The linkage between party mandates and legislative outputs is at the heart of representative government. Using an attention-based model, this article tests: the existence of a mandate effect; whether incumbents have incentives to uptake issues emphasised in their main competitors’ platforms; and whether the possibility of government alternation impacts on these two mechanisms. The analysis relies on datasets of the Italian Agendas Project recording the issue content of party manifestos and laws covering the period 1983-2012. The results of the time series cross-sectional models lend support to the presence of a mandate effect in Italy, a mechanism which was strengthened after the introduction of alternation in government after the 1994 elections. Additionally, opposition issues may have an impact in the legislative agenda, but only when considering the legislation initiated by MPs. Our findings have important implications for our understanding of the impact of government alternation expectations, a general institutional feature underlying - with varying intensity - all democracies, on the functioning of democratic representation.
- electoral mandate
- issue attention