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The mobilization of ethnic groups during elections is seen by many as one of the greatest threats to democracy in ethnically diverse societies. Two important questions are: Why does ethnicity become politicized in some elections, but not in others? and Why do particular ethnic categories become politicized, while others do not? Two arguments in the literature offer explanations. The first argument posits that groups are mobilized along ethnic lines when voters have strong emotional allegiances to their ethnic group; in effect, the ethnic politicization of elections is viewed as a reflection of societal ethnic cleavages. A second argument focuses on electoral rules and asserts that proportional representation politicizes ethnicity by enabling small ethnic parties to compete. Unfortunately, the empirical evidence to support these arguments is limited. This dissertation takes a more dynamic approach by focusing on individual candidates and their incentives to make ethnic appeals. I argue that under party-centric electoral rules, a candidate’s ethnic appeals are influenced from above—by their party’s stance on ethnic issues. In contrast, under candidate-centric rules, a candidate’s ethnic appeals are influenced from below; in particular, by the size of ethnic groups within the candidate’s electoral district.


Election campaigns, Election posters, Ethnic politics, Indonesia, Political communications


Asian Studies | International Relations | Political Science

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Political Science

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George Washington University

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Washington, DC

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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