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Political Science in Europe

Regionalist Parties and National Government Performance in a Multitier System

Bonnie Field
Bentley University
Bonnie Field
Bentley University

The paper evaluates the effect of regionalist parties, defined as those that present candidates in a limited number of territorial districts and that seek to represent primarily the interests of a regional subset of citizens, on the stability and performance of national parliamentary governments. The goal of this paper is to illuminate various factors, emanating from the multilevel state structure, that impact the performance of minority governments in Spain. At first glance, a heavily decentralized political system with a variety of regionalist parties, some that advocate greater regional autonomy or outright independence from the Spanish state, might appear to militate against effective national governance in times of minority government. However, the paper demonstrates that the decentralized state and regionalist parties operating at multiple state levels, in general, work in favor of minority government stability and governability.

The factors that facilitate a national minority government’s ability to actually govern include: (1) the distinct motivations of regionalist parties compared to the national or statewide parties; (2) the frequent need for parties to exchange support to form and sustain governments across state levels; (3) the ability to make policy concessions that provide territorial benefits; and (4) the limits of regionalist parties’ power and collective action at the national level.

Simply stated, this paper argues that there are ample incentives for regionalist parties to support a minority government, though it also points out that the incentives vary depending on the regionalist party’s governing status at the regional level, e.g. governing in minority, majority, out of office, and so forth.
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