Public accountability and conflict initiation within democracies
Hunter, Young Y.
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A key feature of democracy is the idea that democratic leaders are accountable to the citizens within their states. That is, scholars assume that democratic leaders are accountable to voters, and the policies democracies develop are influenced by citizens that comprise democratic electorates. However, scholars have largely failed to consider how the ability of the public to hold democratic leaders accountable for foreign policy decisions shapes the foreign policies of democracies. Researchers have rarely considered the role of voters in affecting the foreign policies of democracies across different types of democratic states. Furthermore, democratic leaders are not accountable to their publics to the same degree when comparing democracies. Institutional and political differences among democracies create significant variations in levels of political accountability for democratic leaders. Thus, I seek to investigate the more precise linkages between voters, political parties and democratic leaders in determining when democracies are more or less likely to initiate interstate conflicts with other states. In this dissertation, I address two areas that have been neglected in previous research: the failure of scholars to consider the effect party systems have on political accountability and conflict initiation within democracies; and, the neglect of researchers in considering the role electoral systems have in structuring the manner by which elected leaders are accountable to the public and the resulting effect on the foreign policies democracies pursue. Through a cross-national quantitative analysis, I examine how party systems and electoral systems affect political accountability for democratic leaders, and how in turn, variation in levels of political accountability affect the foreign policies of democracies. The results from the quantitative analysis indicate that as party systems are more stable, and electoral systems promote candidate-centered incentives, democracies are less conflict prone because democratic leaders are more beholden to the public.