New publication on micro-minorities in power-sharing systems

Ethnic power-sharing is often as exclusionary as it is inclusive. As it relies on a fixed list of groups who are to be empowered, for example by giving them preferential access to government positions and veto rights, it necessarily treats different ethnic groups unequally. However, how does it affect the political outcomes of micro-minorities, who are the numerically most vulnerable groups in a society? Existing case study evidence indicates that inter-ethnic peace is often “bought” at the price of further marginalizing micro-minorities, in the most drastic cases by institutionally excluding them from access to government office altogether. A prominent example for this has been the Sejdić and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina case, which has highlighted the institutionalized discrimination against Bosnian citizens of Jewish or Roma background, who are a priori excluded from access to Presidial office and to Bosnia’s upper house.

Are these exclusionary tendencies part of a wider, systematic phenomenon, whereby ethnic power-sharing increases discrimination against micro-minorities? And would they fare better under alternative, more liberal power-sharing institutions?

In this article, I argue that institutional “engineers” face a crucial trade-off. On the one hand, ethnic (or corporate) power-sharing institutions decrease inter-ethnic inequality by strongly empowering minorities “who make it on the list” of accommodated groups. This brings their political outcomes closer to the ones of the majority or plurality group. However, at the same time, these institutions often “leave behind” micro-minorities, either by institutionally excluding them in the first place or by failing to empower them effectively. However, on the other hand, liberal power-sharing has more equal, but weaker, effects across minority groups. While not discriminating against micro-minorities, liberal power-sharing is thus conversely not equally well-suited to close the gap between the majority/plurality group and the overall minority population effectively.

In the article, I make use of a new dataset, the Constitutional Power-Sharing dataset (CPSD, see here) to test these claims. This provides me with group-based data on power-sharing institutions in more than 100 countries for the time period between 1946 and 2013.

For detailed findings, check out the article here (online first)! It is part of a wider, exciting special issue highlighting the inclusion-amid-exclusion dilemma in power-sharing systems (see here for the introduction by Timofey Agarin and Allison McCulloch).

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