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Loosing Members and Winning Votes? Pachakutik and Indigenous Representation in Ecuador

Cleavages
Latin America
Political Parties
Representation
Voting
Diana Lucia Davila Gordillo
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden
Diana Lucia Davila Gordillo
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden

Abstract

Descriptive representation along ethnic group lines can be achieved in several ways, but the most direct one is through group-based parties. While debates on the desirability of such parties are ongoing (Chandra, 2005) they do exist in various democratic settings and provide the possibility to explore the interaction between ethnic appeal, descriptive representation, cooperation with non-group based parties, and party success. This Paper examines the representative capacity of the Ecuadorian party Pachakutik, formed in 1996 as the political branch of CONAIE, deemed the “most consequential indigenous movement in Latin America” (Yashar, 2005). The party was very successful in its first years: in 2002 the candidate Pachakutik supported in an electoral alliance won the presidency. However the alliance dissolved a mere six months after the candidate took office, and Pachakutik revised its policy of forming electoral alliances. Ever since, the party has faced setbacks at the presidential polls reaching only 2.19% of the votes in 2006 and 3.26% in 2013. The main explanation for Pachakutik’s original success have been its “inclusive appeals”. Pachakutik was described as an inclusive ethno-populist party. Subsequently, explanations for its more limited electoral support at the national level have focused on the changes Pachakutik has made in its appeals, and particularly on their more exclusionary and ethnocentric nature (Madrid, 2012). These changes, research has argued, have lead non-indigenous leaders and organizations to leave the party. Simultaneously, some indigenous leaders asserted that the changes have enabled the indigenous agenda to become more salient. Consequently, this paper looks into the effects of the changes in Pachakutik’s agenda and appeals towards more group-specific representation by considering its consequences for the party’s electoral performance. Using data from subnational elections (1996-2014) the paper argues that Pachakutik managed to consolidate the ethnic vote by intensifying their descriptive representation appeal to the ethnic population.