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Jessica Piombo, "Political Parties, Social Demographics and the Decline of Ethnic Mobilization in South Africa, 1994-99," Party Politics, 11 (July, 2005), 447-470.

First Paragraph:
Are ethnically divided societies doomed to replicate their societal divisions in the political arena? Is it possible to prevent the emergence of ethnic political parties in a society with deep communal cleavages? If it is possible, what are the most efficient mechanisms for achieving this goal? The effectiveness of constitutional engineering in mitigating the effects of communal divisions has been the subject of great debate in both academic and policy circles. Discussions often hinge on the type of electoral system most appropriate to prevent the emergence of divisive ethnic conflict in divided societies.1 Within this debate, analysts have devoted most of their attention to the relationship between ethnic divisions, electoral systems, and the nature of political parties and political competition. For example, in 1985, Donald Horowitz posed the question of whether imposing an electoral system based on party-list proportional representation (PR) with large multi-member constituencies and no cut-offs for minority parties could prevent the emergence of ethnic parties in a plural society (1985: 649). Posed offhandedly within a large chapter on political parties and ethnic conflict, Horowitz provided a short answer to the negative

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Racial and ethnic groups in South Africa
Table 2. Self-identification of South Africans classified by racial groups
Figure 1. Racial composition of class measured by occupation category

Last Paragraph:
Overall, the analysis suggests that more consideration needs to be given to the ways in which various political institutions interact within a political system to shape the lines of political competition. These interactions may produce unanticipated and counter-intuitive results. In many societies, whether deeply divided or not, there actually may be far more room for constitutional and institutional engineering to structure the lines along which political competition will develop than has been discussed. The issue is not merely proportional versus constituency based electoral systems, but also concerns federal systems, the tiers of power for which parties will compete, and the relative size of communal groups in a country.