Democratization, Informal Institutions, and the Emergence of Responsive Party Systems in Latin America.

Paper presented at the ECPR General Conference, Reykjavik, August 25-27, 2011.

This paper’s point of departure is the assumption that the emergence a party system that is responsive to the citizenry is an important determinant for successful democratization and the establishment of the rule of law. Because many parties in Latin America and elsewhere use clientelistic appeals to mobilize voters, they fail to adequately represent the policy preferences of their electorate. In this paper, I argue that programmatic party competition is rooted in a specific historical interaction between the nature of the pre-democratic party system at the end of the 19th century and political mobilization by progressive parties between the 1930s and 1960s. I study this process in a comparative historical analysis of democratization and party system formation in eleven countries. In order to make sense of the failure of party systems to institutionalize in many Latin American countries, this approach pays special attention to the deliberate attempts of political elites in restricting competition and in deploying clientelistic appeals to prevent ideological conflicts from materializing. The impact of historical party system formation on contemporary party systems will then be assessed by drawing on data on party system institutionalization and responsiveness after re-democratization in the 1980s.