Could the type of political institution used at the local level impact the balance of power in national politics? If so, how? This paper argues that mass parties are more successful in national-level elections when party-centered governance institutions, such as partisan elections, are used at the local level. Mass parties rely on members and branches as their main electoral strategy, which means that using local institutions that support this approach yields better electoral results, also in national elections. To test this hypothesis, I take advantage of a local governance reform in early 20th century Sweden that made the local institutions dependent on a population threshold. I find that municipalities that used elections and representatives for local governance had higher support for the Labor Party in national elections. This result demonstrates that local-level political institutions can significantly impact national-level politics with consequences for institutional reform outcomes and citizen welfare.
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