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In politics, regionalism is a political ideology that focuses on the interests of a particular region or group of regions, whether traditional or formal (political divisions, administrative divisions, country subdivisions or subnational units).
Regionalists aim at increasing their region's influence and political power, either through movements for limited form of autonomy (decentralization, states' rights, devolution) or through stronger measures for a greater degree of autonomy (sovereignty, separatism, independence). Regionalists often favor loose federations or confederations over a unitary state with a strong central government. Proponents of regionalism usually say that strengthening a region's governing bodies and political powers within a larger country would promote fiscal responsibility, develop a more rational allocation of the region's resources for the benefit of the local populations, increase the efficient implementation of local plans, raise competitiveness and efficiency levels among the regions and ultimately the whole country, and save taxpayers money. For some of its opponents regionalism is associated with denying or preventing universalism, for others is just a form of nationalism alternative to theirs.
A regionalist party is a regional political party promoting autonomy for its region; a regional party is a political party with its base almost entirely in a single region. All regionalist parties are also regional, while only a portion of regional parties are also regionalist. Because regional parties often cannot receive enough votes or legislative seats to be politically powerful, they may join political coalitions or seek to be part of a coalition government.
Examples of regionalist parties include the New Flemish Alliance in Belgium, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru in the United Kingdom; Lega Nord, the Sardinian Action Party, the Party of the Sicilians, and, to some extent, the South Tyrolean People's Party and the Valdotanian Union in Italy; Convergence and Union and the Basque Nationalist Party in Spain;1 the Party of the Corsican Nation in France; and the Regionalist Action Party in Chile (northern parts).
Examples of regional parties include the aforementioned regionalist parties, many political parties in India, virtually all the parties in Belgium, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria in Germany, the Istrian Democratic Assembly and the Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar in Croatia.
Regionalism, autonomism and nationalism are interrelated concepts, yet they have different and sometimes opposite meanings. For instance, in some contexts (e.g. Spain) regionalism is associated with nationalism, while in others (e.g. Italy) it is considered its opposite. In the Italian context, due to the peculiar political use made by Lega Nord, federalism is often treated as a synonym of autonomism, while it is generally considered quite a separate concept everywhere else.
That said, regionalism may or may not include autonomism. Examples of autonomist parties are the already mentioned Lega Nord in Northern Italy, the Action démocratique du Québec in Quebec (Canada), the New Macau Association in Macau (China), the Martinican Progressive Party in Martinique and the Communist Party of Réunion in Réunion (both in France), and the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico and the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico (United States).
One must distinguish also between regionalist/autonomist parties which support autonomy (or, at times, federal reform) and nationalist/separatist movements which support outright independence. The latter category includes all the national liberation movements (as the Palestine Liberation Organization in Palestine, the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara territory of Morocco, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad in Azawad territory of Mali, and the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda in the Cabinda Province of Angola) and some parties in Western democratic countries as well (as the New Flemish Alliance and Vlaams Belang in Flanders, the Basque Nationalist Party and Euskal Herria Bildu in the Basque Country, the Republican Left of Catalonia in Països Catalans and the Scottish National Party in Scotland. At times Lega Nord has been separatist too and still includes separatist factions and people.
In some countries, the development of regionalist politics may be a prelude to further demands for greater autonomy or even full separation, especially when ethnic and cultural disparities are present. This was demonstrated, among other examples, in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Lists of regional and regionalist parties are available at:
- European Free Alliance
- List of regional and minority parties in Europe
- List of active separatist movements in Europe
- List of political parties campaigning for self-government
- List of historical separatist movements
- Category:Independence movements
- Category:Regionalist parties
- Category:Political parties of minorities
- Think globally, act locally
- Minority group
- Political parties of minorities
- Communities, regions and language areas of Belgium
- Nationalisms and regionalisms of Spain
- North–South divide in the United Kingdom
- Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2012. Spain. Steven L. Denver (ed.), Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures, and Contemporary Issues, Vol. 3. Armonk, NY: M .E. Sharpe, pp. 674-675.