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Decentralization: An Institutional Strategy of Appeasement
Unformatted Document Text:  10 To What Extent and When? If, in contrast to the approaches of Garman et al. and O’Neill (and Alesina and Stepan for that matter), decentralization is a strategy to bolster a party’s national electoral support, mainstream parties will only decentralize when they face regionalist parties jeopardizing their national-level electoral strength. To what extent and when a party advocates decentralizing reforms depends on three factors: how many votes the ethnoterritorial or regionalist party is taking from the mainstream party, the vulnerability of the mainstream party to that vote loss, and the organization of the mainstream party. 10 First, the strategizing party will only offer concessions to an ethnoterritorial or regionalist party that is a threat, defined as attracting voters from the mainstream party. If the single-issue party is not stealing many or any of the mainstream party’s voters, then it is likely that decentralization is not a popular position among the mainstream party’s electorate, and policy appeasement would fail to result in a net gain of voters for the mainstream party. 11 Second, the ethnoterritorial party threat must be jeopardizing the electoral security of the mainstream party. Decentralization will be employed when the votes that the regionalist party steals are concentrated so as to threaten the seat attainment of the mainstream party. How this scenario arises depends on the specific electoral system. Under single-member plurality systems, for instance, this can occur when votes are lost in districts that the mainstream party holds by a slim margin. And in both single-member plurality and more proportional electoral systems, this 10 Although Stepan (1999; 2001) also argues that decentralization is a tool for governments to address the regional autonomy demands of ethnoterritorial parties, his “holding-together federalism” argument rests on a government’s concern about maintaining country unity, rather than its party’s electoral support. Thus, in contrast to my hypothesis that a party’s support for decentralization turns on the degree of electoral threat it faces, he expects there to exist a cross-party political consensus around decentralization (Stepan 2001: 324, Table 15.1). 11 In this scenario, the pursuit of decentralization may alienate more current voters than the mainstream party gains from the regionalist party, undermining the use of decentralization to bolster its electoral strength. Parties might adopt decentralization despite expectations that it will lead to a net loss of votes in the rare case that the votes gained result in the winning of seats and the votes lost do not jeopardize the party’s hold of other seats.

Authors: Meguid, Bonnie.
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10
To What Extent and When?
If, in contrast to the approaches of Garman et al. and O’Neill (and Alesina and Stepan for
that matter), decentralization is a strategy to bolster a party’s national electoral support,
mainstream parties will only decentralize when they face regionalist parties jeopardizing their
national-level electoral strength. To what extent and when a party advocates decentralizing
reforms depends on three factors: how many votes the ethnoterritorial or regionalist party is
taking from the mainstream party, the vulnerability of the mainstream party to that vote loss, and
the organization of the mainstream party.
10
First, the strategizing party will only offer concessions to an ethnoterritorial or regionalist
party that is a threat, defined as attracting voters from the mainstream party. If the single-issue
party is not stealing many or any of the mainstream party’s voters, then it is likely that
decentralization is not a popular position among the mainstream party’s electorate, and policy
appeasement would fail to result in a net gain of voters for the mainstream party.
11
Second, the ethnoterritorial party threat must be jeopardizing the electoral security of the
mainstream party. Decentralization will be employed when the votes that the regionalist party
steals are concentrated so as to threaten the seat attainment of the mainstream party. How this
scenario arises depends on the specific electoral system. Under single-member plurality systems,
for instance, this can occur when votes are lost in districts that the mainstream party holds by a
slim margin. And in both single-member plurality and more proportional electoral systems, this
10
Although Stepan (1999; 2001) also argues that decentralization is a tool for governments to address the regional
autonomy demands of ethnoterritorial parties, his “holding-together federalism” argument rests on a government’s
concern about maintaining country unity, rather than its party’s electoral support. Thus, in contrast to my hypothesis
that a party’s support for decentralization turns on the degree of electoral threat it faces, he expects there to exist a
cross-party political consensus around decentralization (Stepan 2001: 324, Table 15.1).
11
In this scenario, the pursuit of decentralization may alienate more current voters than the mainstream party gains
from the regionalist party, undermining the use of decentralization to bolster its electoral strength. Parties might
adopt decentralization despite expectations that it will lead to a net loss of votes in the rare case that the votes gained
result in the winning of seats and the votes lost do not jeopardize the party’s hold of other seats.


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