The Relevance of Political Parties in Electoral Competition in Argentine Provinces

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In this post, I would like to summarize some of my thoughts about the topic of political competition and its relation with political parties at the subnational level in Argentina. I have already claimed in my previous post that in some of the provinces, political parties’ preferences can’t be tied to the policy outcomes. As I have discovered in my research, there was no apparent connection between the opposition strength and the adoption of institutions of control and oversight, contrary to what the previous research suggested (Melo, Pereira and Figueiredo 2009). The authors claim that the level of institutionalization of political competition (which they measure by a proxy – electoral volatility) is the key factor in the adoption of institutions of control and oversight. They also throw institutional design in the mix. But by assuming that the volatility can explain the quality of an oversight institution, they are missing lots of information.

I have a particular research question on mind. When analysis of political competition through measures of party competition loses its explanatory power?

  • When there is a strong faction competition;
  • When the decisions of legislature are being vetoed by the executive; in Argentina, there is a long tradition of caudillo style of politics. This power is often manifested by using the veto to undermine the legislature.
  • When the political competition takes place in a closed game (Behrend, 2011); closed games are characterized by having a) free and fair elections; b) family politics (only members of families have access to top government positions); c) control of the media; d) control of the province; e) control of business opportunities; f) control of the judiciary.
  • When nationalized political crisis does not lead to a victory of a more democratic style of politics; the logic of this point revolves around the closed game, and is also connected to the boundary control theory (Gibson 2005). One of the main reasons why illiberal (or authoritarian, as Gibson calls them) provincial governments fail is through nationalization of a scandal (and it can be almost any type of scandal, from a murder to an electoral fraud). After such events, the governing elites can be taken down by the federal intervention, or by an electoral defeat from the opposition. What seems to be the problem here is the fact that the literature assumes that the political force which comes empowered from the crisis would actually be more democratic in its political style.
  • When the competition is not accompanied by a clear ideological stance; provincial competition between provincial parties is often focused on the marginalized voters, thus using the logic of direct delivering of goods and services. This isn’t accompanied by a fixed ideological position with fixed position on central issues, such as provincial economy, functioning of administration or fighting the corruption. During the election, this can become observable by the fact that the political program highlights the importance of individual candidates (especially ones who run for a governor) and their personal qualities. Most societal cleavages which are normally present in Europe are reduced to a peronism vs. antiperonism.
  • When the opposition is only nominal; other political parties are not making being enough critic of the actions of the government. They often participate in government projects, and don’t openly question the government. This particular feature can be tested only where there is a digital record of MPs votes. We are currently working on this one with my colleague Michal Škop.
  • When a national party does not participate in the nomination of the candidates in all types of elections;

Literature

Behrend, Jacqueline. “The Unevenness of Democracy at the Subnational Level: Provincial Closed Games in Argentina.” Latin American Research Review46.1 (2011): 150-176.

Gibson, Edward L. “Boundary control: Subnational authoritarianism in democratic countries.” World Politics 58.01 (2005): 101-132.

Melo, Marcus André, Carlos Pereira, and Carlos Mauricio Figueiredo. “Political and institutional checks on corruption: Explaining the performance of Brazilian audit institutions.” Comparative Political Studies (2009).

Tula, María Inés. “Ley de lemas, elecciones y estrategias partidarias. Los casos de La Rioja, Santa Cruz y Santa Fe.” Boletín SAAP 3.5 (1997): 3-26.

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