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Parties Matter, Right? The Presence of Ethnic Minorities in a Party and their Substantive Representation

Migration
Political Parties
Representation
Party Members
Bram Wauters
Ghent University
Bram Wauters
Ghent University
Floor Eelbode
Ghent University
Karen Celis
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
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Abstract

The increased attention for the political representation of ethnic minority people in contemporary democracies has evoked a large number of studies on their descriptive and substantive representation in parliaments and local councils. In studies on substantive representation, descriptive characteristics (most prominent ethnic origin) are considered important factors stimulating this kind of representation. We will adapt this rationale to parties and will investigate whether the ethnic composition of a local party (presence of ethnic minorities in the membership file or the party’s executive board) affects the extent to which ethnic minority interests are defended by that local party. Shifting the research focus to parties is highly relevant, as parties play a crucial role for ethnic minority representation (both in descriptive and substantive terms). Regarding the latter, it are parties that enable or constrain individual representatives in representing substantive interests, that decide on including their concerns in the party’s election manifesto and by putting these interests forward in government negotiations. Our paper focusses thus on substantive representation of ethnic minorities by parties and more in particular on which factors influence the extent to which parties undertake this kind of representation. Apart from the party’s ethnic composition, our analysis will comprise variables related to context in which parties operate (e.g. the strength of the extreme-right, the composition of the population) and party characteristics (e.g. ideological orientation, government participation). For our empirical analysis, we rely upon a broad-scale survey of local party leaders set up within the PARTIREP framework (http://www.partirep.eu/) in the run-up of the local elections of 2012 in Flanders. By building on existing insights about descriptive and substantive representation in parliaments and transposing them to political parties, we are opening new arenas for research on ethnic minority representation the following years, which is one of the aims of this workshop.