Political party learning in the European Free Alliance: inspiration and information in the (Trans)Nationalist Family
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date25/11/2020
Sijstermans, Judith Martina Petra
Recent years, and high-profile events such as the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and 2017 Catalan referendum, have shown that stateless nationalist and regionalist political parties remain relevant political forces in European politics. Scholars have long studied these political parties comparatively, but autonomist movements have not developed in a vacuum. This thesis explores the interconnectedness of nationalist and regionalist parties. Relationships between these parties can most tangibly be traced through taking the European political party of the European Free Alliance (EFA) as a starting point. Stateless regionalist and nationalist political parties have coalesced under EFA as their transnational political party for more than 35 years. This thesis seeks to understand how relationships between EFA member parties affect them. In particular, I focus on one possible consequence: learning. I ask, do interactions between regionalist and nationalist parties in the European Free Alliance generate member party learning? If so, why and how? If not, why not? In order to explore learning, I first develop a political party learning framework. This framework builds on existing approaches to political parties, transnational political parties, and policy and organisational learning literatures. I propose three stages of learning: information acquisition, interpretation, and implementation. I also identify five contextual factors that might condition party learning: electoral success, governing responsibility, party centralization, key entrepreneurs, and issue contestation. I apply this party learning framework to four EFA member parties: the Frisian National Party, the Union Démocratique Bretonne, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, and the Scottish National Party. These cases studies are constructed predominantly through elite interviews, complemented by ethnographic observation, and documentary analysis. I find that some political parties in EFA do learn from their interactions with other member parties. Learning occurs on issues ranging from technical renewable energy solutions to altered electoral strategies. I also identify cases of non-learning and stalled learning. The most influential factors determining patterns of party learning are electoral success, party centralization, and institutional access.
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