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Third Parties in the Process of Democratic Consolidation

Thomas Kestler
Würzburg Julius-Maximilians University
Thomas Kestler
Würzburg Julius-Maximilians University
Open Panel

Abstract

My starting point is that democratic consolidation in Latin America is related to, if not dependent upon the success or failure of so called Third Parties. I examine this relationship in a comparative study of FREPASO (Argentina), La Causa R (Venezuela), PT (Brazil) and Frente Amplio (Uruguay). The former two parties collapsed within a short period after astonishing electoral successes due to organizational deficiencies, personal rivalries and incoherent strategies. In the aftermath of these failures the respective party system acquired an (even stronger) populist and personalistic nature, further damaging the quality of democracy. On the other side, the successful inclusion of Third Parties into the party system in Uruguay and Brazil came along with democratic progress. Third Parties develop outside the existing power structure. Because they are cut off from the channels of patronage and clientelism, they differ in organizational terms from the established parties. They rely on programmatic strategies instead of clientelist linkages, which prevail in poorly consolidated Latin American party systems. The entrance of Third Parties into the electoral arena, therefore, enhances the representativeness of the party system as well as the democratic quality of the political system as a whole. However, not all these parties succeed in establishing themselves as durable alternatives in the electoral arena. I argue that failure and success of Third Parties depend on organizational factors (personalism, geographical range and internal systemness), the moment and the form of their inclusion into the power structure, and their interaction with the established parties.