The Stability of Political Regimes - Assessing the Importance of Ethnic Groups’ Access to Power

Master thesis

Holden, Kathrine (2006) The Stability of Political Regimes - Assessing the Importance of Ethnic Groups’ Access to Power. MA thesis, Department of Political Science, Univesity of Oslo, Oslo.

The purpose of my thesis is to explore how ethnicity is associated with regime stability. More specifically, my approach will be to examine and empirically test the relationship between ethno-political exclusion and regime stability based on a large n-study. The problem to be addressed is “How does ethno-political exclusion and inclusion relate to regime stability? Are political systems with mechanisms of ethno-political exclusion more prone to regime change? How do other factors, political, economical and geographical, influence the link between regime stability and ethnicity?”

An extensive scientific effort has been put down in the research field of ethnicity and civil wars. However, it is possible to further examine and analyse existent theory in the field and especially with respect to regime stability. Recent studies have shown that ethnic and linguistic fragmentation does not play any significant role in explaining the onset of civil wars . These studies have been criticised for using a measure of ethnic fragmentation that does not take into consideration the role of the state and the way violence is organised around a group-level identity. I believe this critique is relevant also when investigating how ethnicity relates to regime stability and thus wish to focus on ethno-political exclusion rather than ethnic fragmentation..

Whilst there has been considerable research on how ethnicity relates to civil wars, the association between ethnicity and regime stability has been far less investigated. Numerous scholars argue that regime instability heightens the risk of civil war, with the former usually as a precondition for the latter. Civil wars are, however, relatively rare incidents which limit the available data and weaken the credibility of the results. Hence, for my thesis I choose to look at the regime stability as dependent variable, a more common phenomena with more available data, but with the use of civil war literature on ethnicity due to its close relation to regime stability. I believe this combination is an interesting approach to a less investigated research field.

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