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Politics and International Relations (PIR): Research


Regional Dynamics of Party Competition


  • Eve Hepburn, Post-doctoral fellow, Politics and IR

Funding scheme

  • Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship

Project summary

The decentralisation of state structures in Europe has increased the importance of the regional electoral arena. It has given regionalist parties a new platform for their demands, and has caused statewide parties to develop their own territorial strategies. Yet regional party competition is still an under-researched area. This project advances our knowledge by analysing the policy positions of regionalist parties and the territorial preferences of statewide parties. It shows how, in a multilevel, multidimensional context, parties no longer hold fixed ideological or territorial stances. Instead they reposition themselves on both dimensions in response to state restructuring and a volatile electorate.

This project seeks to unpack the territory-ideological nexus in party competition. This requires identifying the ideological position of regionalist parties, and the territorial preferences of substate parties in the same regional settings. This will be done by adapting the methodology and coding scheme employed by the Comparative Manifestos Project (CMP) to the regional setting. The CMP uses quantitative content analysis of the electoral manifestos of political parties to estimate their policy positions (Budge et al 1987). To complement this study, this project will furthermore analyse the territorial positions of regional parties to locate their ideological positions within a common comparative framework. The cases include four states that are currently undergoing different types of constitutional reform the UK, Italy, Germany and Canada. Within each state, two regions are examined and compared one where a regionalist party is strong; and another where it is weak or non-existent, to determine the shaping effect of regionalist parties. This project builds upon research undertaken during the Fellows previous ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2007-8), which examined The Challenges and Opportunities for Substate Territories in Europe.


  • Hepburn, E. (2009forthcoming) (editor) New Challenges for Nationalist and Regionalist Parties, Special Issue of Regional and Federal Studies.
  • Detterbeck, K. and E. Hepburn (2009forthcoming) Party Politics in Multilevel Systems in Jan Erk and Wilfried Swenden (eds) Exploring New Avenues of Comparative Federalism Research, ECPR Series on Comparative European Politics, London and NY: Routledge.
  • Hepburn, E. (2008forthcoming) Substate Strategies in response to Europeanizing and Globalizing trends in P. Della Posta, M. Uvalic and A. Verdun (eds) Interpreting Globalization: European Perspectives, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Hepburn, E. (2008forthcoming) The Rise and Fall of a Europe of the Regions. The Territorial Strategies of Regional Parties (1979-2005) in A. Elias (ed), Whatever Happened to the Europe of the Regions? Revisiting the Regional Dimension of European Politics, Special Issue of Regional and Federal Studies.
  • Hepburn, E. (2008) The 2007 Scottish Elections: A Dark Day for Participatory Democracy, Regional and Federal Studies, Vol.18, No.1, pp1-9.

Conference papers

  • Keating, M., P. Cairney. and E. Hepburn (2008) Territorial Policy Communities and Devolution in the United Kingdom Political Studies Association (PSA) British and Comparative Territorial Politics Specialist Group, University of Edinburgh, 10-11 January.
  • Hepburn, E. (2007) Regionalist Party Immigration Strategies, Political Studies Association (PSA) Annual Conference, University of Bath, 11-13 April.
  • Detterbeck, K. and E. Hepburn (2007) Party Politics in Multilevel Systems: Party Responses to New Challenges in European Democracies, European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) 35th Joint Sessions of Workshops, University of Helsinki, Finland, 7-12 May.
  • Hepburn (2007) The Rise and Fall of a Europe of the Regions. The Territorial Strategies of Substate Political Parties 1979-2006, European Union Studies Association (EUSA) 10th Biennial International Conference, Montreal, 17-19 May.
  • Hepburn, E. (2007) Building Regional Policy Communities. Knowledge Transfer into Public Policy in Scotland, European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference, University of Pisa, Italy, 6-8 September.
  • Hepburn, E. (2007), The Polarisation and Depolarisation of Sardinian Nationalism, conference on New Challenges for Stateless Nationalists and Regionalists. Adapting to Multilevel, Multidimensional Politics in Europe, University of Edinburgh, 30 November-1 December.
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