This article attempts to answer the question of why ethnic identity rather than national identity is more likely to be salient after an ethnic majority overcomes a dominant minority rule? Does an ethnic majority succeeding a dominant minority pursue an authentic representative government or does it reinvigorate its own ethnic identity through the pursuit of ethnic politics? Ethnic minority governance inevitably raises questions of legitimacy and inclusivity. Even in secular democracies, where courts protect citizen rights, democracy is far from perfect, but in countries that divide along ethnicity, religion, sector, or tribal loyalty, the history of all-inclusive governance is not encouraging. Typically, minority rule in non-democratic countries tends to despotism and autocracy. Therefore, the policies of dominant minority regimes scarcely differ from those of majoritarian governments, and outcomes can also vary dramatically. By comparing dominant minority rule in three cases—Iraq, Syria, and Bahrain1—I analyze how ethnic conflict is prevalent and prolonged in countries where ethnic minorities rule and how the outcome ultimately impacts state national identity. I maintain that ethnic identity issues and ethnic conflict do not resolve with majoritarian rule. In fact, if a majoritarian party assumes power after a dominant minority government, it will likely consolidate its own identity and pursue ethnic politics by way of an ethnocultural form of self-determination. Theoretically, this article contributes to the debate on the incompatibility of ethnicity and nationalism on the one hand, and with nation and state building on the other.

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