Women’s Political Representation in the European Regions: The impact from Corruption and Bad Governance

While much of the literature on descriptive representation of women focuses on the formal role played by political parties and institutions, a growing body of research emphasizes the impact of informal institu-tions. We build on this scholarship and hypothesize that, as corruption and partiality in government favor clientelism and advancement of candidates with access to traditional networks, this will have a negative impact on the proportion of elected women. We test this argument on a new, as yet unused dataset on locally elected councilors in 167 regions of 18 European countries. Using a novel measure of regional corruption and quality of government, we perform a multi-level analysis with several regional-level as well as national-level control variables. As such, this article is one of the first to study the variance of women’s local political representation within countries in a comparative perspective. The results suggest that levels of corruption, partiality, and ineffectiveness of government substantially affect the proportion of female councilors. The article contributes by illustrating how bad governance is an important determinant for women’s political presence in contemporary Europe and concludes that hindrances to female representa-tion are not eliminated by the reformation of formal/organizational factors alone.