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As I understand it, an elected representative is autonomous, and may vote in the legislature as they see fit - even if their opinion differs from the popular opinion of their constituents (as opposed to delegates).

If a representative is elected under D'Hondt, how should they decide to vote in the legislature?

Based on the platform of their party at the time of their election?

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Many constitutions of representative democracies or republics state that elected representatives only have to answer to their own conscience. They are supposed to have no duty to either their constituents nor to their party.

But in the real world, any representatives who were elected through party lists have strong incentives to stay loyal to their party line. Why?

  • If the party decides who gets on the list, then any illoyal representatives can be removed from it in the next election. The representative might also face other consequences on personnel decisions. They might not get selected for important party-internal committees or (depending on who decides that) important parliamentary committees. And they might not get nominated for important positions like minister positions or party-internal positions.
  • A parliamentary faction which always votes according to party line will have an easier time to get their political ideas realized than one which allows dissent. If a representative votes against their party on one issue, then other representatives might follow suit on other issues which are important to that representative. And if the opposition has a better faction discipline, then the representative can not expect that dissenters from the other party will compensate for that. That creates an incentive for representatives to demonstrate loyalty and expect loyalty from their fellow party members.
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  • Thank you. Do you know if MEPs in the European Parliament can vote with their conscience, or do they have to follow a whip?
    – 52d6c6af
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 16:44
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    @Ben no one has to follow a whip, in the EP or UK Parliament or any other western democracy no matter how they are elected. They just have to accept the consequences of not doing so.
    – Jontia
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 17:57
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    Not terribly surprising, but empirical research finds that "in those parliamentary groups where nomination rests on the party elite, decisions are imposed by the party" ecpr.eu/Filestore/PaperProposal/… Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 19:29

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