Participatory effects of regional authority: decentralisation and political participation in comparative perspective
This article studies political participation in the context of decentralisation in Europe. Recent secession attempts demonstrate how the demand for decentralisation energises citizens. Yet the fact that decentralised institutions, initially, were endorsed to increase citizens’ participation is often neglected. In order to test this contention empirically, three theoretically informed arguments are developed, making use of the most recent data on regional authority for 282 regions in 20 European countries. Results of three-level hierarchical models lend support to the arguments. Regional self-rule increases probabilities to engage only in more demanding and less common forms of participation. It also acts as a political opportunity structure, moderating the influence of individual driving forces of participation. Participatory effects on protest activity, however, turn out to be endogenous, as the instrumental variable analysis indicates that decentralisation does not increase protest, but rather the reverse. These findings seem relevant to the current heated debates both on secession attempts and waning political involvement.