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This chapter describes the Chilean Partido por la Democracia (Party for Democracy, PPD) as a group of independents. Since its inception during the transition to democracy, the PPD has achieved meaningful electoral support. However, its electoral stability contrasts with its lack of organizational structure, its difficulties executing horizontal coordination during elections, in Congress, and between local and national levels. Regarding vertical interest aggregation, the PPD builds upon personalistic linkages with particular interest groups in the different electoral districts. The PPD is thus no more than a group of politicians with personal electoral capital in their districts who achieve a minimum level of coordination during elections and in Congress.
This chapter analyzes the case of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front, FA) in Uruguay as an unusual organization. Since its founding, the FA has exhibited a dual structure: a coalition of various factions that compose the party and a movement comprising a common grassroots structure (Base Committees). The latter is not necessarily affiliated with any particular faction and it participates in all of the party’s decision-making structures. The FA fulfills the essential functions required to qualify as a political party. These functions manifest themselves in the participatory processes that develop the party’s electoral platforms and also control the nomination of presidential candidates. More critically, the coalition and the grassroots movement tended to influence the policy decisions of the party’s parliamentary caucus when the FA was an opposition party, as well as the decisions of the executive branch when the FA was in government (2005–20). In this process, grassroots party activists exercised significant influence over political decisions that were particularly sensitive for the Left. Regarding vertical interest aggregation, the FA has developed strong, informal links with various social actors, especially with labor unions.
There is currently a resurgence of interest in political parties. This resurgent interest embraces a minimalist definition of political party, according to which any group that competes in elections and receives a handful of votes qualifies as a party. Parties, however, are expected to contribute to democratic representation, and the party politics literature has extensively shown that many “parties” do not fulfill this expectation. Entities that exhibit some but not all of the features that define political parties can be considered diminished subtypes of the category. A thorough conceptualization of diminished subtypes could improve the analytical value of the study of political parties and of other forms of electoral political organizations. In this introduction to the edited volume, we propose a new political party typology that includes diminished subtypes. The typology is based on the presence or absence of two primary attributes: horizontal coordination of ambitious politicians during electoral campaigns and while in office and vertical aggregation to electorally mobilize collective interests and to intermediate and channel collective demands.
This final chapter of the edited volume summarizes each case study’s main contributions. It also provides comparative insights concerning the determinants of the presence or absence of a given type of electoral vehicle. Finally, the chapter discusses how the volume’s conceptual framework can advance our understanding of the processes of party building, institutionalization, decay, and collapse.
Many contemporary party organizations are failing to fulfill their representational role in contemporary democracies. While political scientists tend to rely on a minimalist definition of political parties (groups of candidates that compete in elections), this volume argues that this misses how parties can differ not only in degree but also in kind. With a new typology of political parties, the authors provide a new analytical tool to address the role of political parties in democratic functioning and political representation. The empirical chapters apply the conceptual framework to analyze seventeen parties across Latin America. The authors are established scholars expert in comparative politics and in the cases included in the volume. The book sets an agenda for future research on parties and representation, and it will appeal to those concerned with the challenges of consolidating stable and programmatic party systems in developing democracies.
The recent surge of global populism has led many intellectuals to call for new forms of democratic elitism. Yet research into the sources of support for political organizations and regimes predicts that suppressing opportunities for public participation will likely exacerbate antisystem political tendencies. We cite the recent protests in Chile, a nation that has employed democratic elitism more effectively than perhaps any other, as illustrative of the eventual consequences of suppressing voice. Our research indicates that empowering citizens through vibrant parties and continuous democracy is the best way to avoid populist impulses and waves of contentious politics.