English title: The Influence of Party Competition on Minority Politics: A Comparison of Latvia and Estonia

Author(s): Ryo Nakai -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2014


The aim of the research presented in this article is to highlight differences in inter-ethnic political relations on minority issues in Latvia and Estonia, and how the varied structures of their political party competitions have affected the ethno-political landscapes of the two countries. Though Estonia and Latvia had similar starting points with their respective minority questions, the political elites in both republics have demonstrated different responses to this issue, and inter-ethnic political relations in Latvia and Estonia have demonstrated divergent paths. While the citizenship and language laws of Latvia adopted or amended by majority parties are still restrictive, those of Estonia are relatively less so. The Russophone minorities in Latvia have intensified their support for ethnic parties, while in Estonia no ethnic party currently has any seats in the national parliament. Moreover, Russophone residents in Latvia organize political rallies or movements more often than in Estonia. The party systems of Latvia and Estonia are significantly important as an explanatory factor for this variance. Under the fragmented party system in Latvia, ethnic majorities’ political elites exploit ethnic issues to mobilize support from Latvian voters and to win popularity over political rivals. This has generated spiralling dynamics of restrictive policies and political protests by Russian-speakers. In contrast, Estonian political elites function under a relatively consolidated party system and, instead, seek to incorporate Russophone voters to win elections. This has resulted in relatively few protests by minorities and ethnic entrepreneurs failing to mobilize within the political sphere.

Volume: 13

Issue: 1

From page no: 57

To page no: 85

Refereed: Yes


Journal: Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe

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