Usurping the Leader: A Comparative Analysis of Party Leadership Changes
Co-authored with Christine Sylvester (University of Binghamton)
Party leaders are seen as the face and central control of a political party’s agenda (also possibly the legislature). This asks the question, with all this power why would a leader ever relinquish their position? Little work has looked comparatively at why leaders step down from office due to data limitations. We contribute to the literature on party politics and leader tenure by providing a new dataset of leadership changes in advanced industrial democracies from 1960 to present. This dataset includes over 800 party leaders, and it codes why leaders step down using primary and secondary sources. With these original data, we investigate the drivers of leadership change across time and space. We find that external as well as internal drivers push leadership change, suggesting that voters and party members have effective power to check leaders. Even though we analyze cases with different party systems and institutions our findings suggest similar outcomes. A leader’s survival is contingent on party member and voter support. These new data provide a unique tool for understanding party organization more broadly.