|The aftermath of the IRA's Baltic Exchange bombing, 1992 (source)|
This post partially summarises and discusses Dr Matt Qvortrup's 2011 paper "Terrorism and Political Science", which won the Political Studies Association's "Best Paper" award in 2013. (The full text is available for download here.) I am grateful to Dr Qvortrup for his cooperation but of course all errors and misreadings and any perceived implications are mine.
This research is surprising and relevant to a time when many feel that the democratic system is failing or threatened by illiberal changes.
Dr Qvortrup looked at incidents of domestic terrorism in Western Europe from 1985 to 2010, a period chosen to "coincide with the rise of Islamic terrorism." Surprisingly, "terrorist attacks perpetrated by radicalised Muslims are less of a problem than the media would have us believe. Indeed... the only major Islamist attack that has been perpetrated by domestic groups—that is, citizens of the country in which the attack took place—is the 7/7 bombing in London. All other fatal attacks were perpetrated by either Marxist, nationalist or separatist groups." (p. 2)
So, not principally Muslims, then. And the driver is not so much poverty as not having a voice:
"Terrorism is less a result of social... and economic conditions... than it is a result of political factors, such as a feeling of political disenfranchisement of minority groups." (p. 3) "Of course, not all minority groups resort to terrorism. A certain perception of disenfranchisement and a degree of alienation, perhaps coupled with a sense of discrimination, are commonly associated with radicalisation." (p. 6)
Rather than suppress the symptoms, we should cure the disease by "introducing more inclusive and consensus-oriented political institutions." (p. 1)
1. A higher number of Parliamentary parties
2. A high degree of influence by the Opposition on government policy
3. A fair relationship between votes cast and Parliamentary seats gained (see Gallagher Index)
4. A range of elected representatives from each constituency, to reflect breadth of opinion
The author concludes:
"In political science terms, there is a very strong correlation between having a proportional electoral system (either STV or list PR) and having a political system that is associated with consensus government... which, in turn, is correlated... with lower levels of terrorism...
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