Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

National Identity and Ethno-Regional Party Types

Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

National Identity and Ethno-Regional Party Types

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

As globalisation and anti-globalisation movements shaped much of public debate during the last ten years, global issues have taken a central place in research. Tarrow has largely analysed these new cycles of contention and has pointed to a vital group of activists, which he labelled "rooted cosmopolitans" (1). These people hold global ideas but remain deeply attached to and rooted in their local community and always use the prism of their community to gauge change and values.

This phenomenon of grasping the global context through the local prism is not entirely new (Tarrow mentions his father as a historic example) and can be seen in the ethno-regional parties which emerged in the wake of the civil rights movements as local interpretations of global ideas. (2)

2. The identity structure as a predictor of Ethno-Regional Party types (3)

Research on ethno-regional parties in established Western democracies has tended to focus on the supply side that is to say on party programmes. In this article we try to show that programmes depend largely on the demand side, that is to say, the configurations of identity in their homelands and the campaign opportunities they offer. Our analysis will focus on individual declared identities (national/ regional) in four specific cases.

These cases have been selected to cover a broad range of successful ethno-regional parties operating in stable Western European democracies without ethnic terrorism or warfare. We consider a successful party a party that has had elected representatives in at least two successive general elections during the time-frame of our analysis (1991-2003) and has been taking part in elections for at least ten years without hiatus. We limit ourselves to stable democracies in Western Europe (i.e. dating back at least to the immediate aftermath of the Second World War) that have developed a solidified party system long before our observation period to ensure that Lipset and Rokkan's cleavage analysis including the freezing hypothesis are applicable to our cases. On practical grounds we had to limit the analysis to parties polling enough support to be measured in standard national polling samples.

Our sample tries then to represent a maximum diversity of country party systems, political positioning inside the party system and on general policy, position on de Winter's scale and identity configuration.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) works in the classic bi-partisan political system of Great Britain and can be seen as a potential governing party in Scotland. It is generally regarded as being social-democratic on most issues. DeWinter classifies the SNP as Euro-federalist party. As we will show in Scotland, regional identity dominates national identity.

Plaid Cymru (PC) belongs in the same political system as the SNP, it positions itself as a possible partner in government. It is generally considered to be close to green parties on most issues. DeWinter's classification of PC is Euro-federalist based on its programme while its actual policies seem closer to a national-federalist party. Welsh identity is, on first impression, close to a conflicting situation with national identity although closer examination changes this assessment.

The Vlaams Blok/ Vlaams Belang (VB) evolves in multi-partisan Belgium and positions_itself as an anti-system party. It is generally considered to be right-wing extremist. In DeWinter's classification the VB is ranked as secessionist. Flemish identity is in a close confrontation with national identity.

The Christlich Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU) is part of the German political system that Duverger called a two-and-a-half party system as although it is multi-partisan it generally operates as if it were bi-partisan. The CSU is, on the one side, Bavaria's natural governing party (being in government since 1957 and only recently forced to enter a coalition after 35 years of absolute majorities) and on the other hand it is closely allied to the Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU) and thus a regular member of German governing coalitions. …

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