Cleavage Formation in Latin American Party Systems

In terms of their responsiveness to voter preferences, South American party systems that experienced prolonged periods of ideological conflict in the first half of the 20th Century continue to differ starkly from those in which elites avoided or where military coups ended polarization. The duration in historical polarization constitutes a critical juncture that sets Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina apart from the rest of South America. While not fully determining the paths party systems have taken at later critical junctures, this basic distinction between two types of party systems has survived the authoritarian regimes of the 1960s and 1970s, the “neoliberal critical juncture” of the 1980s, and for the most part also the subsequent “left turn”. In a first step, the project studies critical junctures and historical legacies that set countries apart by adopting a comparative historical cleavage. It then uses data on party positions and voter preferences to show how autocratic-democratic regime divides in the aftermath of authoritarianism have nurtured new programmatic alignments in Brazil, Bolivia, and Mexico. Levels of responsiveness prior to the “left turn” then predict quite well which type of left party succeeded. Furthermore, I show that the nature of the populist left is radically different in Bolivia and Venezuela, in that it helped to realign the party system in the first case, but failed to do so in the second. 

The historical part of the argument is published in an article in the British Journal of Political Science (link to article and author version).

» Link to BJPolS article
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