7. Is Sweden Different?
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101 7. Is Sweden Different? chapter seven I contended in the introduction that Sweden may serve as an example of a political system where career ambition is not an effective motivator. What makes the case of Sweden interesting is that if career ambition is manifest in the parliament, there is good reason to assume that ambition is also an effective motivator in other parliamentary systems. We have now been able to confirm that there are MPs in the parliament who engage in long-term, committed, and goal-oriented career endeavors—and who achieve prominent political positions. In other words, the ambition to achieve career success makes a difference in a party-centric system like Sweden’s. As the data have shown, 18 percent of the MPs in Sweden’s parliament report an interest in a political career. In this chapter, I will take steps toward a comparative analysis with regard to the career ambitions of MPs in other European parliaments. The ambitions of Swedish parliamentarians will thus be put into an international context. The first question to be answered is whether 18 percent is a little or a lot from the European perspective. The second general question is whether there are contextual factors that affect the proportion of ambitious MPs in the parliaments. In the event that variations exist among the parliaments, this will lead us to a discussion that relates to how institutional and cultural conditions affect the proportion of ambitious MPs. The chapter is accordingly split into two parts. In the first, we will study the Swedish case by putting it into a European context.The task of the second part will be to use the results uncovered in the first part to generate and then test hypotheses related to any similarities and differences between the parliaments. MATERIAL The international research project Political Representation in Europe (PRE) provides an opportunity to compare Swedish MPs with the parliamentarians of other countries. Between 1996 and 1997, surveys were sent to all national parliamentarians in eleven EU member states. The question asked of the Swedish MPs about their future plans was also put to their European colleagues. The eleven countries included in PRE are Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. The response frequency for the study was 37.6 percent (N = 1,412). By international comparison, the Swedish political elite are exceptionally accommodating. Sweden had the highest response frequency 102 chapter seven in the PRE study, at 90 percent; Italy had the lowest, at 15 percent.1 The level of representation is acceptable despite considerable variation in the distribution of responses.2 Researchers from various parts of Europe have already studied the parliamentarians ’ PRE responses from several discrete perspectives, resulting in The European Parliament, the National Parliaments, and European Integration (Katz and Wessels 1999) and Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union (Schmitt and Thomassen 1999), as well as other publications. Thus far, however, no scholars have turned their attention to the parliamentarians’ career ambitions. PRE provides a unique opportunity to study the parliamentarians’ ambitions, but the material nevertheless has limitations. One such limitation is the number of parliaments included in the study. While eleven Western European parliaments is not a poor sample, it is somewhat incomplete as a statistical basis for studying contextual explanations. Accordingly, some caution is called for with regard to interpretation of the results. Based on the material that exists, however, it is possible to make certain exploratory attempts. POLITICAL AMBITION IN A EUROPEAN CONTEXT Are there variations among the parliaments in the occurrence of ambitious MPs? Is the 18 percent found in the Swedish parliament a lot, a little, or somewhere in between? To answer these questions, I have used the same points of departure for the international comparison as in earlier chapters. The MPs who have indicated an interest in a position such as cabinet minister and/or positions within the EU organization are categorized as ambitious. The question on the international survey read, “What would you like to be ten years from now? Please tick as many as appropriate.” Table 7.1 shows how the percentage of ambitious parliamentarians is distributed within each parliament. The parliament with the highest proportion of ambitious MPs is at the top of the table. We can see that the proportion of ambitious MPs varies among the parliaments . Judging by Table 7.1, Sweden has relatively few ambitious MPs. Along with Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Germany, Sweden is part of a...