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Research on the effects of ethnic politics abounds, but much less attention has been paid to where and why ethnic parties form. This article tests the explanatory power of rational-choice and social-movement informed approaches to ethnic party formation which, it argues, differ in their assumptions about the location of agency (elite vs grassroots) and motives for party formation (office- vs policy-seeking). The assumptions are tested through an analysis of original data on party registration and socio-economic factors in 327 Bolivian municipalities during the 2004 local elections. The elections took place under new electoral rules during a period of political restructuring, allowing an analysis of party entry decisions per se. Through a series of logistic regression models and various robustness checks, this article finds that social-movement approaches are better able to explain ethnic party formation, and in particular that grievances over political maladministration and socio-economic inequalities drive ethnic party formation.
- SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship