Are ethnic minority parties held accountable by voters for their participation in governing coalitions in the same way as parties drawing votes from the ethnic majority? Scholars have shown that incumbents in post-communist East Central Europe are routinely punished in elections, particularly in the face of poor economic performance. However, it remains to be seen if ethnic minority political parties are similarly punished by voters when they join coalitions. I argue that ethnic minority parties are less likely to be punished than their fellow coalition members for poor economic performance, enjoying the benefits of a “captive” electorate. Using datasets of electoral and economic data at the national and subnational levels in Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia, I find that ethnic minority parties, on average, gain votes after serving in government, while mainstream parties almost always lose. This finding holds when controlling for economic factors. Additionally, I show that while mainstream incumbents are punished or rewarded accordingly for changes in GDP growth, ethnic minority parties do not see their vote share being impacted. Understanding the unique role of ethnic minority parties in party systems enhances our understanding of the dynamics of political representation, party competition, and coalition building in ethnically heterogeneous states.
Ethnic Heterogeneity and Party Politics in Eastern Europe
This project, an expansion of my dissertation work, seeks to better understand the impact that the presence of politically salient ethnic minority groups has had on party politics in the post-communist world. For some ethnic minority groups, the decision was made to represent themselves through democratically elected political parties. This has led to the enduring presence of these parties in the parliaments of the countries in which they exist. Clearly, the initial mobilization along ethnic lines has created a durable political identity among members of ethnic minority groups. How does this impact our understanding of democratic politics in the region?
I show that ethnicity, long argued to be an important cleavage in post-communist politics, continues to structure how parties compete with one another in many party systems across the region. This structure of political competition varies depending on whether or not a country has a politically salient ethnic minority group, and when present, the minority group’s previous position within the former communist state. In the countries that do have ethnic minority parties, these parties have become enduring members of the party system. Mainstream formateurs have found them to be a constant ally in governing coalitions: ethnic minority parties are more likely to be asked to join a coalition than mainstream parties, even when controlling for other factors that we may expect to contribute to a party’s appeal as coalition partner. Additionally, after serving in government, ethnic minority parties are not punished at the polls, despite consistent punishment of mainstream incumbents. This hints that the ethnification of party systems is here to stay, as ethnic minority parties continue to be successful at mobilizing voters and earning spots in government.
Articles under review
Interethnic Coalitions in Post-Communist Europe
Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, 2019
This article analyzes the formation of governing coalitions in countries where the party system is divided along ethnic lines. After democratic transition, ethnic minority groups may choose to form political parties to represent the specific interests that they have as members of an ethnic minority. The formation of a political party, however, does not translate into meaningful participation in decision-making at the national level for the ethnic minority party. What does put such participation within reach is the inclusion of ethnic minority parties in a governing coalition. In post-communist Europe, in the countries where ethnic minority parties are present and they are not backed by a threatening kin state, they have been a consistent presence in national governments. Why are mainstream parties asking ethnic minority parties to join governing coalitions, despite the continued political salience of ethnic divides? I argue that ethnic minority parties are more appealing coalition partners to formateurs than mainstream parties because they avoid taking strong positions on economic issues, they support a specific ethnic agenda, they are less accountable to the electorate after serving in government than other incumbent parties, and they do not present an electoral threat to the formateur. I find support for this argument, showing that ethnic minority parties are more likely to be asked to join governing coalitions than mainstream parties. There are also more likely to be asked to join when they are ideologically proximate to the formateur compared to mainstream parties that are also ideologically proximate.
Individual Support for the Euro in EU Candidate States
Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, 2016; Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, 2016
How do the EU’s future citizens decide whether or not they support the euro? This study examines the formation of monetary policy preferences by individual people to understand if they are based on egocentric or sociotropic considerations. Four competing hypotheses rooted in economic, identity, and two support theories are tested within the context of opinion towards the European common currency by individuals residing in European Union candidate states. This article presents two important findings: an individual’s preference for the euro is based on how they feel about their country joining the EU in general, and also whether they feel that EU membership will bring them individual benefits. Thus, I find support for both sociotropic and egocentric theories of what determines individual support for adopting the common currency. Although the literature often presents egocentric and sociotropic preferences as mutually exclusive, I find that this is not always the case. Using 2003 survey data from the set of post-communist states that joined the EU in 2004, this study reveals how individuals assess the loss of domestic monetary policy autonomy in the context of democratic transition.
Diverse yet Durable? Interethnic Coalitions and Government Stability
Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, 2020 (canceled) Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, 2020 (scheduled)
Why do we see so much variation in the durability of governments in Europe’s new democracies? This paper investigates the role of ethnic minority parties, which are important political players in the ethnically diverse countries of the region. Ethnic minority parties are unique because of their loyal voter base that continues to support them even after they serve in government. They are therefore different from other incumbent parties which are routinely punished by their voters after having served in government. Does the electoral stability of ethnic minority parties lead to greater stability of the coalitions that they join? I test this hypothesis quantitatively using a dataset of all governments since the early 1990’s in six East Central European states. This study gives us insight into both the impact of ethnic diversity on government stability and the important position played by ethnic minority parties in the party systems in which they are present. It helps us uncover why ethnically heterogeneous countries may experience greater democratic stability – and resist more effectively the illiberal turn across the region marked by the rise of populist parties and democratic backsliding across the region.
Lip Service or Lasting Protection: The Link Between Transitional Justice Mechanisms and Minority Rights (with Claire Greenstein)
Annual Meeting of the European Political Science Association, 2019
Why do some states construct robust minority rights protection regimes when others do not? This paper adds another piece to the puzzle by arguing that states’ transitional justice histories should be considered when examining the development of minority rights regimes. Transitional justice is designed to increase respect for human rights, and so we expect that states that implement transitional justice will also implement more long-term minority rights protection measures than states that eschew transitional justice. Our paper tests this hypothesis by analyzing quantitative data on transitional justice mechanisms and minority rights in Europe and Latin America between 1970 and 2007. By linking transitional justice and respect for minority rights, we deepen our understanding of how minority rights regimes develop and offer the first quantitative assessment of how well transitional justice performs in its goal of safeguarding minority rights.
The Ethnic Dimension: Party Competition in Diversely Diverse Eastern Europe
Association for the Study of Nationalities World Conference, 2018
How does ethnicity, argued to be an important cleavage in democratic politics in East Central Europe, affect what issues political parties come to represent? In this article, I argue that ethnicity is a third dimension of competition, alongside economic and cultural positions. Building on previous work by scholars, I show how this third dimension has varying effects on how parties represent themselves within three distinct set of cases. The first is countries that have politically salient ethnic minorities that are not associated with the former federal center under communism (ie Hungarians in Romania). Here, ethnic politics is dominated by ethnic minoriy parties on one side, and radical right parties on the other. Mainstream parties compete on economic (Left/Right) and cultural (GAL/TAN) positions. The second is countries that have politically salient ethnic minorities that are associated with the former federal center under communism (ie Russians in Latvia). In these cases, ethnic politics is closely associated with economic (Left/Right) and cultural (GAL/TAN) positions. And in the third is countries with no politically salient ethnic minorities (ie Poland). In the first, ethnic politics is dominated by ethnic minority parties on one side, and radical right parties on the other. Within this group, all parties largely differentiate themselves on cultural (GAL/TAN) and ethnic issues. This study sheds light on a third dimension of party competition, highlighting how it is represented by parties in three different sets of cases and enhancing our understanding of the dynamics of party politics in post-communist Europe.