chapter  7
The policy space of party manifestos
Pages 25

Democracy assigns political parties the important role of presenting citizens with alternative policies. Parties engage in a competitive struggle to gain favour with voters by presenting policy alternatives (Schumpeter 1944). The alternative positions provide the voters with an opportunity to elect a government that will take policy in one direction or another (Stimson, MacKuen, and Erikson 1995). Were parties to offer no policy choice, the public would be denied any possibility to control policy outcomes (Sullivan and O’Connor 1972). Party policy alternatives also play a role in determining who governs even where the voters’ choice is not the final determination; this is often the case in multiparty systems, inasmuch as negotiations among viable governing alternatives depend on party policy positions (Laver and Schofield 1990; Laver and Shepsle 1996). Finally, when it comes to policy actions pursued by governments, mandate theory says that parties in government pursue policies they have promoted during election campaigns. Evidence, too, indicates that governing parties of the left and of the right pursue different policies (Hibbs 1977; Castles 1982; McDonald, Budge, and Hofferbert 1998).