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Vectors of Contestation: Social Movements and Party Systems in Ecuador and Colombia

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Vectors of Contestation: Social Movements and Party Systems in Ecuador and Colombia

Abstract

In a developed democratic party system, the party is perceived as a channel for popular contestation of policies. If an individual or group is unsatisfied with the performance or policies of those in power, they can seek a change in these policies or of the governing regime itself by supporting opposing parties who seek to block the regime’s policies through legislative action or to replace the regime through electoral competition. The linkages between parties and society, which seek to aggregate and channel the interests of the citizenry, and which bind the government so that it is responsive to its constituency, create a symbiotic relationship of representation and electoral support between policymakers and electors. V.O. Key refers to linkages as “the interconnections between mass opinion and public decision,” indicating the importance of having an institutional arrangement in which public participation is perceived to have some discernible effect on political decisions. What happens, however, when the existing party system in a particular country is not living up to its role as an institutional arrangement that adequately channels public participation and demands into responsive governance? This paper attempts to answer that question by proposing and exploring a framework for understanding the links between party system weakness and the rise of political contestation outside the party system, particularly protests and social movements. I argue that countries in which party systems are poorly institutionalized, with low levels of trust in parties and limited popular access to political space, but in which the climate of repression toward citizen action is fairly low, are more likely to be characterized by high levels of protest and social movement activity. I explore this argument empirically through a preliminary plausibility probe, applying the framework to the cases of Colombia and Ecuador.
VECTORS OF CONTESTATION: SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND PARTY
SYSTEMS IN ECUADOR AND COLOMBIA
Jeff Pugh1
The Johns Hopkins University
In a developed democratic party system, the party is perceived as a
channel for popular contestation of policies. If an individual or group is
unsatisfied with the performance or policies of those in power, they can seek a
change in these policies or of the governing regime itself by supporting opposing
parties who seek to block the regime’s policies through legislative action or to
replace the regime through electoral competition. The linkages between parties
and society, which seek to aggregate and channel the interests of the citizenry,
and which bind the government so that it is responsive to its constituency, create
a symbiotic relationship of representation and electoral support between
policymakers and electors. V.O. Key refers to linkages as “the interconnections
between mass opinion and public decision,”2 indicating the importance of having
an institutional arrangement in which public participation is perceived to have
some discernable effect on political decisions. What happens, however, when
the existing party system in a particular country is not living up to its role as an
institutional arrangement that adequately channels public participation and
demands into responsive governance? This paper attempts to answer that
question by proposing and exploring a framework for understanding the links
between party system weakness and the rise of political contestation outside the
party system, particularly protests and social movements. I argue that countries
in which party systems are poorly institutionalized, with low levels of trust in
parties and limited popular access to political space, but in which the climate of
repression toward citizen action is fairly low, are more likely to be characterized
by high levels of protest and social movement activity. I explore this argument
empirically through a preliminary plausibility probe, applying the framework to the
cases of Colombia and Ecuador.
Other scholars have noted that linkages can take many forms, including
those that go beyond traditional conceptions of political representation through
electoral selection. According to Kay Lawson, “Participation in protest
demonstrations has sometimes been added to the list of acts of aggregated
citizenship (i.e., in addition to voting and replying to pollsters), but the units of
analysis remain the same: citizens, intermediate groups, governments.”3 In
weakly institutionalized party systems, the role of parties as channels for
contestation and as the champions of various interests linked to the broader
society is eroded. Parties are seen as self-interested groupings of elites
protecting only their own interests, which are significantly divorced from the
interests of society at large.
The strength of the institutional channels available for public participation
has a very direct effect on the type of linkages that emerge between society and
government, as well as on the mechanisms employed to achieve policy goals
and affect the political decision-making process.4 In situations in which the
Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
representative function of the party system does not work effectively and does
not create the reasonable expectation that the system can produce governments
and policy outcomes that are acceptably in line with what a significant proportion
of people want, alternative channels for contestation will emerge, and may seek
to overturn the party system as it exists in order to create a system that is
responsive in these ways. Dissatisfaction with the government is often not
expressed through party competition to defeat the incumbent government, but
through mass movements and protests that dismantle the government in an ad
hoc manner.
One of the questions that arise is whether this contestation outside the
party system indicates a different approach for understanding parties and political
participation altogether, in which the locus of political contestation shifts from a
narrow party focus to a broader social infrastructure that includes parties as one
of several (and not necessarily the dominant) vectors of contestation. In some
cases, parties and elements of civil society share real and rhetorical interests,
and the population is presented with several options of channels through which
to engage in political participation and contestation. The linkages between civil
society, parties, and social movements create a much bigger infrastructure of
contestation, and in weakly institutionalized systems, a more prominent
alternative extraparty channel for opposition may exist than is typically found in
Western European party democracies.
Such a system of ‘fluid linkages’ leads to concerted political action not just
among parties, but also including indigenous movements, the military, labor
unions, students, and others as key wielders of political power over the
government. This may represent a new way of looking at vectors of contestation
as the operative unit in inchoate systems like Ecuador, and perhaps even in
other weakly institutionalized party systems in Latin America. It seems
reasonable to ask not just what makes parties more or less effective and what
makes social movements successful in achieving goals, but also what factors
contribute to the relative prominence of each of these two vectors of contestation
in any given polity. Peter Houtzager argues that traditional notions of
contestation, political parties, and social movements “are based on the
experience of relatively stable Western democracies....Such theories may not
travel well to regions where key background conditions, such as the stability of
institutional arrangements that link state and society, do not hold.”5 Although
there are growing bodies of literature that separately explore Latin American
democratic party systems and Latin American social movements, more work
must be done to examine the intersections between these two fields in this
region.
This paper addresses these questions in the context of Latin America,
focusing particularly on comparisons between an inchoate party system
(Ecuador) and a historically durable two-party system (Colombia)6. Building on
the work of Scott Mainwaring, who argues that high electoral volatility and weak
linkages between party and society are the key dimensions impeding the
institutionalization of party systems in Latin American and other developing
democratic states,7 this paper examines the nexus between party system
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institutionalization and the rise of non-party modes of political and social
contestation, such as social movements and violent uprisings.
Mainwaring and Scully construct an index to measure and describe the
level of institutionalization of democratic party systems in Latin America, using
this as a basis to argue that institutionalization is one of the primary factors in the
likely success of a party system in achieving sustainable democratic governance
within a particular state. The institutionalization concept that Mainwaring and
Scully propose includes four main dimensions or components: stability of
interparty competition patterns; the degree to which major parties are rooted in
and meaningfully linked to broad elements of society; the legitimacy given by
political actors to the electoral and party process and the expectation that this is
the primary mechanism for achieving the power to govern; and the strength and
autonomy of party organizations. According to these authors, “Democratic
consolidation occurs when actors bet on electoral politics as the chief currency
for achieving power and shaping the policy agenda. And they place their bets
through parties.”8
Taking a somewhat different angle, Lorenzo Meyer seeks to conceptualize
political contestation within the context of post-authoritarian democratization as a
unique phenomenon in which “more attention should be paid to the role of
parties. In many cases, such parties will have few or no roots in the past. The
task of creating and organizing such parties has to have a high priority on the
agenda of the democratic leadership in the transition period. Parties have to be
the institutions created to channel the energies of social movements, labor
unions, and other anti-authoritarian forces present at the beginning of the
reemergence of civil society. Without parties it would be very difficult to negotiate
the necessary compromises among the main political actors and to neutralize the
understandable but dangerous tendencies let loose by the ‘maximalists’
(mentioned by Guillermo O’Donnell) who can undermine the transition to a stable
democracy.”9 This rather normative argument reflects the assumptions of many
scholars, and even more nongovernmental organization practitioners engaged in
democratic consolidation assistance in the developing world. It is not clear,
however, why parties are in a better position to channel interests and energies
than other competing vectors of contestation. This argument also seems to
make a more developed normative argument about what should be than an
analytical argument explaining what is. While this sort of argument is valuable
and has an important role in scholarship, I will focus in this paper more on an
analytical argument to try to explain what happens and why it happens within
different systems of political contestation.
According to Samuel Huntington, social and economic changes, such as
urbanization, expanding political consciousness and participation, and increasing
political demands, “undermine traditional sources of political authority and
traditional political institutions; they enormously complicate the problems of
creating new bases of political association and new political institutions
combining legitimacy and effectiveness. The rates of social mobilization and the
expansion of political participation are high; the rates of political organization and
institutionalization are low. The result is political instability and disorder.”10
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Huntington was an early leader in studying the relationship between political
institutions such as parties and the larger social forces that provide the context in
which political contestation takes place. Huntington argues, “All men who
engage in political activity may be assumed to be members of a variety of social
groupings. The level of political development of a society in large part depends
upon the extent to which these political activists belong to and identify with a
variety of political institutions.”11 Mainwaring and Scully drew on such previous
work by Samuel Huntington and Charles Anderson, among others, and I in turn
use Mainwaring & Scully’s work as a point of departure for this paper. Despite
their exclusive focus on institutionalization, they acknowledge that there are still
large questions remaining to be answered: “Much more comparative work
remains to be done on social bases of the parties, on party organization and the
internal life of parties, on why some party systems become institutionalized and
others do not, and on why some party systems deinstitutionalize.”12
Mainwaring and Scully’s concept of party institutionalization is a useful
framework for understanding and analyzing party systems, especially in the
developing world, but it contains some important limitations. First, the approach
does not recognize explicitly the role that social movements and protest play as
the primary alternative vectors of contestation outside the party system. The
authors measure the strength and legitimacy of the party system, but they do not
develop a detailed explanation of what happens when the party system is
characterized by low institutionalization beyond arguing that this makes effective
governance difficult. More attention is needed to elaborate the links between
conventional political participation through the party system and unconventional
protest and social movement activity outside of this system. When party
legitimacy, organization, and links to society are low, and access to political
decision-making space through parties is perceived to be very limited,
institutionalization presumably will be low.
Latin America, however, is a region in which many of these conditions are
true in a number of different states. On average, only 11% of Latin Americans
said that they trusted political parties.13 So, what explains the variance across
countries in the occurrence of protest and social movement activity outside of the
party system? Why do some states with low institutionalization simply devolve
into a fragile system of poor governance, while in others, societal actors mobilize
and engage in organized contestation through direct protest rather than through
party activity? Why do some polities take this a step further with violence and
internal war, rather than parties or social movements, being the mechanism for
contestation of policies?
I argue that repression of popular mobilization represents a key variable in
explaining these differences. Low trust in political parties and limited access to
political space create incentives for social actors to reject parties and look
elsewhere for contestation of policies. The level of repression from government
and other actors with violence capacity toward popular mobilization, however,
affects the cost of acting on this incentive and engaging in protest and social
movement activity (See Figure 1). Where repression is higher, the costs of
political participation outside the party system are higher, and it is more likely that
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people will accept the party system despite its flaws (or, as I argue in the
Colombia case study, higher levels of repression may also push political
contestation into the realm of violent conflict).
Figure 1
Trust in parties
Perceived Access to Political Space
Government Repression
HIGHLOW
HIGH
HIGH
LOW
LOW
Party Dominant
Vector
Social Movement
Dominant Vector
Explaining Vectors of Contestation
In brief comparative case studies of Ecuador and Colombia, I identify the
key factors in each country that have contributed to the evolution or perpetuation
of their particular type of party system, the impact that this has had on the
institutionalization of the system, and I compare the varying importance of social
movement behavior as a channel of contestation. The hypothesis that this paper
tests is that polities in which the party system is characterized by lower levels of
trust in parties and unfavorable perceptions of the potential for accessing
institutional structures for political expression and which are characterized by
lower levels of government repression of popular dissent are more likely to see
extensive social movement activity rising in importance as a competing
alternative channel of political contestation at the national level.
Ecuador
Like Colombia, Ecuador was dominated for decades by two dominant
parties formed by landowning oligarchic elites, the Liberal Radical party and the
Conservatives. Unlike Colombia, however, which was able to some extent to
overcome bitter competition between these parties and the fierce infighting within
them by forging a power-alternating arrangement known as the National Front,
Ecuador followed a different trajectory in its democratic political development.
With the urbanization and modernization that took place in the latter half of the
twentieth century, a growing middle class began to demand a political voice,
creating demand for new political parties offering alternatives to the traditional
oligarchic dyad. Intense rivalry and regionalism, as well as traditions of
clientelism and paternalistic authority structures, pitted factions and families from
the coast against those from the mountainous Sierra and encouraged the rise of
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individualistic, relatively non-ideological, parties that mostly functioned as
electoral vehicles for particular politicians.14
In the two decades since the post-authoritarian reinstitution of democratic
elections in Ecuador, this South American country’s political system has been
riddled with some of the highest electoral volatility and the lowest voter
confidence in parties in Latin America. According to Mainwaring & Scully, the
Ecuadorian electorate fluctuated dramatically from one election to the next in the
vote share it awarded various parties, and consequently, they assigned an
institutionalization index of 5 (out of 12), one of the lowest scores in Latin
America. When compared with twelve Latin American countries, Ecuador with
an index of 37.9 had the highest mean electoral volatility for the period of 1971-
1990 except for Peru and Brazil.15 Furthermore, the Latinobarometer, a large-
scale public opinion survey that measures key indicators throughout Latin
America, reflects that Ecuadorians generally do not identify strongly with or have
much trust in political parties, and that there has been a marked decrease in the
satisfaction with democracy over the past decade. Specifically, only 26% of
respondents mentioned a political party when asked which party they would vote
for if an election were held right then (compared to a regional average of 43%),
indicating a low degree of affiliation and identification with established parties.
On the issue of whether their interests are being represented by political parties,
77% of respondents agreed with the statement that the country is governed for
the benefit of powerful interests rather than for the good of everyone, indicating
that the linkages between the political elite and the major groupings of
constituent interests within civil society are quite weak.16
In order to better understand the relationship between the strength and
institutionalization of the party system and the relative prevalence of protest and
social movement activity outside of this system, I focus on institutional access to
political space, trust in political parties, and repression of protest as independent
variables. Only 45% of Ecuadorian voters agreed that “the way you vote can
change the way things will be in the future,” compared to a mean agreement rate
of 56.4% for all 18 Latin American countries surveyed. The POLITY IV political
participation index, which measures the extent to which non-elites are able to
access institutional structures for political expression, reflects a score of 3 (out of
5). I have combined these two measures—the POLITY political participation
index and the Latinobarometer perception that the way one votes makes a
difference—to form an indicator of the availability of institutionalized access to
political space. Lower numbers on this index indicate greater limitations on the
population’s access to political space. Ecuador’s composite index score of 1.35
(out of a possible 5), compared to the Latin American average of 2.14 and a high
score in Uruguay of 4, indicates a widespread perception in this country that
ordinary people have very limited institutional options for accessing and
influencing the political decision-making process.
The second indicator, that of trust or confidence in political parties, is
measured by an average of Latinobarometer responses to three questions: a
question asking whether elections are clean and not rigged, a question asking if
democracy cannot function without political parties, and a question asking
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whether or not the person has confidence in political parties. Ecuador’s
composite score for trust in parties according to this measure is quite low, with a
score of 19, compared to a Latin American average of 34 (out of 100).
Combined with the perception that there are significant limitations on the ability to
access and influence political decisions through institutional channels, the low
trust in parties provides some indication that there are significant incentives for
people to look outside the party system for mechanisms of political contestation.
Table I: Ecuadorian Indicators
Institutionalized
access to
political
space17
Trust/
confidence
in parties18
Climate of
repression19 Aggregate
non-electoral
political
participation20
Extent of
Protest
Activity21
1.35 19 3 25 2.42
Anita Isaacs gives a typical overview of the common view of Ecuadorian
parties: “Political parties in Ecuador have been described as opportunistic,
personalistic, or elitist. Being used by their leaders chiefly as an electoral
vehicle, parties have generally lacked ideological or programmatic coherence,
have had weak internal structure and organization, and have demonstrated a
marked propensity for fragmentation.”22 Since the mobility of politicians among
parties has been high, party identification on the part of the electorate has
generally been low, and the frequency of new parties emerging and collapsing
has been high, it is unsurprising that Ecuador’s inchoate party system has not
developed a coherent program for mature political and democratic development.
Former President of Ecuador Osvaldo Hurtado Larrea explained in an
interview, “There cannot be high-quality democracy without a high-quality system
of political parties and without qualified leaders. The party system has been of
poor quality principally, although not exclusively, because of its fragmentation.
Throughout these past 17 years we have had more than a dozen political
parties.”23
Andrés Mejía details some of the factors that have contributed to the
weakness of the party system in Ecuador:
In accordance with its colonial heritage, much of the political activity
was developed in the image of the caudillo, and the political parties,
when they existed, were not successful in identifying themselves with
determinate groups within civil society, nor were they able to establish
solid bases of electoral support. The electorate, for its part, has not
had time to develop political party loyalties since the political regime
has been in a constant state of flux since 1830...The charismatic and
personalistic character of the political leaders, the profound socio-
economic divide among Ecuadorians, the traditional antagonism
between the Coastal and Sierra regions, and the absence of a unified
agenda for the country, were in some sense the characteristics of the
society that have made the stable development of Ecuadorian political
activity difficult.24
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The clientelistic focus of Ecuadorian politics, which has revolved around
regional patron-client relationships and an exchange of patronage and favors for
the mobilization of voting networks by regional power brokers, has retarded the
development and institutionalization of the democratic party system and in
particular, its ability to represent effectively and transparently the interests and
political will of large segments of society. The criterion of Mainwaring and Scully
that Ecuador seems to miss most thoroughly is the strength of linkages between
political parties and the broader civil society. Because political parties are
perceived to be personal instruments for ambitious politicians to increase their
own power, rather than effective mechanisms for channeling popular interests
and will through elections, there is a dramatic disconnect between the ‘political
class’ and the constituency that they ostensibly represent. This rupture seems to
be linked to the consistent use of modes of contestation that go outside the
partisan electoral process. Ecuador has a relatively high level of protest and
social movement activity as indicated by a composite index of Latinobarometer-
reported participation in unconventional political participation and the Minorities
at Risk Protest Index (see Table I). When widespread dissatisfaction arises with
the performance of the existing regime, the response more often than not has
tended to be widespread support for changing the political system rather than an
upswing of support for an opposition party within the existing system.
During the 1970s, military coups served the function of mollifying popular
dissent with poorly performing governments, while in the 1990s and the past few
years, massive demonstrations and protests involving indigenous groups, labor
unions, students, elements within the military, and others have unseated three
presidents in a coercive manner and have been instrumental in gaining important
policy changes desired by the protesting groups. Obviously, the democratic
political party system has remained fragile and inchoate in this environment of
uncertainty, political exclusion, and frequent inability to transfer power peacefully
or normally.
One of the major reasons for the continued instability of the political
system in Ecuador is that a broad segment of society perceives that the system
is constructed in a way that ignores their interests and excludes them from
having a viable opportunity to gain access to governing roles that would give
them a voice in the political process. Based on this perception that meaningful
change and greater political inclusion is unlikely within the framework of the
existing political institutions, these actors continue to undermine the party system
in order to try to produce a more just and inclusive set of institutions. Antonio
Vargas, former president of CONAIE, the national indigenous federation,
explained, “Those who have managed the country are the rich and powerful.
They have the press and economic resources which the people do not possess.
The participation of the people is restricted. Almost all of the laws benefit only a
certain group. It is necessary to democratize the system to have a larger
participation of all sectors.”25
The emergence of the indigenous movement as a powerful national actor
has had a significant impact on the Ecuadorian political system, both the formal
party system and the broader arena of civil society and popular contestation.
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Ecuadorian indigenous people have learned to assert themselves politically and
demand inclusion in political decision-making, a fact which has resulted in very
real gains in the form of favorable constitutional provisions and a strong
indigenous party—Pachakutik—which has successfully promoted Congressional
deputies, cabinet ministers, and in a coalition with other parties, a president. The
mechanisms that indigenous actors use to try to gain access to power, however,
are varied, and the Pachakutik party, while important, is not necessarily the
dominant institution. Because of the public distrust toward politicians, parties
(even the indigenous party), and the existing political institutions, many
indigenous actors choose to engage in political contestation through alternative
channels that are less tainted (such as the indigenous organization CONAIE) in
order to try to mobilize support directly and achieve power without going through
the formal party system. Donna Lee Van Cott asserts that, “Whereas CONAIE’s
organizational strength and popular support were assets for the formation of a
successful political party, once the party was formed the greater strength of the
social movement organization inhibited somewhat the development of the
party…CONAIE’s increasing political prominence actually weakened Pachakutik.
As it painted all parties and political institutions with the brush of illegitimacy,
CONAIE rose in public esteem as a valid interlocutor for all excluded and
disadvantaged sectors, as well as a broader sector of Ecuadorians disgusted
with the corruption and self-interestedness of the political class.”26 By becoming
part of a party system that is widely viewed with suspicion, and by making the
political compromises that come with governing, Pachakutik politicians have
frequently been accused of ‘selling out’ the indigenous movement in favor of their
own interests. Because of this, it is likely that the political party will continue to
be only one (and not the dominant one) of many vectors of contestation that the
indigenous population and other marginalized groups use in order to try to gain
access to political decision-making power.
Although discrimination and disenfranchisement of indigenous, poor, and
other marginalized groups in society has been a long-standing feature of the
Ecuadorian reality, there has not been the type of active repression by the
government, at least in the past two decades, that has characterized other Latin
American countries. Ecuador’s score on the combined Freedom House civil
liberties and political rights indices is a 3, compared with Colombia’s 4, which
reflects a higher level of government repression.
Some scholars have argued that the presence of a large indigenous
population and the existence of a relatively strong indigenous-focused political
party can and do often result in greater democratic participation, less political
fragmentation, and greater acceptance of the political system.27 This may be
true, but based on the Ecuadorian experience, it is necessary to add the caveat
that there seems to be some level of diminished returns. The indigenous
movement must have enough strength to mobilize, contest, and engage
politically, but little enough influence that they still feel excluded from the political
process and therefore have a strong incentive to mobilize social protest. The
internal divisions and growing factionalism within the indigenous movement in
recent years indicates that, while remaining a strong and relevant political actor,
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the social movement is beginning to experience the downside of success. In any
case, Ecuador is a clear example of a polity which combines a fragmented and
distrusted party system with a strong social movement presence and frequent
use of protest as a mechanism for political contestation.
Colombia
In Colombia, the Liberals and Conservatives formed a bipolar party
system which historically alternated in power, but this elite arrangement excluded
many popular voices from any institutional policy channel. Nonetheless, the
confidence in and support for the party system, and the perception that the
people had the means to access and influence political decision-making, is
higher in Colombia than in Ecuador. For those who, unsatisfied by the party
system, choose contestation outside of that system, participation in social
movement activity has come at a higher cost than in Ecuador because of a
higher level of repression. As a result, the alternative vector of policy opposition
and popular contestation in Colombia was to support organized movements
outside the system, such as the FARC, ELN, and other guerrilla movements,
which used violence to oppose policies. As explained more fully later in this
paper, the addition of violence to extra-party contestation was in part a direct
result of government repression of protest, since those being repressed had an
incentive to develop their own violence capacity to respond to that of the state.
Beginning with the rivalry between Colombia’s key liberators, Simón
Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander, the Colombian elite have historically
been divided into Conservative and Liberal camps, with Conservatives tending to
support a greater role for the church and for a strong, hierarchical central
government, while Liberals tend to be more anti-clerical, supporting a more
decentralized, federalist model of government in which individual states have
significant autonomy. Throughout the 19th century, both parties sought to attain
control of the national government, and once in power, to use this control to
exclude the other party and to try to ensure their own long-term hegemonic
dominance. As a result, the party not in power was faced either with political
obsolescence or the necessity of attempting to regain power through mass
popular protests or violence. Despite the durability of the Liberal and
Conservative parties, this tradition of extra-systemic contestation through protest
or violence represents clear symptomatic evidence of weak institutionalization of
the Colombian party system, which historically has been unable to channel
political opposition and facilitate peaceful transfers of power in a way that is
linked to the needs and interests of the citizenry as a whole.
The 1940s and 1950s represented a particularly violent period of
Colombia’s history, known as la Violencia, as the Liberal and Conservative
parties vied for power and control of land. Once in power, each party would take
violent revenge on the other, sealing it off from any effective governing role, and
attacking partisan activists in the countryside. The 1948 assassination of
populist, Liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitán in particular
launched an intense wave of violent Liberal resistence in rural areas of Colombia.
The insurgents in this episode of violence laid the foundation for the ongoing
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leftist insurgency which continues to this day, led by the Fuerzas Armadas
Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).
Although the two major parties were able at the elite level to forge a
power-sharing agreement known as the National Front, which provided for strict
alternation of the presidency and quotas for other national office, these measures
were not linked successfully to the rank-and-file members of the parties, and
faced with political exclusion and a party system that was unresponsive to their
needs and interests, many peasants joined the armed insurgency as a
mechanism of political contestation outside of the party system. Since the
period of la Violencia, outside political actors have been unable to access
political power because of a monopoly on control by Colombia’s two traditional
parties, so these outsiders have frequently resorted to violence as a means to
gain attention for their political agenda. The rigid boundaries of the system for
accessing power, including patronage and massive voting machines controlled
by the Liberals and Conservatives, and occasional violent retribution (especially
prior to the National Front period) against opponents upon coming to power,
have had the result of pushing the opposition out of the political arena and into
the military arena.28 The durability both of the strong two-party system and of
the significant extra-party contestation in the form of political violence indicates
that even a system with strong party durability can be weakly institutionalized in
terms of the hegemony of the party system as a mechanism for engaging in
political contestation. The fact that Mainwaring’s framework lists Colombia as
one of the most highly institutionalized systems indicates a potential weakness in
his measure, which does not take into account political contestation through
violence, nor the climate of repression toward social movement activity which
may push non-party contestation toward the protection of violent organizations.
Diana Hoyos Gómez argues that the hegemony of Colombia’s two
predominant parties has created a system of political exclusion and shaky
democratic institutionalization. “The two-party system has been perceived as a
partially closed, unrepresentative system that was a source of exclusion.” She
points out that the reasons for this disillusionment with political parties is due to
“the incapacity of the parties to represent the interests of broad sectors of
Colombian society, the predominance of corrupt and clientelistic practices with
the consequent diminished levels of legitimacy for the system, and the incapacity
of the traditional parties to channel social conflicts, among others.”29 Compared
with Ecuador, however, the Colombian party system is more highly
institutionalized, and consistently with the approach advanced in this paper, the
level of protest and social movement activity is lower than in Ecuador.
Table II: Colombian Indicators30
Institutionalized
access to
political space
Trust/
confidence
in parties
Climate of
repression Aggregate
non-electoral
political
participation
Extent of
Protest
Activity
Colombia 1.8 31 4 20 1.6
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Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
Like a number of Latin American countries in recent decades, Colombia
has suffered from a widespread lack of public confidence in its parties and other
political institutions, which are widely perceived to be exclusive and self-serving.
According to the Latinobarometer public opinion survey31, 50% of respondents
identified with a particular party, while 59% believed that parties were only
interested in protecting the interests of a narrow political elite, agreeing to the
statement that “Colombia is governed for the benefit of a few powerful interests.”
Overall, 30% reported that they were satisfied with the way democracy works in
Colombia. In addition, the percentage of survey respondents who reported that
they would not mind a non-democratic form of government if it could solve
economic problems was 64%, while a rather lukewarm 71% believed that
democracy is the best system of government. This indicates that democratic
governance and the integral component of party structure are often seen as
ineffective mechanisms for channeling and representing the interests and will of
the society at large.
Intuitively, it might seem that Colombia, like Ecuador, should also be
characterized by high levels of protest and social movement activity since it also
features fairly low levels of trust in parties, which should make forms of
contestation that occur outside of the party system more attractive. The
framework advanced in this paper (data summarized in Tables I & II), however,
helps to explain the difference in the two cases of Ecuador and Colombia.
Although it suffers from a lack of confidence in the party system, Colombia does
have a significantly higher level of confidence than Ecuador (31 instead of 19),
which has one of the lowest levels in Latin America. Furthermore, the Colombian
population has a greater perception that non-elites can access political space
and that their participation will have some effect on what happens in the future
(1.8 instead of 1.35). These two measures taken together shed some light on
why Colombia, compared with Ecuador, might be more willing to engage in
political contestation through conventional means, specifically through the party
system, which is stable and enduring. More than in Ecuador, Colombians
perceive that their interests can be effectively channeled through parties because
opportunities exist to access political space and parties are more likely to take
their interests into account and push for policies that will meet the needs of the
represented portions of the population. This creates less of an incentive to go
outside the party system and create alternative networks and organizations from
scratch in order to affect policy decisions.
The third part of the framework, political repression, helps to illuminate the
question of why Colombia has relatively low levels of protest and social
movement activity despite the fact that there are below-average levels of trust for
parties compared with Latin America (albeit higher levels than are present in
Ecuador). The level of repression is higher in Colombia than in Ecuador, as
measured by the Freedom House civil liberties and political rights indices, which
give Colombia a combined score of 4 rather than Ecuador’s 3.32 Because of this,
there are higher costs to protest and forms of contestation that occur outside of
the party system, because the government will likely respond with a stronger
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Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
response than is likely in Ecuador. The repression variable, combined with
relatively low levels of confidence in parties when compared with global
averages, may explain in part why contestation in Colombia seems to be divided
between a very durable two party system on the one hand and unconventional
organizations that engage in violence as a form of contestation on the other,
while skipping over the middle ground of social movements and protests that are
more common in Ecuador. Because of the costs imposed by the repression of
protest activity, the majority of individuals who are unwilling to incur these costs
are willing to rely on the party system to aggregate and channel their interests
and engage in political contestation on their behalf, accepting the lesser of two
evils, that is, an imperfect representation instead of repression from direct
mobilization and contestation. The remaining portion of the polity, which distrusts
the party system’s ability and willingness to aggregate and channel their interests
enough to incur the costs of government repression, has an incentive to join
together and develop their own ‘repressive’ capabilities through organized
violence.33
Conclusions
Based on the cases examined here, it seems apparent that weak
institutionalization and democratic underdevelopment is not the exclusive
province of any one party system type. Electoral volatility varies significantly
across the two cases, with Ecuador’s inchoate party system having one of the
most volatile electoral track records in Latin America, while Colombia has one of
the least volatile. Although both countries are characterized by low levels of
public confidence in political parties and a widespread perception that access to
and influence over political space and decision-making by non-elites is severely
limited, Ecuador has comparatively lower scores on both measures. This helps
to explain the motivation behind civil society actors seeking and employing
vectors of contestation that fall outside the conventional political party system. In
doing so, they seek to gain a voice and influence in decision-making by going
around what is perceived as an illegitimate, inefficient institution that is unlikely to
represent their interests. Because of higher levels of trust in parties and a more
favorable perception that access to political space exists, Colombians have
comparatively less motivation to undermine, ignore, or overturn the party system.
At the same time, greater repression of social movements and protest activity in
Colombia provides some explanation for why less public contestation occurs
outside the party system and why the strongest alternative vector of contestation
seems to be organized violence, rather than social movements and protests. This
is due to the fact that those choosing not to accept the party system and to incur
the costs of repression have an incentive to form their own violence capacity.
All of these results affirm and are consistent with the hypothesis that lower
trust in the party system, less favorable perceptions of the possibility for access
to political space, and lower levels of repression will likely lead to greater use of
alternative vectors of contestation in the form of protest and social movements,
rather than conventional electoral contestation through the party system. In
Ecuador, the indigenous movement has allied with labor unions, the military, and
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Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
other segments of society to achieve policy changes and regime changes
through mass protest and social movements. The traditional hegemony of
Colombia’s two dominant oligarchical parties has resulted in a rejection of the
political and party system by guerrillas who employ violence to achieve their
ends, which is more like hierarchically organized violence than a decentralized
social movement. Hopefully, the framework advanced in this paper helps to
explain why.
Limitations and Future Directions for Research
This paper represents a preliminary exploration into the links between
elements of party system strength and institutionalization on the one hand and
variations in the level of contestation that occurs outside the party system,
especially through protest and social movements, on the other hand. By
employing two comparative case studies of countries with many geographical,
cultural, and demographic similarities, I have attempted to develop a detailed
qualitative explanation for the links between party system institutionalization and
levels of social protest in Ecuador and Colombia. In order to provide some
degree of quantitative evidence, indicators of party system institutionalization and
strength have been identified and measured for both cases, and this data has
been compared with the dependent variable data on social movement and
protest activity in both countries. This illustrative comparison shows results that
are consistent with the hypothesized model, but much more rigorous and more
systematic comparative data is needed in order to have confidence that the
model proposed here is useful and valid across other countries.
Specifically, the model should be tested across all Latin American
countries (or perhaps a sample of other states in the developing world) over the
course of several years in order to reduce the likelihood that specific events in a
particular year or a particular country are clouding the analysis. Also, the
indicators used in the analysis are not without flaws. Public opinion polls are
very useful for capturing popular perceptions, but these are often ‘snapshots’ that
change quickly across time and space. The indicators for the climate of
repression, which are an aggregation of two Freedom House indices for civil
liberties and political rights, are an imperfect measure of repression as it applies
to social movement activities and mobilization. It would be useful to find data
that more directly measures government repression of social movement and
protest mobilization. The Minorities at Risk database contains data on
government repression, but it is only available for specific minority groups, and it
is not readily available for the years that are used for the current comparisons.
The two cases analyzed in this paper were selected both for their geographical
and cultural similarities and for their differing party systems (inchoate multi-party
system in Ecuador vs. historically durable two-party system in Colombia). This
provides some variation in party system, which is useful for a fuller analysis, but it
would be helpful to have multiple cases for each system type, as well as a third
type, such as a dominant one-party system, for comparison. Overall, much more
work needs to be done to identify and understand the fluid and dynamic links
between parties and social movements; the Ecuadorian case shows that it is
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Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
often less a question of choosing one vector of contestation over the other, and
more an issue of employing several vectors simultaneously. This question
represents a fascinating challenge for future research.
Notes
1 Department of Political Science—Johns Hopkins University, and the Center for Mediation,
Peace, and Resolution of Conflict - International (CEMPROC). Thanks to Richard Katz, Michael
McCarthy, the participants in the JHU Graduate Colloquium and the 2007 MACLAS Annual
Conference, and to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this
paper. Thanks also to Jessica Smith for her data assistance. All shortcomings, of course, are my
own. This paper is forthcoming in MACLAS: Latin American Essays, vol. XXI (2008).
2 V.O. Key, Public Opinion and American Democracy (New York: Kropf, 1963), pp. 409-558.
3 Kay Lawson, Introduction in Political Parties and Linkage: A Comparative Perspective (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), p. 7
4 Kenneth Roberts has also argued persuasively that the ‘crisis of representation’ that is so
commonly pointed out in analyses of Latin American politics is not so much an overall decline in
political representation and of party-society linkages, but rather can be understood as a shift from
particular types of ideological and group-based linkages and forms of representation to other,
more contingent, individualized types. See Kenneth Roberts, “Party-Society Linkages and
Democratic Representation in Latin America,” Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean
Studies, vol. 27, no. 53 (2002), pp. 9-34
5 Peter Houtzager, “Collective Action and Political Authority: Rural Workers, Church, and State in
Brazil,” Theory and Society 30 (2001), pp. 1-45
6 There is some speculation that with the election of Alvaro Uribe as a splinter faction of the
Liberal Party and with the personalistic politics which facilitated a change in the constitution and
the reelection of Uribe, the centrality and durability of the entrenched two-party system in
Colombia is eroding. It is, however, too early to know the long-term effects of Uribe’s popularity
on the institutions of the political party system.
7 Scott Mainwaring, “Party Systems in the Third Wave,” Journal of Democracy. Vol 9, No. 3
(1998), pp. 67-81
8 Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully, introduction, Building Democratic Institutions: Party
Systems in Latin America (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 27
9 Lorenzo Meyer, “Democracy from Three Latin American Perspectives,” in Robert Pastor, ed.
Democracy in the Americas: Stopping the Pendulum (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1989), p. 34.
10 Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (Yale University Press, 1968), p. 5
11 Ibid., p.9
12 Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully, op cit.
13 Latinobarometer, 2003
14 Catherine M. Conaghan, “Politicians Against Parties: Discord and Disconnection in Ecuador’s
Party System,” in Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully, eds. Building Democratic Institutions:
Party Systems in Latin America (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995), pp. 434-458.
15 Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully, “Introduction,” In Mainwaring & Scully, eds., Building
Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America. The mean volatility index is calculated
by measuring the net change in the percentage of seats/votes that are either gained or lost from
one election to the next, adding these percentages together for all the parties, and dividing by
two.
16 2004 Executive Summary. Latinobarometer. Corporación Latinobarometro (Santiago, Chile,
2004); www.latinobarometro.org, accessed December 28, 2005.
17 Latinobarometer public opinion data was used to construct this index on a scale between 0 and
5: the percentage agreeing with the statement, “How you vote will affect whether things get better
15
Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
in the future”, was multiplied by the 5-point POLITY IV political participation index (which
measures the extent to which non-elites are able to access institutional structures for political
expression; 5 is the most favorable perception of access). Latinobarometer 2005. Monty
Marshall, Keith Jaggers, and Ted Robert Gurr, Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics
and Transitions, 1800-2003 (www.cidcm.umd.edu/inscr/polity/index.htm), accessed September
18, 2006.
18 Latinobarometer public opinion data was used to construct this index: the percentage saying
that elections are clean (as opposed to rigged) was averaged with the percentage saying that
democracy cannot function without political parties and the percentage having confidence in
political parties. Latinobarometer 2005.
19 Average of Freedom House civil liberties and political rights indices on a scale of 0-5 (higher
score=more repressive); Freedom in the World Project, Freedom House (Washington, D.C.).
www.freedomhouse.org, accessed September 18, 2006
20 Aggregate of Latinobarometer percentages for those reporting having engaged in
‘unconventional’ or nonelectoral political participation, including authorized and unauthorized
demonstrations, looting, occupying buildings, and blocking traffic. Latinobarometer 2005.
21 Source: Minorities at Risk Project, mean Protest Index score (1-5, with 5 being the most
extensive protest activity) for 2000-2003. Minorities at Risk Project (2005) College Park, MD:
Center for International Development and Conflict Management. Retrieved from
http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/inscr/mar/ on September 20, 2006.
22 Anita Isaacs, “Los problemas de consolidación democrática en Ecuador,” In Felipe Burbano de
Lara, ed. Antologia: Democracia, Gobernabilidad, y Cultura Política (Quito: FLACSO, 2003), p.
266 (My translation)
23 Milagros Aguirre, Controversia—Ecuador Hoy: Cien Miradas (Quito: Ediecuatorial, 2000),
p.150 (My translation)
24 Andrés Mejía, “Partidos Políticos: El Eslabón Perdido de la Representación,” In Felipe Burbano
de Lara, ed. Antologia: Democracia, Gobernabilidad, y Cultura Política (Quito: FLACSO, 2003), p.
292 (My translation)
25 Cited in Allen Gerlach, Indians, Oil, and Politics (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 2003), p. 77
26 Donna Lee Van Cott, From Movements to Parties in Latin America. (Cambridge University
Press: 2005), p. 130
27 Raul Madrid, “Critical Debates: Indigenous Parties and Democracy in Latin America,” Latin
American Politics and Society 47:4 (2005). pp. 161-179.
28 Jeff Pugh, Changing Gears in Colombia: A Shift in U.S. Policy Under George W. Bush,
University of Georgia Honors Thesis (May, 2003)
29 Diana Hoyos Gómez, “Evolución del Sistema de Partidos en Colombia 1972-2000: Una Mirada
a Nivel Local y Regional,” Revista Análisis Política. No. 55 (August/December 2005), p. 1
30 See footnotes to Table I for sources of data.
31 Summary-Report Latinobarómetro 2004: A Decade of Measurements, (Santiago, Chile:
Corporación Latinobarómetro, 2004)
32 I am using repression to mean the strength of forces, policies, and norms, governmental or
otherwise, that reduce citizens’ freedom to assemble, criticize the government, or engage in other
forms of independent civic participation. I am most concerned with repression that originates
from the government, but in some cases, citizens might feel threats from organized non-state
actors that would prevent them from participating meaningfully in protest and social movement
activity.
33 There are potential alternative explanations to this narrative, of course. In Colombia, for
example, there has been something of a generalized historical suspicion on the part of the
population toward civil society organizations seeking to represent the interests of the people (as
opposed to engaging in advocacy, human rights monitoring, etc.), since these activities in the
form of protests and social movements have been linked in the past with subsequent guerrilla
activity. It is possible that this social construction of civil society and social movement activity,
has acted to discourage this vector of contestation in favor of the party system (thanks to Michael
McCarthy for pointing this out). Even if true, however, this does not fundamentally challenge my
thesis, since this suspicion is largely a function of the population’s dissatisfaction with violence by
16
Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
illegal armed groups acting as elements of civil society, and as such, this violence can be
considered a form of repression according to my framework.
References Cited
Aguirre, Milagros. Controversia—Ecuador Hoy: Cien Miradas (Quito:
Ediecuatorial, 2000)
Burbano de Lara, Felipe, ed., Antologia: Democracia, Gobernabilidad, y Cultura
Política (Quito: FLACSO, 2003)
Freedom in the World Project, Freedom House (Washington, D.C.).
www.freedomhouse.org, accessed September 18, 2006
Gerlach, Allen. Indians, Oil, and Politics (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources,
2003),
Houtzager, Peter. “Collective Action and Political Authority: Rural Workers,
Church, and State in Brazil,” Theory and Society 30 (2001)
Hoyos Gómez, Diana. “Evolución del Sistema de Partidos en Colombia 1972-
2000: Una Mirada a Nivel Local y Regional,” Revista Análisis Política. No.
55 (August/December 2005)
Huntington, Samuel. Political Order in Changing Societies (Yale University Press,
1968)
Key, V.O. Public Opinion and American Democracy (New York: Kropf, 1963)
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September 13, 2006.
Lawson, Kay. Introduction in Political Parties and Linkage: A Comparative
Perspective (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980)
Madrid, Raul, “Critical Debates: Indigenous Parties and Democracy in Latin
America,” Latin American Politics and Society 47:4 (2005)
Mainwaring, Scott and Timothy Scully, eds., Building Democratic Institutions:
Party Systems in Latin America (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1995)
Mainwaring, Scott. “Party Systems in the Third Wave,” Journal of Democracy.
Vol 9, No. 3 (1998)
Marshall, Monty, Keith Jaggers, and Ted Robert Gurr, Polity IV Project: Political
Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2003
(www.cidcm.umd.edu/inscr/polity/index.htm), accessed September 18,
2006.
Meyer, Lorenzo. “Democracy from Three Latin American Perspectives,” in Robert
Pastor, ed. Democracy in the Americas: Stopping the Pendulum (New
York: Holmes & Meier, 1989)
Minorities at Risk Project (2005) College Park, MD: Center for International
Development and Conflict Management. Retrieved from
http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/inscr/mar/ on September 20, 2006.
17
Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
Pugh, Jeff. Changing Gears in Colombia: A Shift in U.S. Policy Under George W.
Bush, University of Georgia Honors Thesis (May, 2003)
Roberts, Kenneth. “Party-Society Linkages and Democratic Representation in
Latin America,” Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean
Studies, vol. 27, no. 53 (2002), pp. 9-34
Summary-Report Latinobarómetro 2004: A Decade of Measurements, (Santiago,
Chile: Corporación Latinobarómetro, 2005). www.latinobarometro.org,
accessed December 28, 2005.
Van Cott, Donna Lee. From Movements to Parties in Latin America. (Cambridge
University Press: 2005)
18
Latin American Essays, vol. XXI, 2008
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In an era of mass migration and restrictive responses, this book seeks to understand how migrants negotiate their place in the receiving society and adapt innovative strategies to integrate, participate, and access protection. Their acceptance is often contingent on the expectation that they contribute economically to the host country while remaining politically and socially invisible. These unwritten expectations, which this book calls the “invisibility bargain,” produce a precarious status in which migrants’ visible differences or overt political demands on the state may be met with a hostile backlash from the host society. In this context, governance networks of state and nonstate actors form an institutional web that can provide access to rights, resources, and protection for migrants through informal channels that avoid a negative backlash against visible political activism. This book examines Ecuador, the largest recipient of refugees in Latin America, asking how it has achieved migrant human security gains despite weak state presence in peripheral areas. The key finding is that localities with more dense networks composed of more diverse actors tend to produce greater human security for migrants and their neighbors. The argument has implications beyond Ecuador for migrant-receiving countries around the world. The book challenges the conventional understanding of migration and security, providing a fresh approach to the negotiation of authority between state and society. Its nuanced account of informal pathways to human security dismantles the false dichotomy between international and national politics, and it exposes the micropolitics of institutional innovation.
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Migration within the Global South is increasing. While conflict and xenophobia occurs, Latin America has been relatively welcoming of recent large-scale flows of forced migrants from Colombia and Venezuela, as well as other smaller flows from different countries migrating for economic or political reasons. Ecuador has a reputation for having progressive institutions protecting migrants, but translating these formal institutions into effective rights guarantees and political inclusion in practice is uneven. Migrants' ability to integrate successfully into their host society and achieve rights, security, and livelihood is influenced by intersecting structures of identity and by their networked linkages with state, non-state, and informal institutions. While these factors often impose social sanctions on migrants who attempt to participate actively in political decisions that affect them, the expectation of 'political invisibility' varies by nationality, race, class, and dominant societal narrative across migrant populations. This paper seeks to explore how these characteristics drive differential attitudes about democracy and politics and different levels of political engagement across diverse migrant groups by surveying 720 migrants in Quito, and comparing six populations: Colombians, Venezuelans, Cubans, Chinese, Haitians, and returned Ecuadorian emigrants. This study contributes one of the first systematic comparisons of migrant populations in Ecuador that vary across language, class, race, and societal narrative to examine how these different factors impede or facilitate access to rights, political participation, and protection.
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Este estudio pretende aportar elementos para comprender lo que ha sucedido con el sistema partidista colombiano durante las últimas tres décadas. Para ello, no se enmarca sólo en la discusión sobre la apertura o reconfiguración del sistema de partidos, entendida en términos de incorporación de nuevas fuerzas al espacio político electoral o el tránsito a un sistema multipartidista, sino que aborda también de manera central el asunto de la estabilidad. En esta dirección, examina la evolución del sistema de partidos en el ámbito local y regional, a partir del comportamiento de las variables número de partidos, volatilidad electoral y presencia de terceras fuerzas políticas en el período comprendido entre 1972 y 2000. De manera general, el estudio se inscribe en la discusión sobre el cambio del sistema de partidos colombiano.
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Based on extensive original research and detailed historical case studies, this book links historical institutional analysis and social movement theory to a study of political systems in which new ethnic cleavages have emerged. It studies the surprising transformation of indigenous peoples’ movements into viable political parties in the 1990s in four Latin American countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela) and their failure to succeed in two others (Argentina, Peru). The study concludes with the democratic implications of the emergence of this phenomenon in the context of declining public support for parties.
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Journal of Democracy 9.3 (1998) 67-81 One of the most difficult obstacles facing the new post-1974 democracies in their efforts at democratic consolidation is weakly institutionalized party systems. The importance of this distinctive characteristic of party systems in the third-wave democracies has not been sufficiently recognized. Although analyses of Latin American and East European party systems have proliferated in the past decade, they have generally not attempted to challenge the manner in which political scientists typically think about and compare party systems. Such a challenge is in order. The conventional criteria by which party systems are usually compared are the number of parties and the degree of ideological polarization. Along these two dimensions, the party systems of the third-wave democracies often resemble those of Western Europe. But if we bring in a third dimension -- that of institutionalization -- the contrast between West European systems and those of new democracies is substantial. Party systems in the third-wave democracies are markedly less institutionalized than those in most long-established democracies. This difference should not be obscured by the fact that parties in the advanced industrial democracies are facing new challenges and experiencing some erosion. Of course, what is true in general is not true in every case: Not all third-wave democratizers have weakly institutionalized party systems. Portugal, Greece, and Spain, the Southern European countries where the third wave began, took relatively little time to develop systems with a greater degree of institutionalization than is found in most other [Begin Page 69] third-wave democracies. Not coincidentally, democratic consolidation also moved along briskly in these three countries. In Uruguay, old party patterns reasserted themselves after the reestablishment of democracy in 1984. Much the same thing happened in Chile after 1990; in both countries the "new" party systems are reasonably well institutionalized. Among long-established democracies, cases of weak party institutionalization occur rarely and briefly; among third-wave democratizers, they occur more often and have more staying power. Institutionalization means the process by which a practice or organization becomes well established and widely known, if not universally accepted. Samuel P. Huntington calls it "the process by which organizations and procedures acquire value and stability." The belief that a given ensemble of procedures and organizations will endure shapes expectations, attitudes, and behavior. In particular, party-system institutionalization means that actors entertain clear and stable expectations about the behavior of other actors, and hence about the fundamental contours and rules of party competition and behavior. In an institutionalized party system, there is stability in who the main parties are and in how they behave. Change, while not completely precluded, is limited. The notion of institutionalization implies nothing teleological, no necessary progression from weaker to greater institutionalization. Party systems can deinstitutionalize, as they have done in Canada, Italy, Peru, and Venezuela during this decade. Nor is it inevitable that most third-wave democracies will move toward more institutionalized party systems. On the contrary, it seems likely that many will retain weakly institutionalized party systems. Although weak institutionalization is typically associated with a variety of problems, this does not imply that greater institutionalization is always better. To the contrary, very high levels of institutionalization may result from a stultified party system. The relationship between party-system institutionalization and the quality of democracy, then, is far from linear, and an institutionalized party system is far from a panacea. We can conceptualize four dimensions of party-system institutionalization, which are shown in summary form in Table 1. First, more institutionalized party systems enjoy considerable stability; patterns of party competition manifest regularity. A system in which major parties regularly appear and then disappear or become minor parties is weakly institutionalized, as is one in which parties' vote totals often fluctuate widely. Second, more institutionalized systems are ones in which parties have strong roots in society. The ties that bind parties and citizens are firmer; otherwise, parties do not structure political preferences over time and there is limited regularity in how people vote. Strong party roots in society help provide the regularity that institutionalization implies. Similarly, links between organized interests and parties are generally more developed, although even in institutionalized systems there are considerable variations along...