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A vast literature studies the effects of electoral institutions on party systems. Research on the relationship between electoral systems and the strength of partisan identities, however, is inconclusive, as existing work mostly focuses on individual-level factors such as political sophistication and attitudinal variables. In this paper, I analyze the case of Indonesia to illustrate a close link between electoral laws and patterns of mass partisanship. By exploiting variation over time (four electoral cycles), I argue that deep-seated partisan affiliations weakened substantially with the introduction of open-list PR, a system that provides strong incentives to cultivate the personal vote. By analyzing variation across space (138 districts), I further document that this process of partisan dealignment has been more pronounced in districts in which clientelistic practices are widespread. These findings suggest that electoral institutions are a powerful driver of partisan identities, and that the effect of institutional change at the national level may be contingent on local politics.
Diego Fossati is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, and an Associate Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. He works on democratization, political behavior and development in young democracies, with an empirical focus on Indonesia and Southeast Asia. He was trained in political science at Cornell University, where he completed doctoral studies in 2016. His work has been published in international peer-reviewed journals such as World Development, European Journal of Political Research, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Journal of East Asian Studies, and Contemporary Southeast Asia. He is currently working on a research project investigating how social identities shape policy preferences.