Party voters gone astray: explaining independent candidate success in the 2009 European elections in Estonia

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Series Details Vol.22, No.3, p269-291.
Publication Date August 2012
ISSN 1745-7289
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While independent candidates rarely perform well in party-centered systems, a genuinely independent candidate attracted a quarter of the nationwide vote in the 2009 European Parliament elections in Estonia. This study uses data from the Estonian case to address the question of why voters vote for independents. It develops and tests two explanations: the first construes mass vote for an independent candidate as a manifestation of anti-party sentiment, while the second argues that voting independent constitutes a variation on the familiar theme of punishing the incumbents in second-order elections. The results lend strong support to the latter explanation, suggesting that voting independent constituted a low-cost strategy for punishing the incumbents in a context where strong socio-political cleavages inhibited vote-switching to the opposition.

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