You Can Go Your Own Way: Explaining Partisan Support for Independence

Apr 2019 |

Authors: Tim Willems


This paper analyzes secessions through the lens of representative democratic institutions and considers the incentives of partisan political parties to support independence movements.  It points out that, if anything, separatists should expect to receive support from exactly the "unlike-minded" political party - the reason being that this party might see a break-up as an opportunity to reshape the electorate towards its own preferences.  By doing so, a party could increase its future probability of being elected, while it is also able to shift the entire political spectrum towards its own partisan ideal.  The model is able to explain much of what is currently going on in the debate on Scottish independence, while it can also be applied to issues of political integration (the European Union) and territorial conflicts (think of Ukraine and Russia in relation to Crimea, as well as the situation in Israel).


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