The Representation of Ethnic Groups in National Legislatures

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 30 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Didier RUEDIN, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
The political integration of ethnic minority groups is a key aspect of democratic governance and the legitimacy of regimes. This paper examines the extent to which ethnic minority groups are present in national legislatures – levels of descriptive representation. The comparative analysis covers over 115 democracies and focuses on individual legislators rather than ethnic parties. Both institutional and cultural variables are considered, and to a limited extent associations over time are explored. Preliminary results suggest that, once controlling for the ethnic make-up of society and cultural attitudes, electoral aspects seem of little significance. This is in contrast to what much of the literature suggests. The results cast doubt on the argument that the electoral system on its own – PR systems are often highlighted – is dominant in shaping political representation. Discussing implementation issues, the paper questions the effectiveness of institutional engineering in contexts where cultural attitudes are not supportive of the political inclusion of ethnic minority groups. It appears that levels of ethnic group representation are best explained with cultural variables, in particular liberal attitudes toward marginalized groups in society.