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Research Objectives

Our research will build new knowledge on variation in ethnic quota design to guarantee political representation of indigenous and ethnic minority groups. In addition to comparing institutional arrangements, the project examines patterns of electoral competition, modes of representation, and chains of political responsiveness and accountability that these different systems provoke.

Our research has several key objectives.

First is to specify the rules and procedures by which ethnic quotas are implemented in national parliamentary elections across 30-plus countries. 

Second is to identify the conditions under which ethnic quota mechanisms emerge, succeed, and fail.

Third is to examine intermediate processes of candidate selection under different ethnic quota systems, as these play a key role in electoral dynamics and representative outcomes.

Fourth is to assess the consequences of ethnic quotas for substantive representation, responsiveness and accountability to targeted groups, and for broader inter-ethnic peace and democratic stability.

Finally, we want to leverage empirical, cross-national findings about ethnic quota arrangements and dynamics to inform policy decisions as well as normative debates.

Our project will generate several scholarly and policy outputs. A key contribution will be our online Ethnic Quota Global Dataset (EQG). This will be the first publicly accessible database to systematically document electoral quota rules (e.g., number of reserved seats, method of electing quota MPs, rules of voter and candidate eligibility) and geo-spatial features (e.g., GIS mapping of electoral boundaries, distribution of ethnic communities, location of parliament), along with historic and annually updated data on ethnic quota candidates and MPs. Other project outcomes include: Country Reports featuring thematic analysis of ethnic quota rules, implementation and impacts, in accessible language for use by a wide audience; Mini-Public Summaries based on deliberation with citizens and NGOs on impacts of ethnic quotas; as well as more traditional scholarly publications and workshops.


Beyond Numbers: Comparing Mechanisms for Substantive Representation of Ethnic Minorities & Indigenous Peoples was our first project conference. Held at McMaster University, Dec. 5-7, 2018, the event brought together a group of Canadian and international political scientists and graduate students to examine electoral quotas, reserved seats, and alternative formal and informal approaches to securing inclusion of indigenous and ethnic minorities within parliament and other branches of government. The focus was on global variation in institutional mechanisms of indigenous/ethnic inclusion, and the effectiveness and substantive impact of those mechanisms for targeted communities and for democratic governance as a whole.