The thesis simultaneously builds on and challenges the conventional wisdom on causal factors behind the rise of ethnic political parties rise in multi-ethnic democracies. The thesis contends that ethnic party success is primarily driven by ethnic violence. Original data from fieldwork in India provides evidence that demand for security from ethnic violence stimulates bloc voting and remains a stronger motivator driving ethnic voting than economic incentives like public goods or economic clientelism. Economic patronage is found to be only relevant in peaceful societies with little modern history of ethnic violence, and towards building cross-cutting ethnic coalitions. The findings are moderated by ethnic affiliation of voters who trust their own co-ethnics more than out-groups. Nominating candidates with conspicuous ethnic heuristics is an efficient strategy for political parties to signal low information voters of their targeted voting bases.
In the second part of the thesis, I lay down the conditions and mechanisms under which public goods distribution is optimised in a multiethnic democracy. In a party system featuring ethnic parties, public goods provisions are made efficient under conditions of intermediate levels of party competition and party stability, as well asa politically engaged citizenry, and a peaceful ethnic relations.
Furthermore, using a natural experiment research design, the thesis finds causal evidence that ethnic electoral quotas reduce ethnic violence. Findings from the thesis establish that violence remains the main driver of political behaviour above economic incentives. The papers together provide evidence that in an ethnically diverse society, efficient public goods distribution is possible through a concerted institutional setup to reduce ethnic violence. It is achieved through improvement in representation for the ethnically marginalised, which forces state institutions to be more efficient and accessible to those whom they previously ignored.
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