Antagonistic Cooperation: Factional Competition in the Shadow of Elections

The forthcoming article “Antagonistic Cooperation: Factional Competition in the Shadow of Elections” by Giovanna Invernizzi is summarized by the author below. 

Political parties are often internally divided into separate factions. When is factional competition good or bad for a party’s welfare? To tackle this question, I present a model of elections in which intra-party factions can devote resources to campaigning for the party or sabotage competing factions to obtain more power. 

The model shows that inter- and intra-party competition are substitutes: Internal competition increases when the electoral stakes are low – for example, in consensus democracies granting power to losing parties – because the incentives to focus on the fight for internal power increase. This result explains why reforms that changed the system towards a WTA (e.g., Italy and Japan) reduced intra-party fights.  

A similar logic applies to party polarization. As the ideological distance between parties increases, so do the stakes of (losing) the election, motivating factions to campaign for the party. Perhaps less intuitively, factions in the leading party campaign less than those in the trailing party, because platform asymmetry dampens the incentives for factions in the trailing party to campaign due to a lower winning probability. 

Parties develop internal rules to divide electoral spoils among factions. The paper studies how different incentive schemes motivate factions to campaign, and derive optimal rewards. Besides electoral spoils, the paper also shows how parties can encourage factions with policy concessions. 

About the Author: Giovanna Invernizzi is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Collegio Carlo Alberto and a Research Associate at Bocconi University. Their research “Antagonistic Cooperation: Factional Competition in the Shadow of Elections” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

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The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.