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A house but not a home : the determinants of secessionist party emergence and support in North America and Western Europe Rivard, Alexandre


While there exists a considerable amount of extant theoretical work that studies the phenomenon of substate nationalism and independence-seeking movements, empirical work on the topic remains relatively nascent. Moreover, we know little about what make secessionist parties successful and even less about what causes these parties to emerge. This dissertation focuses on both the emergence and success of secessionist movements in Western democracies. Concerning emergence, I deploy a unique application of time-to-event modelling in order to determine what increases the likelihood of a secessionist party emerging in both subnational and national elections. To model success, I rely on time-series cross-sectional regression analyses of secessionist party vote shares from 1945 to the present day. I argue that what influences both the emergence and subsequent support of secessionist parties differs based on the electoral arena in which the parties compete—that is, the effects of emergence/success vary based on the arena in which the party is entering/competing. I find that secessionist parties have become increasingly successful in the contemporary era, that these parties viably compete for—and form—government, and that their success means that these parties are no longer small, peripheral parties that can be ignored. I complement the quantitative analysis with a series of case studies that allows me to further explore how the identified mechanisms have influenced the emergence and success in Catalonia, Québec, and Scotland. In sum, the case studies show how and why secessionist parties are encouraged by the electoral system subnationally but not nationally, that the effects of immigration are idiosyncratic to the specific case, and that the central government’s response to subnational demands for autonomy greatly influence the emergence and success of secessionist parties.

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