Extremist Outbidding in Ethnic Party Systems is Not Inevitable: Tribune Parties in Northern Ireland

LSE PSPE Working Paper No. 6

41 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2007 Last revised: 2 Jan 2008

See all articles by Paul L. Mitchell

Paul L. Mitchell

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Geoffrey Evans

University of Oxford - Nuffield College of Medicine

Brendan O'Leary

University of Pennsylvania; Queen's University Belfast; Moore Institute NUI Galway

Date Written: October 2006

Abstract

Ethnic out-bidding models correctly suggest that democratic stability is much more difficult to achieve in divided societies with fully mobilised ethnic party systems. But they are not correct when they predict that ethnic party systems inevitably lead to perpetual extremist outbidding leading to inevitable democratic collapse. We argue that the incentives of powersharing institutions combined with Downsian vote-seeking motivations can encourage the development of electoral strategies based on 'ethnic tribune appeals', where parties combine robust ethnic identity representation with increased pragmatism over political resource allocation. We test these arguments in Northern Ireland and show that though evidence of direct vote-switching from moderate parties to ostensibly 'extreme' parties is prima facie consistent with the outbidding thesis, attitudinal convergence between the nationalist and unionist communities on the main political issues is not. The recent success of the DUP and Sinn Féin can instead be explained by these parties' increased moderation in combination with their 'tribune' appeals.

Suggested Citation

Mitchell, Paul L. and Evans, Geoffrey and O'Leary, Brendan, Extremist Outbidding in Ethnic Party Systems is Not Inevitable: Tribune Parties in Northern Ireland (October 2006). LSE PSPE Working Paper No. 6. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1077760 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1077760

Paul L. Mitchell (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

United Kingdom

Geoffrey Evans

University of Oxford - Nuffield College of Medicine ( email )

New Road
Oxford, OX1 1NF
United Kingdom

Brendan O'Leary

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

3440 Market Street, Suite 300
Room 308
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
2155730645 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/polisci/people/standing-faculty/brendan-oleary

Queen's University Belfast ( email )

University Road
Belfast BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland

Moore Institute NUI Galway ( email )

University Road
Galway, Connaught
Ireland

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