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Center-Right Parties in Peace Processes: ‘Slow Learning’ or Punctuated Peace Socialization?

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Abstract

This article examines why center-right parties that have partly built their image around ethnic or religious identities reverse their positions to support peace arrangements. Political settlements in divided societies frequently run counter to the values of these parties and are also potentially damaging to their internal party cohesion. We argue that political learning through sustained interaction with external pro-peace allies transforms the positions of center-right parties by socializing them when it comes to their international agenda, yet the same effect is not observed in party actions within the sphere of domestic intra-communal politics. Drawing from the Cypriot and Northern Irish peace processes, we show that once these parties embrace peace agreements, they do so by balancing international and local considerations, choosing to compensate domestic constituencies on symbolic issues of less importance for the peace process yet of major significance to conservative constituencies. The study of center-right and conservative peace actors has important implications for research on mediation and international conflict since it suggests mechanisms through which policy makers can better engage with ethnic or religious parties in fragile peace processes.

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