Rethinking European elections: the importance of regional spill-over into the European electoral arena

Arjan Schakel*

*Corresponding author for this work

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11 Citations (Web of Science)


The European Union has developed into a multilevel electoral system in which elections take place at regional, national and European tiers of governance. Election scholars have taken up an interest in European and regional elections and the dominant approach to study these elections is the second-order election model. This model has generated important insights but it also faces limitations. A multilevel party system perspective exposes several vertical and horizontal interactions between electoral arenas. An empirical analysis on second-order effects in European elections held in 217 regions and 11 countries reveals that regional authority, regional identity and electoral timing of regional vis-a-vis European elections significantly alters the extent and way in which national politics flows into the European electoral arena. These results provide strong evidence that regionalization has significantly transformed European elections but this impact only comes to the fore once one adopts a multilevel party system perspective.

This article is part of the April 2018 Symposium titled Shaping and Breaking Political Systems? How the Rise of Regions is Transforming Politics in Europe', which also includes Regionalization and the Transformation of Policies, Politics, and Polities in Europe by Michael Tatham and Heather A.D. Mbaye (DOI: ), The Rise of Regional Influence in the EU - From Soft Policy Lobbying to Hard Vetoing by Michael Tatham (DOI: ), Muddling up Political Systems? When Regionalization Blurs Democracy: Decentralization and Attribution of Responsibility by Sandra Leon (DOI: ) and Breaking-up within Europe: Sub-state Nationalist Strategies in Multilevel Polities by Daniel Cetra and Robert Lineira (DOI: ).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-705
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • European elections
  • TIME
  • multilevel electoral system
  • regional spillover
  • second-order election model

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