Faces of Science: Fransje Molenaar
As of February 2015, Fransje Molenaar, a PhD candidate at Leiden University's Institute of Political Science, is one of the 'Faces of Science'. Via the eponymous on-line platform she will assist the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in enthusing students for science.
On 'Faces of Science' young, talented PhD's offer a look into their lives as researchers. The platform is part of 'Kennislink', a Dutch portal for communicating and popularising science.
Political scientist Fransje Molenaar has just joined the ranks of the 'academic ambassadors' for the KNAW and 'Kennislink'. By publishing blogs, articles, and multimedia content, she will introduce young students and others to the world of research in an engaging manner.
During her time as a PhD student at Leiden University, Fransje Molenaar has engaged in the many different facets of conducting scientific research: she interviewed Latin American presidents and (other) politicians as part of her research on political reforms, she was awarded a United Nations Development Programme grant to conduct a study of campaign financing in the 2012 Mexican presidential elections, and she published various articles in international academic journals and other professional magazines. Such experience perfectly matches KNAW’s profile for its 'Faces of Science'.
Fransje Molenaar’s research focuses on the evolution of the regulation of political parties—better known as party law—in Latin America. Although the region is known for its political systems dominated by strong, personalistic leaders, almost all Latin American countries have adopted far-reaching party laws over the course of the last two decades. One intriguing aspect of these laws is that they seemingly constrain political parties and their leaders.
Molenaar investigates how this development can be explained: are these laws attempts to curtail the power of strong leaders, do politicians use these laws to obstruct their competitors and to provide themselves with access to resources, or is party law nothing more than a ‘paper tiger’ designed to address popular demands for change in a symbolic manner?