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Regional Parties and Immigration: Insights from Spanish Autonomous Communities

Comparative Politics
Federalism
Party Manifestos
Immigration
Verena Wisthaler
European Academy of Bolzano
Verena Wisthaler
European Academy of Bolzano
Matthias Scantamburlo
Aston University

Abstract

This article explores regional parties’ behaviour in relation to immigration. Party behaviour concerning the issue of immigration challenges traditional party classifications based on economic and socio-cultural conflict dimensions (Odmalm 2012). In a similar vein, party competition at the regional level does not easily fit into those classifications. The multi-level structure of the state and the fact that in many regions the traditional left‒right conflict has evolved alongside a centre-periphery dimension, make regional party systems not only differ substantially from national ones but also between them. The immigration issue at regional level has until now been analysed in relation to the centre-periphery dimension (Franco-Guillen 2015; Jeram 2012) showing an appropriation of the issue by Regionalist parties in order to develop of a form of instrumental nationalism (Wisthaler 2016). This line of scholarship, however, suffers from an exclusive focus on minority regions and Regionalist parties, and lacks first a broader comparative outlook with regions without nationalist aspirations (exception Hepburn 2009) and second, a comparative analysis with other parties acting at the sub-state level, such as regional branches of state-wide parties. This article fills this gap and asks whether regional party competition towards immigration differs between (minority) regions with electorally relevant regionalist parties and regions without such parties. To that end, we compare Spanish regions from 2007 to 2017. Using data from regional party manifestos the article shows that party behaviour towards immigration is not only mediated by party-specific factors, but also by the diversity of regional contexts, which are characterized by particular structural, institutional and political differences.