regulations of the Parliament and a series of laws stipulate the incompatibilities of being an MP. All these preliminary conditions established by the system, as well as the inherent difficulties of being an independent candidate, practically exclude potential candidates (aged 18-22, respectively 18-32,) from the very beginning or drastically reduce other people's chances (those who are not supported by a registered party).

    The system and context factors, especially the structure of opportunities, have strongly individualized the parliamentary elections that took place in 2012. That moment had a great symbolic significance. The challengers of the old majority, the alliance called Social Liberal Union (USL/Uniunea Social Liberala), which also governed before the elections, seemed a good alternative, a new beginning for a large part of Romania's population. This population segment had been fully affected by the crisis, the austerity and economic recovery measures adopted by the previous PDL (Democratic Liberal Party) government. The electoral victory was almost formal [3] (Ionasc, 2012), with many seats 'secured' for the USL candidates. Thus, the leaders of the parties which formed USL could have used that moment in order to attract new and competent people to the parties and to the parliament, as the process factors had an insignificant role regarding the final results.

    Apart from the possible shocks of an offer, the results of the selection are also influenced by the attitude of the party's gatekeepers and by the suspicion regarding possible biases, in particular. Theories and research on the topic of selecting candidates (Hazan and Rahat, 2006; Norris and Lovenduski, 1995) show that the factors which influence the candidature in itself are found especially in the area of the system (in a broader sense) and depend more on structure rather than on agency. We have also noticed that the selection process does not include--at least not in Romania rational elements, according to the opinions of our subjects and the empirical data used in our research. These elements refer to how suitable the candidate is for ulterior tasks (regarding their role as an MP, as a member of different commissions, etc.) and are similar to the way in which, in business, the compatibility between a candidate's competences and their future job tasks mentioned in the job description are correlated.

  3. The role of educational background in the selection of parliamentary elite in consolidated democracies

    In strong Western democracies, most members of the political elite have a clearly defined educational background, having studied at prestigious universities. For instance, in France, most members of the political elite and those of the administrative elite are trained by reputable schools, like Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale d'Administration. Candidates are admitted based on a strict examination process that certifies that they have superior intellectual abilities compared to the general population. Bauer and Bertin-Mourot (apud Coenen-Huther, 2007, p. 172) claim that there is an impressive correlation between successful careers regarding high positions in the administrative, political and economic fields, and academic results. Boudon claims that those who do not have a degree from a prestigious university can still have access to leading circles by taking a different route: 'The political route is the choice that best allows members of the sub-elite to enter the group of the elites, even by indirect means of militancy and elections' (Boudon, 1973 apud Coenen-Huther, 2007, p. 174). According to Boudon, those with limited specializations or technical training will end up being a part of the intermediate level, because they lack the possibilities of inter-sectorial mobility. They will form the sub-elite, responsible for providing the elite with 'observations, proposals and suggestions'.

    Mattei Dogan (1999), referring to the particular case of France, describes two paths of access to the French political elite: an endogenous one and a lateral one, or through osmosis. The first route describes the road of young people, who get a paid job within a party, without neglecting the professional aspect, 'in order to ensure a stable situation, before launching themselves on a random political trajectory. Thus, at any moment, the party has several potential candidates, internally trained as militants, and recruited in an endogenous manner' (Dogan, 1999, p. 32). The osmosis version --'a lateral loan from the civil society'--cannot be applied in a similar manner to all social categories. Thus, the permeability is higher for 'the few professional categories, where work presupposes the necessity of having the same qualities as those of politicians. This is especially true in the case of professors, mandarins, lawyers, journalists, unionists.' (Dogan, 1999, p. 33) Political absorption through loan is accomplished by taking into consideration the proximity of those fields and a clear affinity among the professions, as Dogan claims (1999). This also shows that, although the professional change or osmosis is a valid route, it will never be the one chosen by the most important representatives in the field, as politics require time, which would translate in abandoning professions and business, with rare exceptions. In Romania, however, there is a mutual dependence...

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