Democracy promotion in Africa became an increasingly important priority for Western donors in the late 1980s, with a growing normative consensus in support of democracy and human rights since that time. In practice, however, democracy promotion policies suffer from some flaws and inconsistencies and the nature of Africa’s hybrid and ambiguous regimes present severe challenges. The available evidence suggests that donor policies often reflect implicit concepts and theories that do not always reflect the reality on the ground. Moreover, since the turn of the millennium competing economic or strategic interests often trump the promotion of democracy and human rights. Significantly, donors do not always operate in the same way. More specifically, a review of recent activity suggests that donor governments tend to use a negative linkage strategy when they set conditions for economic aid and a positive linkage strategy when they support democratic institutions and processes. In both strategies, competitive elections occupy a central place. While this electoral focus entails limitations, the approach is marked by a clear focus and operationalization. By contrast, broader political approaches target human rights and the rule of law and strengthening of political institutions. These ambitious goals are difficult to achieve. Such policies work when they are based on adequate analysis of the specific institutional context, but they often run up against political challenges that are beyond the control of donors. The scholarship on democracy promotion agrees that positive change can be achieved where internal conditions are favorable and when policies take into account the specific political and institutional contexts in African countries. Broader long-term regime change, however, depends primarily on internal conditions, such as social and economic development, and requires donors to go beyond the “easy part” and address specific African contexts and specific institutional problems.
Oda van Cranenburgh
Carlos Meléndez and Sebastián Umpierrez de Reguero
Despite existing literature that often conflates the terms party membership and party activism, the first is a formal ascription with a given party organization, while the second entails a set of practices, whether sporadic, informal, or devoted, that (a group of) individuals perform to support a political party either during an electoral campaign or more permanently, independently of being enrolled in the party or not. Party members and activists can be analyzed from both the normative model of democracy and the inner functioning of political parties. Focusing on Latin America, party membership and party activism are related to various types of party organizations, social cleavages, and party identification. Individuals join, and/or work for, parties to gain tangible benefits, information, social advantages, and influence, as well as mental satisfaction, without which they could lose financial resources, time, and alternative opportunities. Moreover, prior contributions on party membership and activism based on Latin American countries has emphasized the functions party supporters have as connectors between the citizenry and the party organizations. In this regard, scholars conceive members’ participation not only as a mechanism for party rootedness (“vertical” function), but also as a connection between social and partisan arenas (“horizontal” function). In the region, the research area of party membership and activism portrays virtues and limitations in methodological terms both at the aggregate and the individual level. As a future research agenda, party membership and activism in Latin America should be further studied using comparative strategies, avoiding the pitfalls of public opinion research, not to mention making additional efforts to keep the two terms conceptually distinct. Also, party members and activists can be explored in transnational perspective, joining forces with the blooming literature of political party abroad.
Santiago Anria and Christopher Chambers-Ju
Since the dual transition to democracy and the market in Latin America, associational linkages or the exchanges between parties and interest associations representing different groups in society gained prominence for their crucial role in structuring political representation and framing policy processes. In the early 21st century, how do the relationships between political parties and interest associations vary across and within countries? The literature on party–voter linkages has begun to examine the distinct relations that emerge when political parties interact with interest associations that represent societal groups in order to incorporate those groups into party organizations or coalitions. Although associational linkages can be constructed when party leaders reach out to interest associations, they can also be constructed when interest associations negotiate the terms of their political support. One approach to analyzing associational linkages involves focusing on the diverse relationships that emerging societal actors established with political parties. Social movements have constructed movement-based parties. These parties are a particularly puzzling phenomenon because they incorporate social movements into their organizations without necessarily demobilizing them. Emerging sectors of organized labor have also established an array of relationships to parties, with unions engaging in contentious or electoral mobilization, with different degrees of support for political parties. There are major opportunities to advance a broad agenda for research on associational linkages that highlights cross-regional contrasts and changes in the political economy.
Available scholarship on civil–military relations literature treats the occurrence of military coups d’état either as a purely domestic affair or a simple outcome of international dynamics. That is, a large body of literature assumes that a military coup d’état takes place on either a domestic or international level. When taken as an exclusively domestic affair, reasons for military coups d’état run the gamut from domestic instability and political corruption, state weakness, economic collapse, and the institutional culture of a military and its desire to protect its corporate interests, to political culture and popular support. Yet, a parallel body of work either reduces coup plotters to the status of proxies of powerful global state actors or assumes that wars, crises, external threats, foreign military training, or peacekeeping missions shape the military decision to seize power. Both perspectives deservedly take the military as the focal point of coups, yet presume either that that military is easily able to dictate a particular course of action to all the remaining domestic actors or is unidirectionally influenced by international actors. A coup d’état, however, must take into account different constituencies within and outside the military for it to take place. At the domestic level various actors, from opposition politicians, media corporations, and labor unions to business associations and “military opinion” itself, need to be taken into account. At the international level, coup plotters may either directly engage in negotiations, bargaining, and dialogue with or try to interpret signals delivered by external state actors. Coup plotters may use military-to-military relations developed by military officer exchanges and joint work in common security and defense organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Given that they are rational actors, coup-makers know well enough to look for ‘propitious circumstances’ at home and abroad (regional and international) as well as predict resonance between the domestic and international environment. Although military elites are better positioned to use their international network to engage in dialogue and bargaining at the international level, mid-ranking officers also take into consideration the outside dimension. When several domestic pressure groups such as business organizations or ordinary people deem a coup not in their interest or not to be a preferred action at a particular point in time, and show their displeasure by sustained street action, a permissive international environment may not suffice to produce a coup. It is in the context of this brittle coup coalition and in this intimate and fragile appeal to domestic and international audiences that a coup attempt takes place.