Political Devolution and Credibility Constraints

Sonia Alonso

in Challenging the State: Devolution and the Battle for Partisan Credibility

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199691579
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741234 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

Political Devolution and Credibility Constraints

Show Summary Details


This chapter introduces the second main thesis of the book. State parties threatened by the electoral growth of peripheral parties need to react in order to retain their electoral majorities or pluralities. The threat will be larger the more disproportional is the electoral system and the more the electoral pluralities or majorities of the state party are concentrated in electorally relevant peripheral regions. An immediately available response is to tactically defend some of the policies of the peripheral parties’ programmatic agenda. This would allow the threatened state party to retain those voters that are close to it along the left–right dimension but who have intense pro-periphery preferences. The problem becomes that in centralized states the state party’s pro-periphery moves are so hindered by credibility constraints that programmatic convergence will not be an effective strategy. Devolution is a way to solve this problem since it allows transforming the tactical pro-periphery moves of state parties into a credible long-term electoral strategy. However, devolution does not make strategic sense in all circumstances; when and how it does is determined by the country’s electoral geography.

Keywords: credibility constraints; unitary state; electoral geography; peripheral party threat; regional institutions; regional constituencies; all-round devolution; partial devolution

Chapter.  8735 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.