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Party System Responsiveness and Left-Wing Populist Success in Latin America


Bornschier, Simon (2017). Party System Responsiveness and Left-Wing Populist Success in Latin America. In: European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference, Oslo, 6 September 2017 - 9 September 2017.

Abstract

This paper sets out to explain the highly uneven breakthrough of the “populist” or “contestatory” left during the “left turn” in Latin America since the late 1990s. Extant attempts to explain why moderate left parties that resemble the traditional social democratic mass parties have emerged in some countries, and populist left parties in others have been inconclusive. I argue that populist anti-establishment mobilization falls on fruitful ground where party systems do not adequately represent citizen preferences. This is a necessary, though not a sufficient condition for populist success. Combining data on party positions with mass-level surveys for two cases where new anti-establishment parties that have been successful and two cases of failure, I analyze how well parties represent voters along the two most salient dimensions of political competition in Latin America: the economic antagonism between state and market, and the regime dimension that pits democrats (or those in favor of deepening democracy) against those holding positive evaluations of past military dictatorships. At the party level, I use data from the Salamanca Parliamentary Elites Surveys (PELA) and from the Brazilian Legislative Surveys. At the voter level, I rely on the World Values Survey (WVS) and the Latinobarómetro surveys. I first locate parties and voters on the dimensions mentioned above and then use an innovative measure to assess party system responsiveness.
The paper shows that party systems in Venezuela and Bolivia lacked responsiveness prior to Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales’ successful bids for the presidency. In Chile, and to a lesser degree in Brazil, on the other hand, the close correspondence between voter preferences and party positions along the economic and political regime divides explains why new anti-establishment actors have not been successful. Looking at the evolution of party system responsiveness during the “left turn” questions the simple dichotomization of left parties into moderate and populist camps, however. While responsiveness improved substantially after the emergence of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) in Bolivia, it remains poor in Venezuela after Chávez came to power. Likewise, there are persistent differences in terms of representation in Chile and Brazil, both of which belong to the moderate left group.
Beyond the initial expectations, the results thus show two pathways of the left to power in Latin America in the new millennium: A programmatic or “segmented” and a “majoritarian” path. Populist actors clearly pursue majoritarian strategies, but some non-populist actors do as well, as the Brazilian case shows.

Abstract

This paper sets out to explain the highly uneven breakthrough of the “populist” or “contestatory” left during the “left turn” in Latin America since the late 1990s. Extant attempts to explain why moderate left parties that resemble the traditional social democratic mass parties have emerged in some countries, and populist left parties in others have been inconclusive. I argue that populist anti-establishment mobilization falls on fruitful ground where party systems do not adequately represent citizen preferences. This is a necessary, though not a sufficient condition for populist success. Combining data on party positions with mass-level surveys for two cases where new anti-establishment parties that have been successful and two cases of failure, I analyze how well parties represent voters along the two most salient dimensions of political competition in Latin America: the economic antagonism between state and market, and the regime dimension that pits democrats (or those in favor of deepening democracy) against those holding positive evaluations of past military dictatorships. At the party level, I use data from the Salamanca Parliamentary Elites Surveys (PELA) and from the Brazilian Legislative Surveys. At the voter level, I rely on the World Values Survey (WVS) and the Latinobarómetro surveys. I first locate parties and voters on the dimensions mentioned above and then use an innovative measure to assess party system responsiveness.
The paper shows that party systems in Venezuela and Bolivia lacked responsiveness prior to Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales’ successful bids for the presidency. In Chile, and to a lesser degree in Brazil, on the other hand, the close correspondence between voter preferences and party positions along the economic and political regime divides explains why new anti-establishment actors have not been successful. Looking at the evolution of party system responsiveness during the “left turn” questions the simple dichotomization of left parties into moderate and populist camps, however. While responsiveness improved substantially after the emergence of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) in Bolivia, it remains poor in Venezuela after Chávez came to power. Likewise, there are persistent differences in terms of representation in Chile and Brazil, both of which belong to the moderate left group.
Beyond the initial expectations, the results thus show two pathways of the left to power in Latin America in the new millennium: A programmatic or “segmented” and a “majoritarian” path. Populist actors clearly pursue majoritarian strategies, but some non-populist actors do as well, as the Brazilian case shows.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Speech), not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Language:English
Event End Date:9 September 2017
Deposited On:06 Feb 2018 08:54
Last Modified:18 Apr 2018 11:49
Publisher:ECPR
Funders:Schweizerischer Nationalfonds (SNF)
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Official URL:https://ecpr.eu/Events/PaperDetails.aspx?PaperID=35023&EventID=96
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleSchweizerischer Nationalfonds (SNF)

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