Dispersed Constituency Democracy: Deterritorializing Representation to Reduce Ethnic Conflict
“Dispersed Constituency Democracy: Deterritorializing Representation to Reduce Ethnic Conflict,” Politics & Society 41 (1): 133-160 (March 2013).
44 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2017
Date Written: March 1, 2013
In multiethnic and multi-religious democracies, the chronic danger is that candidates will engage in “identity politics,” appealing to one locally preponderant ethnic group against other groups. The usual formulas for composing multiethnic democracies — ethnic federalism and/or proportional representation — often exacerbate the problem, ethnicizing political campaigns and carving up the national legislature into ethnic blocs, each beholden only to its own group. An alternative approach — what I call “dispersed constituency democracy” — is to match each legislative seat with a constituency that reflects the overall ethnic composition of the society in question, so as to encourage candidates to reach across ethnic divisions rather than play to locally preponderant ones. I propose a simple way to do this, and explore the likely consequences for national electoral campaigns and legislative dynamics over a range of demographic circumstances. I also consider supplemental devices for protecting minority rights that would be made possible by the proposed constituency system.
Keywords: democracy, multiethnic ethnic violence, constituency, identity politics
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