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The Political Representation of Citizens of Immigrant Origin in Spain, Italy and Greece

Elites
Parliaments
Political Leadership
Political Parties
Representation
Immigration
Daniela Vintila
Université de Liège
Daniela Vintila
Université de Liège
Laura Morales
Sciences Po Paris
Luis Ramiro
University of Leicester
Simona Guerra
University of Surrey
Angeliki Konstantinidou
Sciences Po Paris
Gabriella Lazaridis
University of Leicester

Abstract

During the 1990s and the 2000s, Spain, Italy and Greece experienced a considerable growth of immigration. In just two decades, the immigrant population has multiplied more than fivefold in all three countries and by the end of the 2000s, residents of immigrant origin already accounted for 7 per cent of the overall population in Italy, 8 per cent in Greece and 13 per cent in Spain, respectively. This accelerated demographic change has put pressure on the democratic representative system of these countries, with large numbers of new residents and new citizens wishing to have a voice in the direction of collective affairs. Yet, their possibilities of securing political representation might have been constrained not only by the institutional and partisan setting in these “new” countries of immigration in Europe, but also by the fact that the public opinion has become increasingly concerned about immigration and immigrants’ integration in all three cases. As we will show, the levels of descriptive representation of citizens of immigrant origin (CIOs) are still very reduced and quite distant to those found in other European countries, thus pointing to a common ‘South European’ pattern. The paper examines how the above-mentioned institutional and societal factors have affected parties’ strategies in relation to the incorporation of CIOs into elected office and how issues relating to timing, the size of the CIO electorate (as opposed to the CIO resident population), and party competition dynamics might help us understand the descriptive representation gaps. The paper further explores their substantive political representation, by systematically comparing the behaviour of CIO and non-CIO elected representatives in the parliamentary arena in Spain, Italy and Greece.