skip to content

Prof. André Kaiser & Leonce Röth

DEG: Decentralization and Electoral Geographies I+II


Part I – Partisan rationales in decentralization reforms (funding period 2014-2016, DFG: KA 1741/10-1)

In this project we analyze the motives of state-wide parties in the processes of political decentralization. Our core assumption is that political parties need to take electoral prospects and ideological relations on several levels into account. In some countries, state-wide parties are challenged by successful regional parties or movements, concentrated in specific areas. These contexts provide fertile ground for asymmetric shifts of authority. We demonstrate across a large number of cases that state-wide parties tend to shift authority to ideological allies on the subnational level and avoid the empowerment of ideological competitors. We thus add an important element to the understanding of conflict settlements and territorial politics. 

The same logic of ideological insulation works in multi-level systems where organized subnational minorities are absent. In these contexts, symmetric decentralization is the rule. State-wide parties engage in decentralization when regional offices are assumed to be filled with their own party members or ideological allies and state-wide majorities are insecure at the same time. Accordingly, we challenge the predominant functionalist perspective on decentralization and provide a necessary condition for reform – ideological proximity between state-wide governments and the majority of regional entities. 

We systematically test the explanatory power of those motives and their relation to policy positions in processes of decentralization. Our research design required extensive data generation of regional electoral results and party positions across levels (the data set will be made available soon; see below). Systematic analysis is complemented by case studies to specify the causal mechanisms.

Part II- Long term effects of decentralization (funding period 2016-2018, DFG: KA 1741/10-2)

The results from the first project phase on partisan rationales indicate systematic long term trends in decentralized systems. First of all, we assume fragmentation dynamics to follow a systematic pattern after reform. Parties receive accountability premiums when voters perceive them as responsible for territorial empowerment. These premiums keep outright fragmentation low, but do not prevent fragmentation in the long-run. Accordingly, decentralized systems face higher levels of fragmentation only after several elections. The long-term trend might challenge the political stability of decentralized systems. 

Additionally, ideological tensions between state-wide actors and regional partisan actors dominate the political discourses in decentralized systems after initial reforms. These relations inform the distribution of resources and authority in the long-run. We study the distribution of public expenditures and follow-up reforms of decentralization in relation to the ideological struggles in multi-level systems. 

Data (to be released soon): 

Regional level electoral and party position data (Excel, Stata) (Codebook)

National election data disaggregated on the regional level (Excel, Stata) (Codebook)

Regional government positions (yearly: Excel, Stata – cabinet: Excel, Stata) (Codebook)

Partisan and ideological alignment data between state-wide and regional governments (yearly: Excel, Stata)


2017 - Ideological Alignment and the Distribution of Public Expenditures. West European Politics (Authors: Leonce Röth, Hanna Kleider und Julian Garritzmann). 

2017 - Why Accommodate Minorities? A Theory of Ideological Authority Insulation (authors: Leonce Röth and André Kaiser). Under revision 

2017 - Decentralization and Salient Ideological Conflict Dimensions from 1900-2015. Presented at the Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association (APSA, San Francisco, authors: Leonce Röth and André Kaiser).

2017 - Partisan Politics and Public Investment in Education: A Regional Level Analysis of Education Spending in 15 OECD Countries. Presented at the Conference of the Europeanists (CES in Glasgow, authors: Leonce Röth, Hanna Kleider und Julian Garritzmann).

2017 - Decentralized authority and the dynamic fragmentation of regional party systems. Presented at the Conference on Successful Territorial Reform (Eupen, authors: Leonce Röth, Sandra León und André Kaiser).

2017 – Authority to Friends. A Systematic Analysis of Partisan Rationales in Symmetric De/Centralization Reforms. Presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions Nottingham (authors: Leonce Röth and André Kaiser).

2016 - Centre‐Periphery Conflict and Ideological Distance in Turkey. Swiss Political Science Review, 22(4), 585-607. (authors: Leonce Röth, André Kaiser, Çagan Varol and Ugur Sadioğlu). 


Prof. André Kaiser (principal investigator) and Leonce Röth (researcher) Research assistants: 

Lea Kaftan, Daniel Gonzatti, Kristina Orphey, Rebecca Kittel, Keno Röller-Siedenburg, Vera Serbenyuk

We further had fruitful collaboration with external researchers such as Arjan Schakel (University of Maastricht), Sandra León (University of York) and an envisaged research stay in 2018 of Emanuele Massetti (University of Surrey). 


DFG page - Project description in german