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Article

Party Leadership and Institutionalization in Latin America  

Diana Davila Gordillo and Kristin N. Wylie

In Latin America, a general discontent with political parties persists, fueling challenges to the quality of democracy. Two prominent limitations of Latin American democracies stem from the weakly institutionalized and unrepresentative character of many parties and party systems in the region. A regional overview of party longevity shows that older parties are the minority, and with few exceptions (Uruguay and Colombia), they control neither the government nor the opposition. Yet while earlier studies of party institutionalization in Latin America tended to focus on longevity, subsequent studies have emphasized the multidimensionality of the concept. Party institutionalization connotes not only longevity but also routinization of formal and informal procedures, organizational complexity and cohesion, and societal roots. As evidenced by parties throughout the region, those multiple dimensions are nonmutual. Even in inchoate party systems many Latin American parties have survived and routinized (sometimes informal) decision making procedures, often in the absence of organizational cohesion and societal roots. Although strong party organizations are important for democratic governance, they may be inversely related to party leadership, with strong leaders hindering party institutionalization. Leaders can alternatively play an important role in mobilizing voters and structuring party organizations, their routinization, and the party brand. While the region has been a global leader in the adoption of gender quotas and parity regimes and in women’s parliamentary representation, as of 2012, its party leadership remained dominated by men—the regional average in parties’ representation of women on their National Executive Commissions was just 20%. Willing party leaders in institutionalized parties are critical actors in the recruitment and support of candidates and can thus marshal party resources to help diversify party ranks. The inclusion of diverse voices in party leadership is important for responsiveness, legitimacy, and the quality of democracy more broadly.

Article

Party Change and Adaptation in Latin America  

Jennifer Cyr and Nicolás Liendo

Political parties are not what they used to be. They evolve, often in response to external motivations, but also as a function of the historical time period in which they emerge. There are several determinants of party change and adaptation in Latin America. Most importantly, multiple exogenous forces, including a shift in the economic model, the adoption of decentralization policies, and the growing political voice of minoritized groups, have challenged parties to adapt for survival. While not all parties have successfully endured, some have employed diverse strategies to do so. To be sure, new parties also emerge as a function of exogenous challenges and opportunities. In Latin America, new parties have differed in form and in function from their predecessors. The emergence of new parties represents a second type of party change that must be contemplated. Overall, parties in the 21st century look quite different from their 20th-century counterpoints. Additionally, empirical measures suggest that the dynamics of party change vary across the region and also within countries across time. A novel concept, party survival, has been elaborated to address adaptation strategies that neither lead to continued electoral success at the national level nor end in full party collapse. Indeed, several countries in the region have faced at least one crisis of representation, wherein voters defected from existing parties to vote for new parties and politicians. A new research agenda, which examines the role of resources in provoking successful party emergence and adaptation over time, provides one fruitful explanation for why parties can survive a sudden and dramatic loss of national votes. Overall, knowledge of party change and adaptation has accumulated over time. It has also evolved with respect to nuance and sophistication. Still, there is much left to be learned about party change and adaptation, including the impact new parties will have on representation, governance, and democracy more generally.

Article

Party Movements  

Mildred A. Schwartz

Party movements are organizations that have attributes of both political parties and social movements. Like parties, they desire a voice in the decisions of legislative bodies. Like social movements, they challenge existing power and advocate change, often using non-institutionalized means for expressing their message. They appear in the space left open by the failure of existing political parties and social movements to adequately represent their interests and achieve their goals. They may become independent parties or work within existing parties. Party movements can be found in most political systems. Their impact is felt whenever they are able to introduce new issues onto the political agenda, force traditional political parties to take account of their grievances, or change the contours of the party system.

Article

Predicting Party Systems from Electoral Systems  

Rein Taagepera and Matthew Shugart

The Seat Product Model matters to electoral and party systems specialists in what it is able to predict, and to all political scientists as one example of how to predict. The seat product (MS) is the product of assembly size (S) and electoral district magnitude (M, number of seats allocated). Without any data input, thinking about conceptual lower and upper limits leads to a sequence of logically grounded models that apply to simple electoral systems. The resulting formulas allow for precise predictions about likely party system outputs, such as the number of parties, the size of the largest party, and other quantities of interest. The predictions are based entirely on institutional inputs. And when tested on real-world electoral data, these predictions are found to explain over 60% of the variance. This means that they provide a baseline expectation, against which actual countries and specific elections can be compared. To the broader political science audience, this research sends the following message: Interconnected quantitatively predictive relationships are a hallmark of developed science, but they are still rare in social sciences. These relationships can exist with regard to political phenomena if one is on the lookout for them. Logically founded predictions are stronger than merely empirical relationships or predictions of the direction of effects. Finally, isolated equations that connect various factors are nice, but equations that interconnect pack even more predictive punch. Political scientists should strive for connections among connections. This would lead to a more scientific political science.

Article

Political Parties and Democratization  

John Ishiyama

Parties are indispensable to the building and maintenance of democracy. This is because parties are purported to promote representation, conflict management, integration, and accountability in new democracies. Second, the failures of parties in helping to build democracy in systems in transition are because they have not performed these functions very well. Third, there are three emerging research agendas to be explored that address the relationship between parties and democratic consolidation: (a) the promotion of institutional innovations that help build institutionalized party systems; (b) the role of ethnic parties in democratization and democratic consolidation; and (c) the role of rebel parties in building peace and democracy after civil wars. Although not entirely exhaustive, these three agendas represent promising avenues of research into the role political parties play in democratization.

Article

Party-System Change in Latin America  

Jason Seawright

From one point of view, Latin America’s party systems are in a constant state of change, with high levels of electoral volatility, recurrent episodes of personalism, and a generally low level of predictability. From a deeper analytic perspective, however, there are clear differences between periods of massive, essentially region-wide party-system change, as at the birth of mass politics in the first half of the 20th century and during the neoliberal era, and periods of relative stability, such as the period of the Cold War. Latin American party politics is thus characterized by a rhythm of (sometimes long) periods of continuity interrupted by episodes of crisis and change. Episodes of change occur when the foundations of political competition are revised: at the dawn of mass politics in the early 20th century, for example, or during the period of political and economic reform that marked the end of the Cold War. A distinctly Latin American puzzle for the study of party systems emerges from taking the long view of these periods of stability and disruption. For the most part, party systems in the region are distinctly central to politics and electoral in origin, in contrast to many other developing countries where parties are noncentral, volatile, or oriented toward nonelectoral forms of governance. Yet, these same party systems are largely unable to adjust their appeals when faced with fundamental transformations to the social, political, or economic landscape—in contrast to the party systems of much of North America and Western Europe, where many parties and party systems have successfully navigated multiple such transformations with the identities of key parties intact.

Article

Party Systems: Types, Dimensions, and Explanations  

Zsolt Enyedi and Fernando Casal Bértoa

The study of political parties and party systems is intimately linked to the development of modern political science. The configuration of party competition varies across time and across polities. In order to capture this variance, one needs to go beyond the analysis of individual parties and to focus on their numbers (i.e. fragmentation), their interactions (i.e. closure), the prevailing ideological patterns (i.e. polarization), and the stability of the balance of power (i.e. volatility) in all spheres of competition, including the electoral, parliamentary, and governmental arenas. Together, these factors constitute the core informal institution of modern politics: a party system. The relevant scholarship relates the stability of party systems to the degree of the institutionalization of individual parties, to various institutional factors such as electoral systems, to sociologically anchored structures such as cleavages, to economic characteristics of the polity (primarily growth), to historical legacies (for example, the type of dictatorship that preceded competitive politics) and to the length of democratic experience and to the characteristics of the time when democracy was established. The predictability of party relations has been found to influence both the stability of governments and the quality of democracy. However, still a lot is to be learned about party systems in Africa or Asia, the pre-WWII era or in regional and/or local contexts. Similarly, more research is needed regarding the role of colonialism or how party system stability affects policy-making. As far as temporal change is concerned, we are witnessing a trend towards the destabilization of party systems, but the different indicators show different dynamics. It is therefore crucial to acknowledge that party systems are complex, multifaceted phenomena.

Article

Party Members and Activists in Latin America  

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.

Article

Nepal: The Role of the Military in Politics, 1990–2020  

Bishnu Raj Upreti

Historically, the military in Nepal was closely associated with and loyal to the institution of the monarchy and was intended to operate in the interests of the palace. However, the military was forced to confront political change in 1990 as the power of the king beyond that of the constitution was scrapped and Nepal was limited to a constitutional monarchy. Consequently, the military theoretically came under civilian control with the advent of the end of a partyless political system and the establishment of a multiparty democracy. The palace reluctantly accepted this change but covertly continued consolidating power by using the military. Hence, the already cemented mistrust between political parties and the military mounted. Political parties viewed the military as a royal army and the military perceived political parties as unpatriotic and aligned with foreign powers. This hidden tension remained and was reflected in many instances until the abolition of the institution of the monarchy in May 2008 by the Nepali parliament. From 1990 to 2010, the military endured very difficult periods such as continuous combat (February 1996–November 2006) with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)], the royal massacre (the entire family of King Birendra was assassinated), sharp criticisms of its armed conflict related to human rights violations, a cessation of military support from the international community, the abolition of the monarchy, which had existed in Nepal for 240 years, confinement along with CPN(M) ex-combatants per the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), tensions with the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), attempts by the CPN(M) government to politicize the military, and the removal of the military chief. In all these events, the military was indirectly and directly dragged in political maneuvering. In some cases, it fully dragged while in others only partially so, and in some cases, it failed entirely. Further, in the past three decades, from 1990 to 2020, the military has been sharply criticized for engagements in business beyond its traditional military role and for not respecting civilian supremacy. However, the military has also been highly praised for its acceptance of the republican system. All Nepali citizens have praised the military’s natural disaster relief work during floods, earthquakes, avalanches, fires, landslides, air and other transportation disasters, its search and rescue operations, medical assistance and evacuation efforts, air rescues and mass evacuations, flood control, reconstruction of damaged vital infrastructures, and construction of temporary shelters for homeless citizens. It is clear that the Ministry of Defense and the military require further security sector reforms and better civil–military relations as well as ensuring parliamentary oversight in the spirit of the National Security Policy and Nepal’s constitution.

Article

Politometrics: Quantitative Models of Political Institutions  

Josep M. Colomer

Logical models and statistical techniques have been used for measuring political and institutional variables, quantifying and explaining the relationships between them, testing theories, and evaluating institutional and policy alternatives. A number of cumulative and complementary findings refer to major institutional features of a political process of decision-making: from the size of the assembly to the territorial structure of the country, the electoral system, the number of parties in the assembly and in the government, the government’s duration, and the degree of policy instability. Mathematical equations based on sound theory are validated by empirical tests and can predict precise observations.

Article

Party Systems in Latin America  

Laura Wills-Otero

Since the beginning of the third wave of democratization in the late 1970s, Latin American party systems have confronted several challenges, and they have frequently been transformed. There have been various types of changes. While some systems collapsed in the 1990s (e.g., Venezuela and Peru), others realigned (Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay), or expanded (Argentina and Mexico), or were able to become consolidated and ensure their stability over time (e.g., Brazil). What factors explain the transformations in party systems during the past three decades, and how can Latin American party systems be classified according to their attributes? In trying to answer these questions, scholars of Latin America have undertaken studies that are both theoretically and empirically rich. Their work has increased our knowledge of the party systems and representative democracies in the region. Different factors have been highlighted in order to explain the changes these systems have undergone since the third wave of democratization. Some works emphasize the importance of institutional reforms introduced by politicians or by constitutional assemblies. The questions they address are the following: What political reforms have been introduced into Latin American political systems, and what effects have they had on the party systems in different countries? The researchers do not limit their attention to reforms of electoral systems. For example, some of them also study decentralization processes and their effects on party systems. From a different perspective, other authors focus on changes in electoral preferences and their effects on the configuration of political power, exploring how regional economic, political, and social changes have affected voter preferences and the political configuration of party systems. Still others consider the crises of democratic representation in these countries, underlining the decline in the programmatic character of parties as an explanatory variable for the crises and noting that the level of institutionalization of a party system declines when parties abandon this distinctive feature and become clientelistic or personalistic instead. On the other hand, in order to describe party systems and to observe the changes they have undergone, academics have proposed a set of concepts and measurements that make it possible to identify their levels of institutionalization (i.e., stability vs. volatility), nationalization, and programmatic structuration, among other aspects. The operationalization of these concepts has provided researchers with useful data for describing, comparing, and analyzing the party systems of the region transversely over time. Understanding the transformation and characteristics of Latin American party systems over time sheds light on both the progress democratic regimes have made and the setbacks they have suffered within specific countries and in the region at large.

Article

Activism of Political Parties in Africa  

George M. Bob-Milliar

Since the early 1990s, African states have been democratizing. Political parties now dominate the public spaces in many African democracies. The past 26 years have witnessed the growth and consolidation of “party democracy” in Africa. This is the longest period of uninterrupted growth of electoral politics in many countries on the continent. Recent Afrobarometer surveys show that almost two-thirds (63%) of Africans support pluralistic politics. Party identification in sub-Saharan Africa has also been on the rise. Across 16 states Afrobarometer surveyed, a majority of Africans (65%) claim they “feel close to” a political party in their country. The mass public who identified with a particular political party increased by 7 percentage points between 2002 and 2015. Political parties are the vehicles for citizens to engage in party activism. The women and men who join a political party become the party activists. Party activists are the lifeblood of the party organization. And political party activism in sub-Saharan Africa is geared toward the election of the party and its candidates into office. Consequently, party activism is a continuum of high-intensity and low-intensity political activities. Party activists vary in their levels of involvement. Thus, it is a mixture of fanfare and aggressive participation. Political party activism is a multifaceted process where party members undertake any of the following political activities: display a poster, donate money, help with fund-raising, deliver election leaflets, help at a party function, attend party meetings, undertake door-to-door campaigning, and run for party office. The involvement of party members usually varies from active engagement to passive attachment to the party. There were several motives for party activists getting involved in “high-intensity participation.” Because of the crucial role party activists play in the intra- and inter-party competition, the parties provide some incentives to get members commitment. At the organizational level, party activists present themselves for election into party offices at the grassroots, regionally or nationally. They devote their time and financial resources in furtherance of the party agenda. In return, party activists expect the party to reward them with selective incentives when power is won. That said, more research is required at the country level to enable us to construct the profile of the African party activists.

Article

Parties and Regime Change in Latin America  

Laura Gamboa

The importance of political parties has been at the heart of the debate about regime and regime change. Parties are essential actors for democratic politics. They can trigger transitions from and to democracy, polarize making democracies vulnerable to breakdown, or manage conflict to protect democratic institutions. However, not all parties or party systems are equal. The levels of fragmentation, polarization, and institutionalization in any given party and/or party system are key to understanding the rise, fall, and survival of democracy. In Latin America, the literature has focused, mostly, on party and party system institutionalization. In general, scholars agree that institutionalization fosters democracy. The organizational strength and embeddedness of political parties in society and the extent to which they interact regularly in stable ways, they argue, is key to the survival of democratic politics. There are instances, however, that suggest that this relationship is more problematic than the literature assumes. In contexts of crisis, highly institutionalized parties and party systems can be slow to adjust to new groups or demands and stiffen party leaders’ ability to respond to new issues. When facing a polarizing potential autocrat, for instance, high levels of party and party system institutionalization could hurt more than help democracy. They can reduce the ability of politicians to attract moderate voters from opposing parties, hinder their capacity to counteract antisystemic trends in order to lead opposition efforts, or limit the extent to which they can reach across the aisle to build ideologically diverse prodemocratic coalitions.

Article

Citizen Representation and Electoral Systems  

Benjamin Ferland and Matt Golder

One common way to think about citizen representation is in terms of the ideological distance between citizens and their representatives. Are political elites ideologically congruent with citizen preferences? Electoral systems are an especially important political institution to consider when studying citizen representation because they influence the size and ideological composition of party systems, how votes are translated into legislative seats, the types of governments that form after elections, and the types of policies that get implemented. In effect, electoral institutions affect each stage of the representation process as one moves from citizen preferences to policy outcomes. Research on ideological congruence indicates that electoral rules can cause distortions in citizen-elite congruence to emerge and disappear as one moves through the representation process. In this regard, studies show that proportional electoral systems enjoy a representational advantage over majoritarian systems when it comes to legislative congruence (the ideological distance between the median legislative party and the median citizen) but that this advantage disappears when it comes to government congruence (the ideological distance between the government and the median citizen). Although research on citizen-elite ideological congruence has made significant progress over the last two decades, several new lines of inquiry are still worth pursuing. One is to move beyond the traditional focus on the left–right ideological dimension to evaluate citizen representation in a truly multidimensional framework. Another is to develop a unified theoretical framework for thinking about ideological congruence and ideological responsiveness. For too long, scholars have conducted studies of citizen-elite congruence and responsiveness in relative isolation, even though they address fundamentally related issues. In terms of measurement issues, progress can be made by developing better instruments to help locate citizens and elites on a common metric and paying more attention to the policymaking dynamics associated with minority and coalition governments. Existing studies of ideological congruence focus on the United States and the parliamentary democracies of Western Europe. Scholars might fruitfully extend the study of citizen representation to presidential democracies, other regions of the world, and even authoritarian regimes. Among other things, this may require that scholars think about how to conceptualize and measure citizen representation in countries where parties are not programmatic or where elites are not necessarily elected.

Article

Trade Union Politics in Latin America  

Graciela Bensusán

The links between unions and political parties have been present throughout much of the 20th century and early 21st century in most Latin American countries. Since these links were historically one of the most important resources of union power, by compensating the structural weakness of wage-workers in the labor market, their weakening in the framework of economic transformations and ideological turns generates a greater concern on the future of trade unions. In this context, there has been an increased urgency to reconsider old political identities and construct other resources for power, such as alliances with social movements and international solidarity. The new bonds forged under democratic regimes or during the transition processes were more flexible, informal and with greater autonomy between partnerships than the old ones that resulted from the initial incorporation of workers in the political arena under authoritarian regimes. Consequently, in those cases greater opportunities can be opened to democratize and revitalize unions through the construction of new sources of power.

Article

Party Finance in Latin America  

Kathleen Bruhn

Modern representative democracy cannot function without political parties, however rudimentary. Parties in turn cannot function without money. The subject of party finance is therefore central to the construction of contemporary democracies. Latin American countries have attempted to meet the challenges of preserving democracy while providing for political parties across three main areas of financial regulation: provision of public finance, regulation of private finance, and limiting campaign spending. In all three areas, transparency (reporting), oversight, and enforcement of existing legal regulations remain important problems for the health of the political system. In the late 20th century, Latin American countries increasingly turned to public finance as a way of supplementing existing systems of private contributions. This trend seems to have been inspired both by a desire to reduce the inequalities inherent in Latin America’s socioeconomic structure and by efforts to contain and prevent episodes of scandal and undue influence generated by private contributors. Public finance particularly benefits small parties and parties with fewer connections to the wealthy sectors that tend to dominate private contributions. Public finance may contribute to the institutionalization of both party organizations and party systems, but it may also weaken the dependence of parties on their members and supporters in ways that undermine representation. Private finance in Latin America remains largely obscure. We know that relatively few private donors account for the lion’s share of party donations, but it is unclear in many cases exactly who donates, or what their money buys. It is therefore difficult for voters (and analysts) to determine the structure of party obligations to donors and to hold parties accountable. Partly as a result, drug money is believed to have penetrated the political systems of many Latin American countries, especially but not exclusively at the local level. Campaign spending limits, including limits on the duration of campaigns and campaign advertising, have been employed in some cases to try to contain costs and thus reduce the incentives of parties to seek out private donations, especially of questionable origin. Lax enforcement, however, limits the impact of these initiatives.

Article

Party Organizational Structure in Latin America  

Ana Petrova

Partisan organizations are the set of structured patterns of interaction among political cadres and members alike that are prescribed either by formal rules of procedure or by traditions and unwritten rules. Scholars of Latin America have generally described local partisan organizations as weak but have also devoted significant attention to the study of informal party structures, whose robustness and complexity have tended to contrast with the general fragility of their formal counterparts. Although important data-related challenges have precluded more systematic and generalizable analyses of the causes and consequences of party organizations, meticulous theoretical works and case studies have explored the questions of what organizations look like, how they operate, how they were built, and what outcomes they result in. This literature has identified ideational and tangible resources as the primary predictors of organizational strength. Strong and easily identifiable party brands provide both politicians and partisans with incentives to join and remain in a political party even in times of bad electoral performance and limited selective benefits. Material resources are shaped by countries’ institutional frameworks and structure politicians’ priorities in terms of their career ambitions and their relationships to voters and partisans. In turn, robust organizations have been associated with longer party survival and a narrower margin of action of the party leaderships. The presence of an extended network of party members and sympathizers make parties more resilient to short-term challenges, which is no small feat in a region marked by relatively high electoral volatility and many institutions of fleeting existence. The recent release of several important data sets and the proliferation of knowledge of how parties work create exciting avenues for future research.

Article

Islamism and Party Politics in Indonesia  

Dirk Tomsa

The inclusion-moderation theory posits that radical parties will abandon their most extreme goals and become more moderate in ideology and behavior if they are included in competitive electoral politics. The case of Indonesia confirms many assumptions of this theory, demonstrating that Islamist parties can indeed become more moderate as a result of their inclusion in formal electoral politics. Certain supporting conditions, however, may need to be in place, and even if moderation does occur it may not always be conducive to the quality of democracy. In Indonesia, the first experiment with including Islamist parties in electoral politics in the 1950s failed, but when democracy was eventually restored in 1998, the evolution of the two main Islamist parties that established themselves in the party system followed what proponents of the inclusion-moderation theory would expect. Both the United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan) and the Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera) abandoned their original goals of turning Indonesia into an Islamic state based on sharia law. Like other radical parties in similar political contexts, they moderated in response to institutional incentives and immersion in parliamentary and cabinet politics. By the time Indonesia started preparing for the 2019 elections, both parties were basically mainstream conservative Islamic parties, which, in view of their behavioral and to a lesser extent ideological moderation, should no longer be considered Islamist parties. However, the moderation of these parties has not led to a deepening of Indonesian democracy. On the contrary, while Islamist parties moved to the center, ostensibly secular parties moved increasingly to the right, supporting religiously conservative initiatives and policies, and forming alliances with Islamist actors outside the party spectrum. Thus, Indonesia underwent a process of Islamization despite the moderation of its Islamist parties.

Article

Electoral Volatility in Latin America  

Miguel Carreras and Igor Acácio

Latin American political systems experience significant levels of institutional uncertainty and unpredictability. One of the main dimensions of this institutional and political instability is the high level of electoral volatility in the region. In the last 30 years, traditional parties that had competed successfully for several decades abruptly collapsed or weakened considerably in a number of Latin American countries. New parties (or electoral movements) and political outsiders have attracted considerable electoral support in several national and subnational elections in the region. Even when the main partisan actors remain the same from one election to the next, it is not uncommon to observe large vote swings from one established party to another. While some scholars and observers expected that the instability in electoral outcomes would decline as democracies aged and consolidated, electoral volatility has remained high in recent decades in many Latin American countries. However, in other Third Wave Latin American democracies (e.g., Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Uruguay), the patterns of interparty competition have been much more stable, which suggests we should avoid blanked generalizations about the level of party system institutionalization and volatility in the region. Cross-national variation in the stability of electoral outcomes has also motivated interesting scholarly work analyzing the causes and the consequences of high volatility in Latin American democracies. One of the major findings of this literature is that different forms of institutional discontinuity, such as the adoption of a new constitution, a significant enfranchisement, electoral system reforms, and irregular changes in the legislative branch (e.g., a dissolution of Congress) or in the executive branch (e.g., a presidential interruption), can result in higher volatility. Another major determinant of instability in electoral outcomes is the crisis of democratic representation experienced by several Latin American countries. When citizens are disenchanted with the poor performance and moral failures (e.g., corruption) of established political parties, they are more likely to support new parties or populist outsiders. Weak party system institutionalization and high electoral volatility have serious consequences for democratic governability. Institutionalized party systems with low electoral volatility promote consensus-building and more moderate policies because political parties are concerned about their long-term reputation and constrain the decisions of political leaders. In contrast, party systems with high volatility can lead to the rise of outsider presidents that have more radical policy preferences and are not constrained by strongly organized parties. Electoral volatility also undermines democratic representation. First, the fluidity of the party system complicates the task of voters when they want to hold the members of the incumbent party accountable for bad performance. Second, high instability in the patterns of interparty competition hinders citizens’ ability to navigate programmatic politics. Finally, electoral volatility augments the cognitive load required to vote and foments voter frustration, which can lead to higher rates of invalid voting.

Article

China: Party–Army Relations Past and Present  

Sofia K. Ledberg

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a key political actor in the Chinese state. Together with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese state institutions, it makes up the political foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the early years after the founding of the PRC in 1949, the military played an important role in state consolidation and the management of domestic state affairs, as is expected in a state founded on Leninist principles of organization. Since the reform process, which was initiated in the late 1970s, the political role of the PLA has changed considerably. It has become less involved in domestic politics and increased attention has been directed toward military modernization. Consequently, in the early 21st century, the Chinese military shares many characteristics with the armed forces in noncommunist states. At the same time, the organizational structures, such as the party committee system, the system of political leaders, and political organs, have remained in place. In other words, the politicized structures that were put in place to facilitate the role of the military as a domestic political tool of the CCP, across many sectors of society, are expected to also accommodate modernization, professionalization, and cooperation with foreign militaries on the international arena in postreform China. This points to an interesting discrepancy between form and purpose of the PLA. The role of the military in Chinese politics has thus shifted over the years, and its relationship with the CCP has generally been interpreted as having developed from one marked by symbiosis to one of greater institutional autonomy and independence. Yet these developments should not necessarily be seen as linear or irreversible. Indeed, China of the Xi Jinping era has shown an increased focus on ideology, centralization, and personalized leadership, which already has had consequences for the political control of the Chinese armed forces. Chances are that these trends will affect the role of the PLA in politics even further in the early decades of the 21st century.