William M. Downs
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Political Science
Georgia State University
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: 404/651-4837 Fax: 404/651-1434

Dr. William M. Downs
(Ph.D, Emory University 1994) is Chairman of the Department of Political Science at Georgia State University. His research and teaching interests comprise comparative politics, European politics with emphases on western and northern Europe, and political economy. He is the author of Coalition Government, Subnational Style: Multiparty Politics in Europe's Regional Parliaments (Ohio State University Press, 1998), which investigates the machinations of postelection alliance building in the subnational legislatures of Germany, France, and Belgium. He is editor as well as contributor to "Regionalism in the European Union," a special issue of The Journal of European Integration, and has published research articles in Government and Opposition, South European Society & Politics, The Journal of Legislative Studies, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Regional and Federal Studies, Electoral Studies, West European Politics, Journal für Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung, Romanian Journal of Political Science, Political Leaders of Western Europe (David Wilsford, ed.), History Behind the Headlines:  The Origins of Major Twentieth Century Geopolitical Conflicts (Meghan O'Meara, ed.), and The New Europe at the Crossroads (Ursula E. Beitter, ed).  Prior to joining the GSU faculty, Professor Downs taught at Emory University (1996-97), Aarhus University in Denmark (1995-96), and Odense University in Denmark (1994-95). He spent one year as a research fellow at the Harvard University Center for European Studies (1993-94) and has held research fellowships (Fulbright, Belgian-American Educational Foundation) in Belgium (1992-93).

Previous Course Syllabi:

POLS 8420 European Politics

  POLS 2401 Global Issues

  POLS 3200 Comparative Politics

  POLS 427 European Politics

  POLS 4240 European Politics

  POLS 4242 European Union

  POLS 491F Political Negotiations

  POLS 3230/8230 Political Negotiations

  POLS 820 Comparative Politics

  POLS 8200 Comparative Politics

  POLS 825 Comparative Political Economy

  POLS 8280 Comparative Political Economy

  POLS 827 European Politics

  POLS 8240 European Politics

  POLS 850F Political Negotiations


Georgia State University is home to the Beta Alpha Chapter of Sigma Iota Rho, the national honor society for the study of international affairs.  I currently serve as Faculty Advisor, and I welcome inquiries from those interested and eligible to join.

Conference on Regionalism in the European Union
Georgia State University
April 20, 2001

In conjunction with the European Union Center of the University System of Georgia, the Department of Political Science hosted a multidisciplinary conference on "Regionalism in the European Union" on April 20, 2001.  Dr. William M. Downs, who serves as chair of the EU Center's Regionalism Policy Network, organized the conference, which brought scholars from nine American universities (GSU, Yale, Emory, UGA, Bradley, South Florida, North Georgia, Wesleyan, Casper) together with counterparts from seven EU member states (UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Spain) and Russia.  Participants presented sixteen papers on a range of themes, including:  promotion and defense of regional, political and cultural identities in Europe; regional policy to combat economic and social disparities; decentralist trends in EU member states; cross-border, inter-regional cooperation; and development of regional policies in eastern and central Europe.

Georgia State University students now how the opportunity to pursue a Certificate in European Union Studies.  The Certificate is a unique program that is designed to provide in-depth study of the European Union and the relationship between the EU, the United States, and other nations. The program is supported by 26 institutions statewide.  I currently serve as campus representative for the program, and I invite interested students to contact me.

APSA-JPSA Exchange 2002
As they have done every fall but one since 1990, the American Political Science Association and the Japanese Political Science Association (JPSA) exchanged delegates to each other's respective annual meetings. As part of this exchange, William M. Downs (Georgia State University) attended the 2002 JPSA meeting. The conference took place October 5–6 in Matsuyama, the largest city on the southern island of Shikoku, on the campus of Ehime University. The international exchange committee of the JPSA served as an exemplary host for the event, with superb hospitality and arrangements provided by Hiroshi Hirano (Gakushuin University), Toshio Kamo (Osaka City University, President of JPSA), and Yoshiaki Kobayashi (Keio University). A representative of the Korean Political Science Association joined Downs as the conference's only international guests. Some 450 Japanese political scientists participated in the annual meeting, making it one of the best attended JPSA events ever.


A pioneering cross-national study, Coalition Government, Subnational Style examines parliamentary democracy in the richly diverse area of subnational legislative assemblies. Comparing three different European democracies--Germany, France, and Belgium--the book provides a powerful account of the ways politicians and political parties spend days, weeks, and often months negotiating the composition of new governments following elections in which no single party wins a clear majority. Downs argues that postelection alliance building is a window onto many of the political processes fundamental to representative democracy: the interpretations of electoral verdicts; the compromises of campaign pledges; the trade-offs between policy and power; the temporary cooperation between long-term adversaries; the collective decisionmaking; and the blurring of lines of accountability through collective responsibility. The study reports findings from an unprecedented collection of information, including cross-national survey responses, interviews with political elites, and three decades of postelection studies of coalition building in the German state parliaments, the French regional assemblies, and the Belgian provincial councils and regional parliaments. Coalition Government, Subnational Style conclusively demonstrates that the struggles for government status at subnational levels are profoundly important to both parties and voters and that the outcomes of these struggles can result in governments of varying political complexions. The findings will question key assumptions of democratic theory and raise important concerns about individual and organizational behavior in changing institutional and electoral environments, ultimately allowing for a deeper understanding of representation, power, and cooperation outside the more familiar arena of national parliamentary politics.

William M. Downs and Raluca V. Miller.  "The 2004 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Romania," Electoral Studies 25 (2006).  

For a country whose people seem desperate to project an image that they are ready to join the European Union, the 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections reinforced—rather than reduced—concerns that major reforms remain necessary prior to any such accession.  Poised to enter the EU in 2007 or 2008, Romania emerged from its winter elections only to face a vocal chorus of critics who claim the country remains riddled with corruption.  In the contest to succeed three-term president Ion Iliescu, Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu came from behind to defeat incumbent Prime Minister Adrian Nastase in a second-round runoff to become Romania’s third post-communist president.  Parliamentary elections produced no single party majority and led to the creation of a broad-based centrist coalition under new Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu of the National Liberal Party.  Noteworthy because of their closeness, controversy, and post-election coalitional dynamics, the 2004 Romanian contests demonstrated the allure of a populist message in the face of fraud and persistent poverty. 

 William M. Downs and Satu Riutta.  "Out With 'Rainbow Government' and in with 'Iraqgate':  The Finnish General Election of 2003," Government and Opposition (Summer 2005):  477-494.
Finland’s March 2003 general election saw Anneli Jäätteenmäki lead her opposition Centre Party to a narrow victory over Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s Social Democrat-led "rainbow government."  A generally lackluster campaign, highlighted by concerns over unemployment, Finland’s place in Europe, and uncomfortable foreign policy decisions, is notable for making Jäätteenmäki Finland’s first female Prime Minister and for making the country the first in the EU to have women as both prime minister and president.  These distinctions proved fleeting, as scandal—"Iraqgate"--drove Jäätteenmäki from office after only two months.  Scandal aside, the election demonstrates the difficulties for still-new EU members of juggling domestic economic concerns with European and broader international commitments. 

William M. Downs, "El Parlament de Catalunya:  A Model for Regional Assertiveness in the EU?"  South European Society & Politics 8:3 (2003):  33-64.
Without the guarantees of a de jure federal system or clearly defined jurisdiction in external affairs, how can a regional legislature play a meaningful role in the European Union policy process?  Such is the dilemma faced by constitutional regions and devolved parliaments in multiple EU member states, particularly Spain, Italy, France, and the UK.  Motivated by the observation that regional legislators in such countries increasingly profess to emulate the putative successes of the "Catalan model," this article compares the observations and preferences of regional legislators in Catalonia and Scotland--with an eye to understanding why El Parlament de Catalunya lays claim to greater influence in EU decision-making and policy implementation processes.  While not easily exportable to other similarly situated regions, the Catalan model reveals the significance not just of wresting competences from the center, but also of professionalism, collective legislative competence and commitment to supranationalism.

William M. Downs, ed. "Regionalism in the European Union," Special Issue of The Journal of European Integration" 24:3 (Summer 2002)
One of the apparent contradictions of the twenty-first century is that, in a world of globalisation and interdependence, there is an increase in the number of constitutional regions and stateless nations aggressively seeking autonomy and influence.  Despite powerful arguments that inherent in globalisation is a process of deterritorialisation, the politics of place enjoys a reinvigorated salience.  Uncertainty generated by the countervailing forces of integration and disintegration prompts contentious questions about shared sovereignty, viability of small entities, possibilities for transborder co-operation, competing loyalties, and democratisation via devolution.  Perhaps nowhere are the dilemmas associated with these questions better illustrated than in the European Union.  This issue of The Journal of European Integration introduces a collaborative research project that addresses the reciprocal relationship between regionalism and European unification.

William M. Downs, "Pariahs in their Midst:  Belgian and Norwegian Parties React to Extremist Threats," West European Politics, 24:3 (July 2001):  23-42.
When extremist parties enter representative institutions through legitimate democratic means, how do established, mainstream parties respond?  Traditional conservative parties throughout Europe face the reality that radical right-wing parties are winning representation across all levels of the polity:  subnational councils, national legislatures, and the European Parliament.  While the political science literature has endeavored to explain the recent electoral gains of such parties as Belgium's Vlaams Blok and Noway's Progress Party, scant attention has been paid to the equally important questions of how established democratic parties cope with extremists once inside legislative assemblies.  This article compares the observations and preferences of elected representatives who, by democracy's lot, are confronted by pariahs in their midst.  Evidence from local councilors in Antwerp and Oslo reveals significant internal party uncertainty over strategy and suggests that electoral ambition and perceptions of "democratic responsibility" help shape strategic preferences. 


William M. Downs, "How Effective is the Cordon Sanitaire?  Lessons from Efforts to Contain the Far Right in Belgium, France, Denmark and Norway,"Journal für Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung 4:1 (April 2002).
Political scientists with research interests in Europe’s far right often shy away from the question, “What is to be done?”  As a discipline we tend to be much more comfortable as empiricists trying to explain the relative success of various extremist parties and identifying the traits of their supporters than we are of venturing prescriptions for how to contain and roll back the far right.  It is clear, however, that if we are to avoid the extant literature’s penchant for virtuous yet ineffective one-size-fits-all solutions, then systematic cross-national analysis of the successes and failures of responses by mainstream political parties to the presence of far-right parties in legislatures is necessary.  It is to that end that this article aims (1) to describe and classify alternative strategic responses to successful extremist parties and (2) to draw inferences about the relative success of alternative anti-extremist strategies from the experiences of four European countries.  While it is evident that no single strategy holds the key to combating the far right, the evidence from Belgium, France, Denmark and Norway suggests that so-called “constructive engagement” strategies rather than “clean hands” strategies have led—and therefore can lead—to greater success.  “Doing the right thing,” by erecting a cordon sanitaire around a far right party—as has been done most dramatically in Antwerp—may be politically correct, it may adhere to the advice of most anti-racism groups, and it may give mainstream politicians the ability to present their clean hands to the voters; however, doing the right thing often yields unintended and undesired consequences.

William M. Downs and Mihnea I. Nastase.  "Winning the Hearts and Minds...and Wallets...of the People?  Economic Self-Interest and Support for EU Accession in Candidate States."  Romanian Journal of Political Science 2:2 (September 2002):  63-83.
Scholars on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly interested in explaining volatility in popular support for the European Union's eastward enlargement.  While a rich body of research documents attitudinal trends in existing member states, remarkably less effort has been devoted to integrating what we know about citizen preferences in candidate states into the mainstream political science literature.  Despite expectations that the EU's alure would produce strong and steady enthusiasm for accession among central and eastern European publics, considerable cross-national and temporal variation exists.  Seeking to explain some of that variation, this article gauges the relationship between egocentric, pocketbook evaluations of economic conditions and support for EU membership.  Drawing upon evidence from ten European Agreement countries and focusing particular attention on Romania, Hungary, and Estonia, the analysis casts significant new light on the debate between two alternative approaches--the "individual opportunities" and "state guarantees society" perspectives.

William M. Downs, "Constructing a New Scottish Parliament for a 'Europe of Regions':  Can Institutional Engineering Assure Subsidiarity?" Journal of Legislative Studies 6:2 (Summer 2000):  67-92.
The creation of an elected parliament in Scotland raises questions for legislative scholars, among them how a parliamentary body representing a stateless nation within a member state of the European Union can influence and implement European legislation.  One version of the "principle of subsidiarity" states that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen, encouraging assemblies throughout the EU to articulate and implement their own preferences in key policy areas.  Reporting findings from a survey of the Scottish Parliament's first cohort of legislators, this article identifies conflicting perceptions of subsidiarity, charts how best to pursue it, and evaluates the institutional norms, rules and procedures put in place to help secure it.  Data demonstrate that preferences vary by level of MSP knowledge about European policy, by party membership and by method of election.  Low levels of legislator knowledge combined with internal divisiveness constitute barriers to institutional strength in the pursuit of subsidiarity.

William M. Downs, "Accountability Payoffs in Federal Systems?  Competing Logics and Evidence from Europe's Newest Federation," Publius:  The Journal of Federalism 29:1 (Winter 1999):  87-110.
Accountability has gained considerable currency in discourse on democratic representation, especially for heterogeneous societies having multilevel governance.  Because federalism endows political systems with a range of institutional mechanisms for incorporating regional identities, building consensus, and protecting minority interests, a frequent contention is that it enhances democratic accountability.  This article explores the relationship between federalism and accountability on three levels:  (1) conceptual distinctions; (2) federation/non-federation comparisons; and (3) comparisons among federal variants.  Federal/unitary comparisons reveal the limitations of a narrow interpretation of federalism as constitutionalism, with its presumption of federation as a guarantor of accountability.  Comparing across federations, variation in accountability depends as much on the rules-in-use as it does on the constitution-in-form.  The difficulties inherent in linking federalism with clear payoffs in terms of institutional and individual accountability are illustrated by developments in Western Europe's newest federation:  Belgium.

William M. Downs, "Multicultural Belgium at the Crossroads:  A Federalist Antidote to Regional Nationalist Conflict?" in Ursula E. Beitter, ed., The New Europe at the Crossroads (New York:  Peter Lang, 2001).
Twin forces stretch European nation-states in opposite directions.  States as they enter the new millennium are transformed not only by the centripetal pull of economic interdependence and supranational integration, but also by the centrifugal forces of resurgent regionalism.  Part of Europe's cultural legacy, it appears, is the persistence of old territorial, ethnolinguistic identities in the face of pressures propelling convergence toward some larger, common identity.  This study investigates how the vehicles for political expression of subnational identities, namely regional nationalist parties, adapt to institutional redesign aimed at managing conflicting sub-state loyalties.  Belgium's metamorphosis into a federal political system serves to reveal clear variation in the ways in which such parties react to the achievement of federalization.  Analysis of public preferences, voting behavior, and party manifestos demonstrates the choices and payoffs available to "identity-oriented" parties confronted by system change.  Arguably, by gaining a clearer understanding of the "highly complex, adaptive, but at the same time highly unstable system" that is Belgium, we can better anticipate the dynamics of identity politics in other culturally heterogeneous nation-states now comprising the mosaic that is the "New Europe."

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