The 2014 European Parliament (EP) election in Spain took place in a context of deep economic recession and distrust of political institutions. These conditions triggered an unprecedented electoral response through which Podemos, a radical leftist party created shortly before the election, obtained eight per cent of votes and gained electoral momentum thereafter, seriously threatening the two-party-plus system. Using data from a panel survey, our analyses reveal some unexpected findings. The intensity of protest voting and the timing of the contest within the national electoral cycle have had a major impact on national politics – with the possibility of eventually producing a party-system change.
Previous literature has argued that MPs selected by party elites in a central and exclusive way are more disciplined than those belonging to parties with more inclusive and participative mechanisms of candidate selection. This hypothesis has been usually tested measuring the existence of voting blocs in parliamentary groups (taking for granted that voting blocs are the result of party discipline) and party rules on candidate selection (ignoring how selection process takes place). By using data from a survey of a representative sample of Spanish members of parliaments, we study the impact of candidate selection on how cohesion in parliamentary groups is built. Results show that where nomination for the electoral list rests on party elites, decisions are imposed through discipline. By contrast, parliamentary group cohesion is achieved through deliberative processes of decision-making in more decentralised and inclusive groups.