Mobilizing Strategies of Hungarian Minority Parties in Romania, Serbia and Slovakia

In: Populism, Memory and Minority Rights

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Abstract

This article analyzes the intra-ethnic political dynamics of Hungarians in Romania, Slovakia and Serbia. The focus is on the competition between the rival political parties of minority communities, a topic which remains underexplored in the literature on both ethnic politics and parties and party systems. The Hungarian minority parties are described in terms of their programmatic goals, political strategies and relations with kin-state actors. As the ethno-political demands of the parties can be positioned in a rather narrow policy space, I argue that the key to understanding their electoral success lies in their differential clientelistic capacity, which, in turn, depends on the parties’ strategies in their host-states and their relationships with relevant actors in the kin-state. The Hungarian minority parties represent puzzling cases from the perspective of the well-known outbidding thesis, which predicts that radical parties will successfully outflank moderates when the ethnic cleavage is salient, since the most successful parties are precisely the moderate ones. I argue that the main mechanism behind this phenomenon is the differential ability of these parties to access resources and maintain clientelistic exchanges with the electorate. The moderates are granted access to host-state resources, most importantly through participation in government. The radicals, however, are simply unable to counterbalance the spoils obtainable in the host-state, since they rely primarily on the support of the kin-state, which, however, is of a significantly lower magnitude over the studied period.

Populism, Memory and Minority Rights

Central and Eastern European Issues in Global Perspective

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