Project Project
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Crafting Ethnicity: Ethnic Political Mobilisation in Western Parliamentary Democracies and its Consequences for Democratic Accountability

September 2005 - Summer 2008

The focus of this project is twofold: it is a combined analysis of party behaviour and voting behaviour. On the one hand, the aim is to explain how incumbent ethnic parties use their time in office to craft and to strengthen ethnic identities; in other words, how they establish an electoral clientele for themselves. On the other hand, the aim is to explain how voters judge incumbent ethnic parties. The hypothesis is that incumbent ethnic and class-based parties are differently judged by voters at election time. Incumbent ethnic parties tend to be evaluated according to their defense of the ethno-nationalist programme of national autonomy and/or independence and cultural hegemony. Thus, they are relatively immune against electoral punishment stemming from government performance as conventionally defined in economic terms. Incumbent class-based parties tend to be judged according to their economic performance. This difference in the way voters assess the two types of parties may become a competitive advantage for ethnic parties, especially in those situations in which they share the government with other, non-nationalist parties.
This research will use a combination of individual and aggregate data, and of quantitative and qualitative analysis. It is a comparison of five countries with ethnic minorities geographically concentrated and organized around nationalist parties that have been at some point, during the last 50 years, in office: Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy and Canada.
Keywords: ethnic identity, nationalism, political mobilisation, voting behaviour, democratic accountability