Mochtak, Michal, Christophe Lesschaeve, and Josip Glaurdić 2021: “Voting and Winning: Perceptions of Electoral Integrity in Consolidating Democracies”

How do voters in consolidating democracies see electoral integrity? How does election affect the change in perception of electoral integrity among these voters? What role does winning play in seeing an election as free and fair? Building on the theory of the winner-loser gap, we answer these questions using original two-wave panel surveys we conducted before and after three parliamentary elections in Southeast Europe in 2018 and 2020. The article focuses on changes of perception of electoral integrity as a function of satisfaction with the electoral results in contexts where the quality of elections has always been at the centre of political conflict. We specifically explore the socialization effect of elections in environments with notoriously low trust in political institutions and high electoral stakes. The article goes beyond the “sore loser” hypothesis and examines voters’ both political preferences and personal characteristics potentially responsible for the change in perception of electoral integrity over the course of electoral cycle

Lesschaeve, Christophe 2021 “Bringing Representatives Back in: How Political Parties Moderate Patterns of Inequality in Opinion Representation.”

Democratic theory argues that individuals should have their policy preferences equally represented in politics. Research on opinion congruence has often found, however, that political parties’ views are more likely to align with those of higher-income and higher educated citizens. We argue that this conclusion does not account for heterogeneity among parties. Based on an integrated dataset containing the positions of over 1,700 Belgian citizens and 11 Belgian parties on over 120 policy statements, we examine how opinion congruence inequality between privileged and underprivileged people varies between parties. We find that left-wing parties align more with underprivileged citizens than they do with privileged citizens on economic issues, while the opposite holds for right-wing parties. On cultural issues, however, both left- and right-wing parties better represent the preferences of privileged people. The exception is the radical right party Vlaams Belang, which on the cultural dimensions better represents the views of underprivileged voters.

Mochtak, Michal 2020 : "Mythologizing War: Legacies of Conflict in Croatian Parliamentary Debates“

The paper analyses almost fifteen years of Croatian parliamentary debates and identifies a discourse of war legacies. Using the latest advancements in natural language processing, the paper utilizes models based on latent semantic analysis and discusses how politicians talk about war in terms of common narratives and shared frameworks. Using a complex vector representation of war-related concepts, the paper specifically focuses on their framing in the context of right-wing authoritarianism. The results show a negative trend of pushing the most frequent war-related concepts to more extreme framing as a potential reflection of their political abuse and ongoing mythologization.

Mochtak, Michal, Josip Glaurdić, Christophe Lesschaeve 2020 “Talking War: Representation, Veterans and Ideology in Post-war Parliamentary Debates”

How do politicians in post-war societies talk about the past war? How do they discursively represent vulnerable social groups created by the conflict? Does the nature of this representation depend on the politicians’ ideology or their record of combat service?
We answer these questions by pairing natural language processing tools and a large corpus of parliamentary debates with an extensive data set of biographical information including detailed records of war service for all members of parliament during two recent terms in Croatia. We demonstrate not only that veteran politicians talk about war differently from their non-veteran counterparts, but also that the sentiment of war-related political discourse is highly dependent on the speaker’s exposure to combat and ideological orientation. These results improve our understanding of the representational role played by combat veterans, as well as of the link between descriptive and substantive representation of vulnerable groups in post-war societies.

Lefevere, Jonas, Julie Sevenans, Stefaan Walgrave, and Christophe Lesschaeve. 2019 “Issue Reframing by Parties: The Effect of Issue Salience and Ownership.”

Issue reframing occurs when parties, while addressing an issue, shift the frame toward other policy domains. The literature has found that party issue framing affects how voters think about issues, yet scholars remain largely in the dark as to when and how parties frame issues. The study at hand theorizes and investigates when and how parties reframe issues in their external communication. Drawing on novel Belgian data about parties’ official stances regarding a large number of policy issues combined with their verbal argumentation of why they took this exact position, we test a new theory about the drivers and mechanisms of issue reframing. We find that parties reframe issues in terms of policy domains that are both salient to the general public and that are salient to the party itself—meaning that it has a history of devoting attention to the policy domain and “owns” it.

Glaurdić, Josip 2019: "Football Activism as Political Contention: Contextual Determinants of Membership in the Association of Supporters of Hajduk Split"

Where do politically activist football supporters come from? What are the social conditions under which they are successfully recruited and mobilised? This article answers those questions by analysing a unique dataset of more than 43,000 members of Our Hajduk – the association of supporters of the Croatian club Hajduk Split – as well as a host of data on the communities they live in. The analysis shows that Our Hajduk thrives in exactly the same areas where most other social, civil and political organisations thrive: among the more educated and more socioeconomically successful. Most importantly, the analysis shows that the pattern of Our Hajduk membership closely follows the patterns of political affiliation and participation in Croatia’s electoral arena and is guided by the opposition to political players who have dominated Croatian football and turned it into a social field marked by corruption and mismanagement.

Lesschaeve, Christophe 2019: "Voting After Violence: How Combat Experiences and Postwar Trauma Affect Veteran and Voter Party Choices in Croatia’s 2003 Postwar Elections"

This article investigates the role of war experiences on voters and veterans’ party choices in postwar elections. The literature has looked at the relation between military experience and electoral behaviour, and at the political consequences of war-related psychological distress, yet has never integrated the two. This article looks at the war experiences and specifically the development of war trauma on the likelihood of casting a vote for a nationalist party during a postwar election. Based on a 2003 survey of 1,000 Croatian voters, I find that veterans of Croatia’s war of independence are more likely to vote for nationalist parties. However, voters who showed signs of trauma were less likely to vote for these parties. In addition, veterans suffering from psychological trauma after the war were far less likely to vote for nationalist parties.


Dandoy, Regis, Conrad Meulewaeter, and Christophe Lesschaeve 2019: "Constituting the List Amid Time of Personalisation of Politics: The Balance of Congruent and Popular Candidates in Belgian Political Parties"

Ondrejcsák, Róbert, Peter Bátora, Richard Turcsányi, and Michal Mochtak 2019: "Panorama of Global Security Environment. Central European Perspectives"

Mochtak, Michal 2019: "Understanding Electoral Violence through Complex Textual Data: OSCE Monitoring Missions in Different Contexts"

The article analyses more than twenty years of evidence on electoral violence as reported by Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission reports. It identifies prevailing trends of electoral violence in the OSCE participating states in order to better understand how the phenomenon is understood and framed by the leading international monitoring organisations in the region. The analysis utilises a unique approach based on automated content analysis employing counting algorithms and latent semantic indexing. The results of the analysis show how electoral violence differs throughout the region while highlighting the qualitative variations in regional patterns of the reported incidents of election-related violence.

Dufek, Pavel and Michal Mochtak 2019: "A Case for Global Democracy? Arms Exports and Conflicting Goals in Democracy Promotion"

Employing the framework of conflicting goals in democracy promotion as a departure point, the paper addresses the issue of arms exports to non-democratic countries as an important research topic which points to a reconsideration of certain fundamental conceptual and normative commitments underpinning democracy promotion. Empirically, we remind of the lingering hypocrisy of Western arms exporters, knowing that exports to non-democratic countries often hinder or block democratisation. This is not easily circumvented because of the many conflicting objectives both internal and external to democracy promotion itself. Yet, democracy and human rights promotion remain, ethically and pragmatically, important policy goals. Noting that the self-evident character of the state-based liberal democratic model is being increasingly questioned in the literature, we then critically explore a radical, and surprisingly natural, alternative vision: namely, if the commitment to democracy and human rights is to be genuine, only global democracy remains a viable way of resolving the many dilemmas, as it aspires to deal both with regulating arms exports and building accountable decision-making structures. Although we ultimately reject the globalist solution and lean towards a less radical constructivist approach, we endorse the underlying rationale that democracy promotion needs to embrace normative democratic theory sincerely.

Mochtak, Michal 2019: "Electoral Violence Under Different Contexts. Evidence from the Western Balkans"

The paper addresses the question of what settings are empirically relevant for the occurrence of electoral violence in the region of Western Balkans and what theoretical paths may cover their logic. Electoral violence has been part of the electoral arenas in the region for decades and although it has evolved and in some cases disappeared, a number of countries still experience it. The paper analyses original data on electoral violence collected from the OSCE monitoring reports covering fifty‐six parliamentary elections organised between 1990 and 2015. Applying fuzzy‐set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA), the paper identifies four sub‐models under which electoral violence is observed. The conjunctural logic that defines each and every of the discussed paths within the sub‐models shows that the scenarios of electoral violence in the Western Balkans are always complex and potentially relevant conditions are never sufficient for the outcome on their own.

Glaurdić, Josip, Christophe Lesschaeve, and Maruška Vizek 2019: "Consolidated Democracy Advantage: Political Instability and Sovereign Spreads in the EU"

We expose the way the market evaluates internal political risk and instability in democratic polities by analysing the determinants of sovereign spreads of EU member states over the course of the past two decades. Our analysis builds on the “democratic advantage” argument which suggests democracies enjoy preferential treatment on the international market of sovereign debt because of their better ability to make credible commitments. We suggest that, when it comes to the market’s evaluation of internal political instability and risk in democratic polities, there actually exists a “consolidated democracy advantage”. In times of political instability, older and more consolidated democracies pay less of a premium on their debt than their younger and less consolidated counterparts. In other words, the market indeed views the commitment of consolidated democracies with long track records of democratic competition and survival as something qualitatively different than the commitment of new democracies with short track records.

Mochtak, Michal and Tomas Diviak 2019: "Looking Eastward: Network Analysis of Czech Deputies and their Foreign Policy Groups"

This article analyses a structure of relations among the members of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, as reported through their memberships in bilateral and multilateral groups of friendship which establish professional contacts between the Chamber of Deputies and foreign parliaments. We approach the structure as a social network of members of parliament and interpret the memberships as proxy indicators of their interests/preferences in foreign affairs. This research shows that interparliamentary groups construct a self-sustained independent structure for parliamentary diplomacy which may significantly differ from the official positions of the government. We find that the studied network has a centralised core–periphery structure, in which deputies who are less prominent and those interested in authoritarian regimes occupy more central positions. This research connects the findings with the current debates on Central European tendencies to look for allies in large authoritarian regimes (Russia and China), for which we argue the interparliamentary groups might play the role of an important communication channel.

Glaurdić, Josip, Christophe Lesschaeve, and Michal Mochtak 2019: "Modelling the Legacies of War Violence: Voters, Parties, Communities"

Wars are extreme events with profound social consequences. Political science, however, has a limited grasp of their impact on the nature and content of political competition which follows in their wake. That is partly the case due to a lack of conceptual clarity when it comes to capturing the effects of war with reliable data. This article systematises and evaluates the attempts at modelling the consequences of war in political science research which relies on quantitative methods. Our discussion is organised around three levels of analysis: individual level of voters, institutional level of political parties, and the aggregate level of communities. We devote particular attention to modelling the legacies of the most recent wars in Southeast Europe, and we offer our view of which efforts have the best potential to help set the foundations of a promising research programme.

Walgrave, Stefaan, and Christophe Lesschaeve 2018: "Policy and Ideology Volatility During the Campaign." In Mind the Gap. Political Participation and Representation in Belgium

The research literature on campaign effects overwhelmingly focuses on how electoral campaigns affect voter turnout, the actual vote, and voter information. Yet, it is likely that campaigns also affect the policy position voters adhere to and even their broader ideological positioning. While parties’ ultimate goal during a campaign is, of course, to convince citizens to vote for them for any reason, this persuasion process may be mediated by voters being convinced substantially about the policy and ideological positions a party holds. This chapter examines the changes in voters’ policy and ideological positions through the Belgian 2015 election campaign. It draws on the Partirep two-wave panel voter survey that included two consecutive measurements of 25 concrete policy statements and of voters’ ideological left-right self-placement. The chapter develops and test a theory about positional volatility, both with regard to concrete policies as with regard to broad ideological self-categorisations,  with features of voters (e.g. education, electoral certainty), of policies (e.g. salience, bread and butter or not), and of the campaign (e.g. party positions, media attention for policies) as the independent variables.

Mochtak, Michal 2018: "Electoral Violence in the Western Balkans. From Voting to Fighting and Back"

Since the end of the Cold War there have been a number of cases where the democratisation process has been turbulent, or even violent. Addressing electoral violence, its evolution and impact in the Western Balkans, this book explores the conflict logic of election and tries to understand its basic patterns. Two decades of electoral competition in the region are analysed to identify an interesting evolution of electoral violence in terms of forms, actors, motivations and dynamics.

By identifying the potential drivers of electoral violence and explaining the escalation and stimulus of violence-related events, the author combines a theoretical approach with original data to emphasise the variability of the phenomenon and its evolution in the region.

The book will appeal to students and scholars of post-communist Europe and democratisation processes and the Western Balkans in particular. It should also be of interest to political advisors and those involved in developing or implementing democratisation programmes.


Lesschaeve, Christophe, Patrick van Erkel, and Conrad Meulewaeter 2018: "Thinking Alike: Two Pathways to Leadership-Candidate Opinion Congruence"

This paper seeks to explain why party candidates and their party leadership have congruent policy positions or not. Despite its importance as a way through which parties are able to behave as a unitary actor, this congruence has never been studied as a dependent variable. We seek to fill this void in the literature. Our results suggest that leadership-candidate congruence comes about through two mechanisms: selection and learning. With selection, the party leadership aims to get those candidates elected whose policy preferences are congruent with the party line. Learning occurs through the process of socialisation in which candidates assume the views of the party they work and candidate for as their own under. This happens under the pressure of cognitive dissonance. If a candidate learns about the position of the leadership and notices that they are incongruent, they may feel discomfort and change their opinion to be congruent with the party.

Drnovsky, Adam and Michal Mochtak 2018: "Power-sharing and Democratisation in Africa: The Kenyan Experience"

The institution of power-sharing has over the past years become known as a mechanism for conflict resolution and even a factor of democratisation. While power-sharing proved certain effectiveness in overcoming political crises, its positive impact on democratisation is contested. Although existing research has focused extensively on the relationship between power-sharing and democratisation, some areas of this phenomenon remain under-researched. This is particularly true of power-sharing in the form of ad hoc political practices based on a temporary agreement of political elites resulting in the establishment of a government of national unity. This paper approaches the gap in understanding both conceptual levels of the phenomena through a case study of Kenya as a country which underwent a period of power-sharing and where elections have historically played an important role in the country’s path towards democratisation. The paper provides an analysis of the impact of power-sharing on the democratic quality of elections and argues that the power-sharing government in Kenya eventually contributed to democratisation although its impact on different areas of assessment


Mochtak, Michal 2018: "Fighting and Voting: Mapping Electoral Violence in the Region of Post-Communist Europe"

Electoral disputes accompanied by violent outbreaks have become an emerging problem in societies under transformation, in authoritarian regimes, as well as in young democracies. The truth is that many politicians elected to office, their supporters, and political activists have altered their perceptions of electoral competition in a form of zero-sum logic with direct consequences for their opponents. After the fall of Communism in the beginning of the 1990s, Central and Eastern Europe stood at a crossroads. This period of imbalance and uncertainty affected the violent interaction in newly reformed electoral arenas with serious consequences for legitimising democratic change. Despite the well-documented tension that existed in the region, the importance of violence in the electoral arena is rather neglected. The article approaches this gap as the first attempt to map electoral violence in a new typological environment where the process of transformation has affected political pluralism and the patterns of political contest. It argues that electoral violence is not a rare phenomenon in the region of post-Communist Europe and the dynamic varies on a great scale. Moreover, the article presents a picture of electoral violence occurring in different settings with potentially different contextual preconditions that need to be studied separately



Glaurdić, Josip and Vuk Vuković 2018: "Post-War Voters as Fiscal Liberals: Local Elections, Spending, and War Trauma in Contemporary Croatia"

This study exposes post-war voters’ fiscal liberalism using individual-level and aggregate-level data covering a decade and a half of local electoral competition in post-war Croatia. Aggregate-level analysis shows Croatian voters’ fiscal liberalism to be conditional on their communities’ exposure to war violence: greater exposure to violence leads to greater support for fiscally expansionist incumbents. Individual-level analysis, on the other hand, shows post-war voters’ fiscal liberalism as rooted in their different levels of war-related trauma: more feelings of war-related trauma lead to greater economic expectations from the government. Our analysis also shows that voters’ war-conditioned preferences for fiscally expansionist incumbents show little sign of abating over time – a testament to the challenge presented by post-war recovery, and to the impact war exerts on political life long after the bloodshed has ended.