Religion and Coalition Politics

Comparative Political Studies

January 2013

Author Names
Jóhanna Birnir, Nil Satana


The literature holds that coalition-building parties prefer the policy distance of coalition partners to be as small as possible. In light of continued importance of religion in electoral politics cross-nationally, the distance argument is worrisome for minorities seeking political access because many minorities are of different religion than the majority representatives forming coalitions. The authors suggest plurality parties' objectives to demonstrate inclusiveness outweigh the concern over policy distance. They test their hypotheses on a sample of all electorally active ethnic minorities in democracies from 1945 to 2004. The authors find support for their hypothesis that ethnic parties representing minorities that diverge in religious family from the majority are more likely to be included in governing coalitions than are ethnic minorities at large. It is interesting, however, that they also find that minority parties representing ethnic groups that differ in denomination from the majority are less likely to be included in governing coalitions.
Birnir, J. K., & Satana, N. S. (2013). Religion and coalition politics.Comparative Political Studies, 46(1), 3-30.

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