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(Re)balancing and the role of (Statewide) Party Agency: the UK, Spain and India in comparative perspective

Wilfried Swenden
University of Edinburgh
Wilfried Swenden
University of Edinburgh
Simon Toubeau
University of Nottingham
Open Panel

Abstract

In the last decade many scholars have studied the link between the nationalization of the party system and the migration of authority between levels in the state (especially Caramani, Chhibber and Kollman, Mainwaring, Schakel). Yet, with some exceptions (Detterbeck and Hepburn 2010, Toubeau 2011) a comparative understanding of the role that parties have played in this process is still largely missing . This is surprising given that territorial reforms are mostly the result of explicit party agency and that role is more often than not fulfilled by national parties which tend to hold most political power at the centre. Insofar as the role of party agency has been addressed in a comparative context, it has focused primarily on the influence of autonomist or regionalist parties, less so on that of statewide or national parties. This paper seeks to fill this gap. It will attempt to answer not only the question what role statewide parties have played in (re)balancing federal systems, but also why statewide parties in some multi-level polities have been more accommodative to re-balancing concerns than others (variation across multi-level polities), and why within the same multi-polity different statewide parties may have adopted different strategies. To this effect the paper draws from the comparative experience of the UK, Spain and India (Belgium may be included as a control case due its absence of statewide parties).