Dr Sherrill Stroschein: Ethnic Struggle, Coexistence, and Democratization in Eastern Europe
22 May 2012
Problems of democracy are magnified in societies divided on ethnic religious lines, particularly where groups are mobilized into parties. Due to majority rule, minorities should be less willing to endorse democratic institutions where they persistently lose elections. These problems should hamper democratization, but Eastern Europe contains several states that navigated these problems during the 1990s. In Romania and Slovakia, sustained protest and contention by ethnic Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia brought concessions on policies that they could not achieve through the ballot box. Ethnic protest in these states made each group accustomed to each other’s claims, and aware of the degree to which each could push its own. Ethnic contention became a de facto deliberative process that fostered a moderation of group claims, allowing democratic consolidation to slowly and organically take root. Such moderation took place even after a violent riot between Hungarians and Romanians in 1990, showing promise for other democratizing states.