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Through the revolving door: do parliamentarians anticipate attractive careers elsewhere?

Political scientist Tim Mickler (Leiden University) receives a grant from The Dutch Research Council (NWO) for his quantitative research into post-parliamentary positions of parliamentarians. The grant is a result of the SGW Open Competition XS, with the aim of stimulating innovative scientific research.

Visible trend in representative democracies

Mickler’s project was prompted by a trend visible in many representative democracies: parliamentarians remain in parliament for a shorter period of time and have less and less experience. ‘In Western Europe, more than 4 out of 10 parliamentarians leave when their first term is over and new elections are held. Membership of Parliament is no longer a vocation for life, but an intermediate step in your career. But what are those politicians going to do after their parliamentary term?’ 

Mickler gives an example of a former spokesperson for Transport, who suddenly became a lobbyist for that sector after his parliamentary term. This suggests that parliamentarians are already preparing for their post-parliamentary career during their membership in parliament. Such parliamentarians, in the eyes of the public, are not committed primarily to the public interest, but rather to their own career opportunities. According to Mickler, this image is disturbing and harmful: ‘The loss of confidence in the integrity of parliamentarians erodes the basis of representative democracy.’ 

Political scientist Tim Mickler (University of Leiden) - Photo: Ruben Verheul

Little systematic research available

But is the image of the self-serving, careerist parliamentarians really justified? It is based on anecdotes and individual cases, but there is little systematic research into the post-parliamentary careers of parliamentarians. According to Mickler, we do not know where parliamentarians end up after their term in parliament, and certainly not whether they use their time in parliament as a springboard for later career opportunities. Therefore, Mickler is going to investigate the effect of parliamentary behaviour on post-parliamentary careers.  

Statistic analysis of post-parliamentary careers

More specifically, Mickler is going to collect data about the post-parliamentary careers for all former members of the Dutch Tweede Kamer (parliament): 'In doing so, I look at both the position they hold and the sector they work in (e.g. defence, agriculture, health).' A central question here is whether parliamentarians actually anticipate post-parliamentary careers by acting accordingly during their term in parliament.  

Mickler's research carries the name Through the revolving door? An analysis of post-parliamentary careers in the Netherlands. This research not only contributes to the scientific discussion in this area, but also directly relates to voters' concerns about unethical political behavior. 

About the NWO SGW Open Competition

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) ensures quality and innovation in science and is one of the most important science funders in the Netherlands. They organize various competitions within different domains. Of these, the SSH Open Competition XS is for smaller research projects within the Social Sciences and Humanities (SGW) domain. This concerns scholarships of up to 50,000 euros. This can be used, for example, for the appointment of new staff or for expenses related to their research. 

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