While the discourse on the crises of democracies is as old as their existence, it is true that in the 21st century democratic societies face serious challenges especially concerning participation and representation. Worldwide migration supports the diversification of the constantly changing European societies and democracies are challenged to win the hearts and minds of increasingly diverse populations. Political parties play a key role in this process. Their task is to integrate the population’s will vis-à-vis the state and influence developments in all areas of society. As organisations and holders of legislative and governing powers, parties carry responsibility to incorporate diversity and encourage an increasingly diverse population to participate. Improving participation for immigrants in party politics is essential to support them as agents in the democratic system and in the long-term to sustain social cohesion.
The main obstacle for immigrants and people of immigrant background to political involvement is electoral representation. Political parties are still failing to represent the diversity of European societies within their ranks. In all DIVPOL partner countries politicians of immigrant background are under-represented in both local and national parliaments. Due to a lack of equality data it is not possible in any of the parties involved in DIVPOL to say whether the proportion of non-EU citizens among the membership reflects their numbers in the population. Hence, an overall quantitative assessment is not feasible. Few parties record data on the nationality or ethnic background of their members, although some published figures suggest a significant under-representation for this group. Chapter two in this report provides an insight into the under-representation of “people of immigrant background” in political parties in the DIVPOL countries.
In this report the term “people of immigrant background” (IB) will be used to denote people of non-European background, who are often referred to as third country nationals (TCN) or people of third-country background. While using this definition for this study, it should be pointed out that it is often people “marked as migrants” who experience exclusion. Multiple discrimination is determined by a variety of identity markers. It is intersectional and influences various exclusionary practices in a number of different contexts.
In the beginning of the DIVPOL project each research partner prepared an overview of the current academic and public debates and the findings of more recent empirical studies. Research was conducted on party-political developments regarding the intercultural opening of political parties and efforts within the parties to investigate or react to increasing ethnic diversity within the electorate.
In the distribution of the interviewees DIVPOL aimed to create a balanced representation of the parties, the political levels, the political actors of immigrant background, as well as the migrant organisation representatives. In order to involve political parties equally at the national level, formal letters of invitation were sent to the headquarters of each political party represented in the National Parliament and in some cases additionally to the parties’ regional levels. Furthermore, interviewees were acquired via the ‘snowball system’ that expanded via direct contacts to active political or organisational representatives.
The official feedback of many parties in the partner countries who were approached was an expression of interest in the topic. On the practical level, however, the involvement and commitment of the parties varied greatly. In some cases, regional offices of parties and individual politicians were more open to participation than the parties’ headquarters. With some exceptions, e.g. in Ireland, Sweden and Poland, it can be observed that some popular political parties of the spectrum of the centre-right are under-represented in DIVPOL. In the light of this, the findings – independent of the qualitative approach of the empirical study – cannot be understood to be representative of the party spectrum in relationship to the overall majority situation.
In total, 276 politicians, staff and leading personnel (gate-keepers) of parties and representatives of migrant organisations were interviewed in 2013 in seven European countries (DE, ES, IE, IT, PL, PT, SE).
22 of the interviewees are TCN and 102 are naturalised TCN (see table 6 in Annexe I). All interviewees are politically active employees or volunteers in various local, regional and/or national contexts in their respective party or organisation. As individual party members, the politicians interviewed represent all major parties of their respective countries. The migrant organisations (MOs) that participated are active regionally or nationally as umbrella organisations. Altogether, 38 political parties and 53 migrant organisations were involved in DIVPOL (see table 8 and table 9 in Annexe I). Out of all politicians interviewed, 45 were members of national parliaments (MPs) in 2013, a total of 40%.
The aim of the interviews was to identify the role of the interviewee’s (non-)immigrant background for their political career, obstacles and supporting factors experienced and how they related or did not relate to their (non-) immigrant background. The interview started with questions on their political career path, motivation for involvement in the party and how the interviewee was received when joining the party. Politicians were asked about the principal issues and topics they dealt with in their party and their experience of party structures, the role of networks, the nomination processes and (typical) career paths of political actors. In the second half of the interview politicians were questioned about the process of intercultural opening, diversity development and representation of immigrants within their parties. All interviewees were finally asked about the functions of political actors with an immigrant background as office holders and on their opinion on how (and by whom) TCN were politically represented (see full interview guideline in Annexe III).
The subsequent analysis of the interviews was carried out in accordance with qualitative-heuristic factors. The detailed results of the national and empirical exploration can be found in the individual country reports on http://www.cjd-eutin.eu/149.0.html. The summaries can be found in Annexe IV of this report.
A questionnaire was developed by MPG for the purpose of self-assessment by political parties. It is based on benchmarking indicators to measure the level of intercultural openness a party has achieved and indicates steps to take for a strategic approach.
The indicator-based questionnaire is divided into different parts and includes questions on monitoring diversity and availability of data, access opportunities and strategic papers. It focuses on the parties as organisations and addresses different levels of envisioning strategic diversity development: party leadership, membership, the electorate of the party and its tenderers and employees. The full questionnaire can be found in Annexe II of this report and the benchmark on which the questionnaire is based can be found here.
The key findings of the empirical study and the questionnaire were presented and discussed in the national workshops in each country and at the final conference in Brussels (see table 7 in Annexe I). The events involved 255 politicians, political stakeholders, representatives of migrant organisations and experts from all participating countries. Experiences on candidacy, membership and diversity implementation were brought together and the participants stressed the on-going challenge to support diversity and opening processes practically and tangibly at all levels in political parties.
In the following report, a brief overview of the transformation of the electorate in Europe will be followed by a discussion of the theoretical normative dimension on the rationale for parties to open themselves to (ethnic) diversity. Finally, the Executive Summary presents the empirical findings of DIVPOL in a transnational perspective. The final recommendations for political parties cover the central aspects of the abstracted European analysis. Specific policy recommendations concerning political parties in the national perspectives are contained in the partners’ national reports, summaries of which can be found in Annexe IV.