Devolution and the Battle for Partisan Credibility: A Comparison of Belgium, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom
How do state parties react to the challenge of peripheral parties demanding political power to be devolved to their culturally distinct territories? Is devolution the best response to these demands? Why do national governments implement devolution given the high risk that devolution will encourage peripheral parties to demand ever more devolved powers? The aim of this book is to answer these questions through a comparative analysis of devolution in four European
countries: Belgium, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The author argues that electoral competition between state and peripheral parties pushes some state parties to prefer devolution at some
particular point in time. Devolution is an electoral strategy adopted in order to make it more difficult in the long term for peripheral parties to increase their electoral support by claiming the monopoly of representation of the peripheral territory and the people in it. The strategy of devolution is preferred over short-term tactics of convergence towards the peripheral programmatic agenda because the pro-periphery tactics of state parties in unitary centralised states are not credible in
the eyes of voters. The price that state parties pay for making their electoral tactics credible is the 'entrenchment' of the devolution programmatic agenda in the electoral arena. The final implication
of this argument is that in democratic systems devolution is not a decision to protect the state from the secessionist threat. It is, instead, a decision by state parties to protect their needed electoral majorities.