Université Libre de Bruxelle

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Grégoire Saint-Martin Audet
Department of Political Science
Université de Montréal
Supervised by André Blais
Co-Supervisor: Jean-François Godbout
Grant received in 2016-2017

Can you tell us about your research project?

The effects of political institutions on voter turnout seem to vary according to the region of the world or the type of country, but there is no explanation related to this phenomenon. For example, while it has been repeatedly proven that proportional representation systems stimulate electoral participation in highly industrialized democracies, no such link has been found in Latin American countries. The purpose of my research is therefore to determine whether the ethnic heterogeneity of populations can alter the impact of proportional representation systems and federalism on voter turnout. Secondly, I try to determine if the interactions between these political institutions and the electoral participation are in turn affected by the level of richness and democratic health of the countries since richer countries have a better capacity to fight inequalities and heterogeneous societies are more likely to experience internal conflict.

Why did you decide to go to Belgium?

Choosing Belgium seemed quite natural to me as it has an ethnically fragmented population, a proportional representation system and a federal system, i.e. the three elements that are at the heart of my research. Thus, by making my stay in Belgium, more particularly at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), I sought to surround myself with experts in these three areas. In addition, I had a particular interest in working under the supervision of Professor Jean-Benoît Pilet since on one hand, his fields of expertise fit with my research project and, on the other hand, he has often collaborated with my research director, André Blais.

How did your stay allow you to move forward in your search?

From the beginning of my stay in Belgium, I presented my research to colleagues and this gave me the opportunity to quickly receive many comments and suggestions that allowed me to explore new research avenues throughout my stay. My research supervisor at ULB, Jean-Benoît Pilet, also gave me great support both for the development of my analysis and for the development of my framework and theoretical argumentation.

Is the research climate different in Belgium compared to here in Canada? If yes, how?

I did not notice a striking difference in the research climate, but I was surprised by the minimal presence of graduate students in the field of research. The research centers in Belgium are generally composed exclusively of doctoral and postdoctoral students which contrasts strongly, for example, with the practices of the CSDC which gives Master students an important place in its activities.

What were the highlights of your stay?

The most memorable moment of my stay was when I presented my research to a dozen members of my research center at the ULB, the Centre d’Étude de la Vie Politique. Otherwise, I also had the opportunity to go to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven to attend a seminar during which I was able to attend various presentations, including that of a former visiting student of the CSDC, Dieter Stiers.

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