The Quality of Representation in Latin America: Linking Citizens with Political Parties

Type Thesis or Dissertation - PhD thesis
Title The Quality of Representation in Latin America: Linking Citizens with Political Parties
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
More than a quarter century has elapsed since the ‘Third Wave’ of democratic transition in
Latin America (Huntington, 1991), but political systems in the region still struggle with
achieving democratic quality. Representative institutions in this region have not yet reached a
self-enforcing equilibrium and continue to produce unfavourable outcomes (Kitschelt et al.,
1999). As a consequence, after two decades of research on democratic transition and the
consolidation of democracy in Latin America, researchers became increasingly sceptical and
concerned with the quality of democratic representation. Several deficits have been identified
ranging from the weaknesses of vertical accountability mechanisms (e.g. Moreno, Crisp, &
Shugart, 2003; Roberts, 2002; Coppedge, 2001) and institutions of horizontal accountability
(e.g. Mainwaring & Welna, 2003; O’Donnell, 1994) to the persistence of historical legacies
such as clientelism and populism (e.g. Kitschelt & Wilkinson, 2007; Levitsky & Loxton,
2013). Dysfunctional democratic representation, moreover, fosters growing distrust in
political parties and dissatisfaction with democracy and endangers achievements of
democratic consolidation that have already been made (e.g. Kitschelt et al., 1999; Dalton,
1999; Diamond & Gunther 2001). Hence, the ‘crisis of representation’ in Latin America lies
at the heart of any study concerned with the quality of democracy in this region (e.g.
Diamond & Morlino 2005; Mainwaring, Bejarano, & Pizarro, 2006; Hagopian, 1998).
But what are the standards used to evaluate the quality of democratic representation? In line
with the competitive model of democracy the quality of democratic representation is usually
judged according to the realization of accountability and, especially, policy responsiveness
(Schumpeter, 2008 [1942]; Bartolini, 1999, 2000). While repeated elections make political
actors accountable to their electorate, competition between these actors for public office and
power is believed to make them responsive to the policy preferences of their voters.
Developed with a focus on advanced democracies, traditional theories on democratic
representation rest upon the prevalent assumption of policy-based competition between
political actors – an assumption which is not directly applicable to the context of new
In new democracies political parties are not necessarily linked to their voters based on
coherent policy programs and may pursue additional or completely different electoral
mobilization strategies like clientelism and personalistic linkages (Kitschelt & Wilkinson,
2007; Hagopian, 2009). The idealization of policy-based representation through
programmatic competition thus hampers awareness from other modes of political
representation (Kitschelt, 2000). Linkage strategies that differ from the classic programmatic
ones have to be integrated into the concept of party competition if new democracies are to fall
into the range of a comprehensive theory of democratic representation (Kitschelt &
Wilkinson, 2007; Powell, 2004). To understand how democratic representation is affected by
different linkage strategies we need to investigate how these relationships between political
parties and their voters may affect both mechanisms of accountability and policy

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