(with Ronald King)

In East European Politics and Societies, Volume 26, Number 3, August 2012, pp. 561-588.


Approximately 32 nations currently use reservation of legislative seats for minority voices, whether by race, ethnicity, language, religion, or territory. Romania has among the most extensive and complicated arrangement of reserved seats, with 18 different ethnic minorities currently provided special parliamentary representation. This paper addresses two key political issues: how is it determined that there exists a valid ethnic minority deserving of recognition with a reserved seat? What are the political consequences from the broad allocation of reserved seats? The paper understands a reserved legislative seat as a distributive good over which rival claimants assert contested title. The state has incentive to avoid controversial choices although this is not always possible. Incumbent interests have incentive to restrict competitive entry without appearing to violate the principles of open inclusion. As seen through the Romanian case, the regime consequence from this dynamic tends to be clientele politics, in which minority organizations emerge segmented, dependent, and relatively powerless, yet simultaneously satisfied that they can guarantee by means of state subsidies the foundations for group identity.