Date: May 2015
Creator: Fonseca Acosta, Rosa
Description: This study investigates factors that can influence leaders to use plebiscites to settle territorial claims. A quick survey of the plebiscite literature shows that the method has been extensively mentioned in the legal, historical, and philosophical fields (mostly through case studies) but less so in political science. This thesis is the first attempt, to my knowledge, to quantitatively investigate the different factors that can influence a leader to use a plebiscite. Using the latest version of the ICOW dataset, I test political and economic theories to try to explain the variation in the decision outcome. This study includes the following variables: identity ties, economic strength, an interaction between identity ties and economic strength, internal constraints (regime type and violent interaction), and external constraints (membership to international organizations). The results suggest that identity ties offer the strongest explanation as to why leaders settle a territorial claim with a plebiscite. Plebiscites have been rarely used to settle territorial claims, but when used they tend to settle cases permanently. This thesis serves as an attempt to revive a method that while difficult to agree upon, can be successful in resolving territorial claims permanently, and more importantly peacefully.
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