Scott Mainwaring and Timothy R. Scully Building Democratic institutions: Party systems in Latin America (1995), Introduction



The authors wanted to find a way to compare Latin American party systems, but felt that current concepts (number of parties, ideological distance between them) was insufficient to explain the differences. So they settled on the concept of the institutionalization of party systems in Latin America. (Institutionalization means (1) stability in rules/nature of interparty competition; (2) major parties have somewhat stable roots in society; (3) major political actors view parties and electoral process as legitimate, and political elites expect that the way to government is through elections; (4) party organizations are subordinated to the interests of its leaders (these are roughly quoted).) Low levels of instituationalization (an “inchoate” party system) complicate democratic consolidation.


* X: Institutionalization of party system

* Y: Democratic consolidation, legitimacy, and effectiveness of policy making



== Notes ==



Chapter 1


– Using Sartori’s definition of a party which is “any political group that presents at elections, and it capable of placing through elections, candidate for public office” [2]

– Parties are critical to study because they are the main agents of political representation and are virtually  the only actors with access to elected positions in democratic politics

– Role of a party is to channel and express interests [3]

– In reality, they are often more personalistic (à la Schumpeter)

– Parties are important in LatAm because traditionally, interest groups and non-state actors have had a hard time accessing policy-making channels


Four Conditions for a Party System to be Institutionalized:

  1. Stability in rules and the nature of interparty competition

– Patterns of party competition manifest regularity –> measured using an index of electoral volatility (ie. How much change is there in the party system over time)

  1. Major parties have somewhat stable roots in society

– Must create linkages among parties, citizens and organised interests

– organised interests should be more of a force in institutionalised party systems

– Demonstrated (often) by the length of the party’s existence [13]

  1. Major political actors view parties and electoral process as legitimate, and political elites expect that the way to government is through elections

– M&S want to measure this with surveys but they can’t, so they move on very quickly

  1. Party organizations are subordinated to the interests of its leaders

– Should have political elites and party discipline rendering the party somewhat hierarchical in the legislature


*Throughout, M&S demonstrate with examples/show stats from LatAm countries (not reported here)–>


Inchoate Party Systems:

– Weakly institutionalised parties

– Hegemonic party system is between inchoate and institutionalised


Why Institutionalisation is Important:

– Some encourage coalition building, but this is not a pre-requisite

– Where parties are institutionalised, parties are the key actors that structure the political process, where it is less institutionalised, parties are not dominant [22]

– Typically, institutionalised parties are vote/seat maximising and are pro- representation of interest

– Where a party is less institutionalised, accountability is harder to establish

– Institutionalised party systems also facilitate governability because of the strong linkages between the executive, legislative and party leaders

– Undisciplined parties cannot rely on party discipline

– Institutionalised party systems reduce instances of corruption

– Inchoate party systems render parties ways for elites to manipulate policy making power


Number of parties matters (see Sartori) –> it affects whether coalition is necessary and how difficult it is for presidents to win support [28]


– There are two structural properties that determine party behaviour (Sartori)

– M&S say that Sartori overtstates this

– Modification: have to count only the relevant number of parties (à la Laakso & Taagepera)