Colorful or colorless? Local parties defending ethnic minority interests

  • Bram Wauters Ghent University, Department of Political Sciences
  • Floor Eelbode Ghent University, Department of Political Sciences
  • Karen Celis Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Keywords: representation, ethnic minorities, local politics, Belgium, parties


We investigate to what extent local political parties have attention for ethnic minority interests. We are interested in whether party-related or context-related variables lead to higher levels of attention to ethnic minority interests. Our analysis is based on a broad scale survey among local party chairs in Belgium. The results show that mainly party-related variables explain variance in attention for ethnic minority interests: leftist parties and active parties are more likely to defend these interests. The presence of ethnic minority people in a party does not have a significant effect once we control for factors at the municipality level.


Anwar, M. (2001) The Participation of Ethnic Minorities in British politics, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 27(3), pp. 533-549.

Baker, A. & Cook, C. (2005) Representing Black Interests and Promoting Black Culture. The Importance of African American Descriptive representation in the U.S. House, Du Bois Review, 22, pp. 227-246.

Bird, K. (2003) Comparing the Political Representation of Ethnic Minorities in Advanced Democracies. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, Winnipeg, June 3.

Bird, K. (2011) Patterns of Substantive Representation among Visible Minority MPs: Evidence from Canada’s House of Commons, In: Bird, K., Saalfeld, T. & Wüst, A. M. (eds.) The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies (New York: Routledge), pp. 207-229.

Blondel, J. (2000) Introduction, In: Blondel, J. & Cotta, M. (eds) The Nature of Party Government (Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan), pp. 1-17.

Bratton, K. & Haynie, K. (1999) Agenda Setting and Legislative Success in State Legislatures: The Effects of Gender and Race, The Journal of Politics, 61(3), pp. 658-679.

Caramani, D., Celis, K. & Wauters, B. (2014) Representation of Old and New Groups, Old and New Cleavages, In: Deschouwer, K. & Depauw, S. (eds) Representing the People. A survey among Members of Statewide and Substate Parliaments (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 39-65.

Celis, K., Childs, S., Kantola, J. & Krook, M. L. (2008) Rethinking Women’s Substantive Representation, Representation, 44(2), pp. 99-110.

Celis, K., Eelbode, F. & Wauters, B. (2013) Visible Minorities in Local Political Parties. A Case Study of Two Belgian cities, Antwerp and Ghent, Politics, 33(3), pp. 160-171.

Celis, K. & Wauters, B. (2010) Pinning the Butterfly. Women, Blue collar and Ethnic-Minority MPs vis-à-vis Parliamentary Norms and the Parliamentary Role of the Group Representative, The Journal of Legislative Studies, 16(3), pp. 380-393.

Childs, S. & Krook, M.L. (2009) Analysing Women’s Substantive Representation: From Critical Mass to Critical Actors, Government and opposition, 44(2), pp. 125-145.

Childs, S. & Kittilson, M. (2016) Feminizing Political Parties. Women’s Party Member Organizations within European Parliamentary Parties, Party Politics, 22(5), pp. 598-608.

Eelbode, F., Wauters, B., Celis, K. & Devos, C. (2013) Left, Right, Left. The Role of a Party’s Ideology on the Political Representation of Ethnic Minorities, Politics, Groups & Identities, 1(3), pp. 451-467.

Fennema, M. & Tillie, J. (1999) Political Participation and Political trust in Amsterdam: Civic Communities and Ethnic Networks, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 25(4), pp. 703-726.

Eatwell, R. (2000) The Rebirth of the Extreme Right in Western Europe?, Parliamentary Affairs, 53(3), pp. 407-425.

Gay, C. (2002) Spirals of Trust? The Effect of Descriptive Representation on the Relationship between Citizens and their Government, American Journal of Political Sciences, 46(4), pp. 717-732.

Girvin, B. (1988) The Transformation of Contemporary Conservatism (London: Sage).

Hainsworth, P. & Mitchell, P. (2000) France: the National Front from Crossroads to Crossroads, Parliamentary Affairs, 53(3), pp. 443-456.

Hero, R.E. & Tolbert, C. J. (1995) Latinos and Substantive Representation in the US House of Representatives: Direct, Indirect or Non-existent?, American Journal of Political Sciences, 39(3), pp. 640-652.

Hooghe, M., Stolle, D. & Stouthuysen, P. (2004) Head Start in Politics. The Recruitment Function of Youth Organisations of Political Parties in Belgium (Flanders), Party Politics, 10(2), pp. 193-212.

Hyde, C.A. (1995) Feminist Social Movement Organizations Survive the New Right, In: Marx, F. & Yancey Martin, P. (eds) Feminist Organizations. Harvest of the New Women’s Movement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press), pp. 306-322.

Ireland, P. (2004) Becoming Europe: Immigration, Integration and the Welfare State (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press).

Jacobs, D. & Tillie, J. (2004) Introduction: Social Capital and Political Integration of Migrants, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 30(3), pp. 419-427.

Kanter, R. (1977) Some Effects of Proportions on Group Life: Skewed Sex Ratios and Responses to Token Women, American Journal of Sociology, 82(5), pp. 965-990.

Kittilson, M. (2013) Party Politics, In: Waylen, G. Celis, K., Kantola, J. & Weldon, L. (eds) The Oxford Handbook on Gender and Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 536-553.

Koopmans, R. & Statham, P. (1999) Ethnic and Civic Conceptions of Nationhood and the Differential Success of the Extreme Right in Germany and Italy, In: Giugni, M., McAdam, D. & Tilly, C. (eds) How Social Movements Matter (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), pp. 225-251.

Kymlicka, W. (1995) Multicultural Citizenship: a Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Kymlicka, W. (1996) Three Forms of Group-differentiated Citizenship in Canada, In: Benhabib, S. (ed.) Democracy and Difference. Contesting the Boundaries of the Political (Princeton: Princeton University Press), pp. 153-170.

Lawson, K. (ed.) (1980) Political Parties and Linkage: A Comparative Perspective (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Matland, R. E. & Studlar, D. T. (1996) The Contagion of Women Candidates in Single-member Districts and Proportional Representation Electoral Systems: Canada and Norway, The Journal of Politics, 58(3), pp. 707-733.

Messina, A.M. (2007) The Logics and Politics of Post-WWII Migration to Western Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Meyer, S. & Rosenberg, S. (2011) ‘Guys, He is one of us’. Linkages and Boundaries in Campaigns for Preference Votes for Immigrant-origin Candidates in the 2010 Municipal Election in Vienna. Paper presented at the 6th ECPR General Conference, Reykjavik, August 25-27.

Norris, P. & Lovenduski, J. (1995) Political Recruitment. Gender, Race and Class in the British Parliament (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Phillips, A. (1995) The Politics of Presence (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

Purdam, K. (2001) Democracy in Practice: Muslims and the Labour party at the Local Level, Politics, 21(3), pp. 147-157.

Ruedin, D. (2010) The Relationship between Levels of Gender and Ethnic Group Representation, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 10(1), pp. 92-106.

Saalfeld, T. & Kyriakopoulou, K. (2011) Presence and Behaviour: Black and Minority Ethnic MPs in the United Kingdom – An Exploratory Study, In: Bird, K., Saalfeld, T. & Wüst, A. M. (eds) The Representation of Immigrants and Visible Minorities in Liberal Democracies: Voters, Parties and Parliaments (London: Routledge), pp. 230-249.

Saalfeld, T. & Bischof, D. (2013) Minority-Ethnic MPs and the Substantive Representation of Minority Interests in the House of Commons, 2005–2011, Parliamentary Affairs, 66(2), pp. 305-328.

Saggar, S. (2000) Race and Representation: Electoral Politics and Ethnic Pluralism in Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press).

Saggar, S. & Geddes, A. (2000) Negative and Positive Racialization: Re-examining Ethnic Minority Representation in the UK, Journal of Ethnic and Migration studies, 26(1), pp. 25-44.

Saward, M. (2006) The Representative Claim, Contemporary Political Theory, 5, pp. 297-318.

Steyvers, K. & De Ceuninck, K. (2013) De Kracht van Verandering of plus ça change? De Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van 2012 in het Licht van de Trends sinds de Fusies van 1976, In: Reynaert, H. & Steyvers, K. (eds) De verkiezingen van 14 oktober 2012: de kracht van verankering? (Brugge: Vanden Broele), pp. 15-40.

Strolovitch, D. (2007) Affirmative Advocacy. Race, Class and Gender in Interest Group Politics (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press).

Téney, C., Jacobs, D., Rea, A. & Delwit, P. (2010) Ethnic Voting in Brussels: Voting Patterns among Ethnic Minorities in Brussels (Belgium) during the 2006 Local Elections, Acta Politica, 45(3), pp. 273-297.

Togeby, L. (2008) The Political Representation of Ethnic Minorities: Denmark as a Deviant Case, Party Politics, 14(3), pp. 325-343.

Verleden, F. (2009) Splitting the Difference: The Radical Approach of the Belgian Parties, In: Swenden, W. & Maddens, B. (eds) Territorial Party Politics in Western Europe (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 145-166.

Studiedienst Vlaamse regering (2015) Vlaamse Regionale Indicatoren VRIND (Brussel: Studiedienst Vlaamse regering).

Webb, P. & Kolodny, R. (2006) Professional Staff in Political Parties. In: Katz, R. S. & Crotty, W. (eds) Handbook of Party Politics (London: Sage), pp. 337-347.

Whiteley, P. (2011) Is the Party over? The Decline of Party Activism and Membership across the Democratic World, Party Politics, 17(1), pp. 21-44.

Whiteley, P., Seyd, P., Richardson, J. & Bissell, P. (1993) Explaining Party Activism: The Case of the British Conservative Party, British Journal of Political Science, 24(1), pp. 79-94.

Williams, M. H. (2006) The Impact of Radical Right-wing parties in West-European Democracies (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

Winkler, J. & Schumann, S. (1998) Radical Right-wing Parties in Contemporary Germany, In: Betz, H. G. & Immerfall, S. (eds) The New Politics of the Right: Neo-populist Parties and Movements in Established Democracies (New York: St. Martin’s Press), pp. pp. 95-110.

Woldendorp, J. J., Keman, H. & Budge, I. (2013) Party Government in 48 Democracies 1945–1998: Composition—Duration—Personnel (Dordrecht: Springer Science & Business Media).

Young, I. M. (2000) Inclusion and Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press).