Ethnic Parties and National Unity is a three-year project examining the effect of ethnic group-specific party campaigning on ethnic relations and social cohesion. We are interested in whether and how the presence of ethnic parties affects the way people perceive the ethnic “other” and the nation. Is this effect positive, because ethnic parties as emancipatory vehicles increase the inclusion of ethnic minorities in the population? Or is it negative, because ethnic parties emphasize and politicize ethnic differences?
We address these questions in three parts. First, we seek to establish whether general links exist between ethnic parties and national unity, using a large-scale comparative analysis of both party characteristics and survey data. In the second part, we conduct in-depth studies of both ethnic party development and attitudes in two countries (to be selected on the basis of the large-n findings) over time in order to examine the nature of these links. In the third part, we complement the quantitative analyses with a comparative examination of the organizational and ideological linkages between ethnic parties and their social bases.