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Decentralization: An Institutional Strategy of Appeasement
Unformatted Document Text:  12 While these institutional features of a party may be relatively fixed in the short term, changes in the organization over time have implications for the specific timing of decentralization. In sum, I argue that a nationally oriented mainstream party has incentives to decentralize if the degree of threat posed by an ethnoterritorial party, and thus the potential gain to the mainstream party of attracting its voters, is large enough to increase the net electoral security of the mainstream party in the national legislative arena. The extent of the reforms offered (i.e., political or the more extensive political and fiscal decentralization) is expected to increase with the level of ethnoterritorial threat and the vulnerability of the mainstream party. Conversely, the mainstream party has few incentives to decentralize if it prioritizes subnational electoral control or if the expected national benefits are small. And even if there are electoral incentives to decentralize, the reforms will only be implemented when party power is centralized at the national level and when there is a high level of party discipline. Decentralization in Great Britain: Asymmetrical Appeasement of Regionalist Party Demands The rest of this article tests the merits of this theory by exploring variation in the degree and timing of decentralization policies across regions of Great Britain. 12 This set of cases is attractive for several reasons. First, Great Britain was an unlikely decentralizer, having had a long history of centralized government. Consistent with a common premise of the set of strategic theories of decentralization discussed here, the decisions by the Labour Party to decentralize (and the Conservatives not to), thus, were not mere reflections of the country’s or even the adopting political party’s core philosophy or ideology; the policies on decentralization 12 Northern Ireland also has a regional assembly, the current incarnation of which has devolved legislative and executive powers. However, due to its distinct, violent and non-comparable history and political environment vis-à-vis the rest of the UK, and the irredentist and thus, international nature of its regionalist demands, Northern Ireland is excluded from the analysis, and the focus is restricted to Great Britain.

Authors: Meguid, Bonnie.
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12
While these institutional features of a party may be relatively fixed in the short term, changes in
the organization over time have implications for the specific timing of decentralization.
In sum, I argue that a nationally oriented mainstream party has incentives to decentralize
if the degree of threat posed by an ethnoterritorial party, and thus the potential gain to the
mainstream party of attracting its voters, is large enough to increase the net electoral security of
the mainstream party in the national legislative arena. The extent of the reforms offered (i.e.,
political or the more extensive political and fiscal decentralization) is expected to increase with
the level of ethnoterritorial threat and the vulnerability of the mainstream party. Conversely, the
mainstream party has few incentives to decentralize if it prioritizes subnational electoral control
or if the expected national benefits are small. And even if there are electoral incentives to
decentralize, the reforms will only be implemented when party power is centralized at the
national level and when there is a high level of party discipline.

Decentralization in Great Britain: Asymmetrical Appeasement of Regionalist Party
Demands

The rest of this article tests the merits of this theory by exploring variation in the degree
and timing of decentralization policies across regions of Great Britain.
12
This set of cases is
attractive for several reasons. First, Great Britain was an unlikely decentralizer, having had a
long history of centralized government. Consistent with a common premise of the set of
strategic theories of decentralization discussed here, the decisions by the Labour Party to
decentralize (and the Conservatives not to), thus, were not mere reflections of the country’s or
even the adopting political party’s core philosophy or ideology; the policies on decentralization
12
Northern Ireland also has a regional assembly, the current incarnation of which has devolved legislative and
executive powers. However, due to its distinct, violent and non-comparable history and political environment vis-à-
vis the rest of the UK, and the irredentist and thus, international nature of its regionalist demands, Northern Ireland
is excluded from the analysis, and the focus is restricted to Great Britain.


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