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Martino Mazzoleni, "The Saliency of Regionalization in Party Systems: A Comparative Analysis of Regional Decentralization in Party Manifestos," Party Politics," 15 (March, 2009), 199-218.

First paragraph:
This article deals with the relevance that regional decentralization has had for European parties in their programmatic discourse since World War II. Democratic party competition is widely regarded as a game between opposing views and projects. Yet, in a long-term perspective, the history of party rivalries about regionalization has been rather peculiar, reflecting a considerable degree of convergence and even emulation. All major party actors in Italy, France, Belgium, Britain and Spain claim nowadays to be supportive of political decentralization. What are the reasons for this convergence? To answer this question requires a comprehensive study of relevant party documents and declarations, of the actual behaviour of parties in the legislature, of their patterns of electoral support and other variables.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Average share of manifesto units devoted to decentralization and centralization (percent)
Figure 1. Decentralization in British party manifestos, 1945-2001
Figure 2. Italy: decentralization in party manifestos, 1946-87
Figure 3. Italy: decentralization in party manifestos, 1987-2001
Figure 4. Decentralization in French party manifestos, 1945-2002

Last Paragraph:
These empirical findings are consistent with recent research addressing the relationship between party organization and party systems, and government centralization. Thorlakson (2009, this issue) correlates the territorial architecture of states with parties' internal organization, while Chhibber and Kollman (2004) argue that the locus of political power influences the level, either national or local, at which parties organize, so that national political parties prosper when political and economic authority rests with the national government, and lose out to regional and provincial parties when government is decentralized. This article has focused on the public positions adopted by parties on the territorial issue, and has found that most parties vary their focus on decentralization according to political and electoral logics, suggesting that institutional reforms are closely intertwined with the competitive logics of party politics in advanced democracies. Further research in this area, in particular more in-depth analysis of party discourses on decentralization, is essential to confirm or qualify the findings of this preliminary analysis.

Last updated March 2009