Category Archives: Argentina

Johannes Freudenreich – The Formation of Cabinet Coalitions in Presidential Systems

This is a guest post by Johannes Freudenreich, Postdoctoral research fellow at the Geschwister-Scholl-Institut für Politikwissenschaft at the University of Munich. It is based on an recent article in Latin American Politics and Society

In the beginning of the 21st century, prospects of Latin American presidential democracies were good. The dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s had vanished, economies were constantly growing, and comprehensive social welfare programs were implemented. Many political scientists link these successes to the ability of Latin American presidents to form, maintain and manage cabinet coalitions (Cheibub 2007). The differences between presidential and parliamentary systems of government seemed to have become rather marginal. Both presidents and prime ministers achieved legislative majorities by forming broad cabinet coalitions and critics of the presidential form of democracy, such as Juan Linz (1994), seemed to be proven wrong. However, soon presidential impeachments became the new pattern of political instability in the region (Pérez Liñan 2007). Cabinet reshuffling remains constantly high and broad corruption schemes, directly linked to coalition politics, have been disclosed, such as the Mensalão Scandal in Brazil, where the ruling party of President Lula da Silva used illegal side payments to secure the legislative support of members of the ruling coalition.

My recent article in Latin American Politics and Society takes a systematic look at the formation of cabinet coalitions in presidential systems over the past 25 years. It analyzes the extent to which presidents in 13 Latin American countries have formed coalitions that increase their law-making capabilities, and whether presidents form coalitions tailored to find majorities in Congress especially when presidents have low independent influence over policy based on their institutional law-making powers.

The study complements the perspective that cabinet coalitions are largely an instrument for finding legislative majorities with the idea that presidents use cabinet posts to honor pre-electoral support. The reason is the following: presidential elections provide strong incentives for electoral coordination because they tend to favor two-candidate competition. In a multi-party setting, this means that parties have incentives to form pre-electoral coalitions to present joint presidential candidates. When negotiating pre-electoral pacts, parties are likely to agree on how to share the benefits of winning including cabinet posts. After the election, presidents find it difficult to abandon these agreements as they need the trust and support of other parties within and outside of their coalition during their presidential term. Thus, it is expected that cabinet coalitions are likely to be based on the electoral team of presidents and that other legislative parties are invited to join the cabinet only additionally to parties of the existing pre-electoral coalition.

The study further argues that parties attractive as pre-electoral coalition partners are not necessarily the ones that would achieve cabinet participation if the negotiations of cabinet posts were an unconstrained post-electoral process. For example, in a one-dimensional policy space, extreme parties, parties more extreme than the president to the median legislator, are relatively unimportant for legislative decisions and thus unlikely to be included in the cabinet for legislative reasons. In a presidential race, however, extreme parties can provide valuable votes and campaign resources and therefore have far stronger blackmailing power. Furthermore, presidential contests produce a strong antagonism between the president and the parties of the president’s electoral rivals. Since the president’s survival in office is not contingent on the support of other parties in parliament, parties that present a strong presidential candidate are likely to be excluded from the cabinet, even if their inclusion is rational from a lawmaking perspective. It is therefore expected that the party of the runner-up is generally excluded from the presidential cabinet and that the overall explanatory power of variables of legislative bargaining increases once one controls for the effects of pre-electoral coalition formation and competition.

The study empirically evaluates this argumentation on the basis of so-called conditional logit models, presenting a new empirical strategy to analyze cabinet formation under this type of regime. The tests are conducted on a new dataset of 107 democratic cabinets in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Based on the new method and data, this study presents the most comprehensive test yet of the determinants of the partisan composition of presidential cabinets.

The most note-worthy empirical results are:

First, presidents try to form majority coalitions, but it is the upper house majority not the lower house majority which makes cabinet coalitions significantly likely to from. One potential explanation for this phenomenon is that there are generally fewer parties in the upper than in the lower chamber, due to the disproportionality of electoral systems used to elect upper chambers in Latin America. Thus, the president’s party is often overrepresented in the upper house, which makes it easier for presidents to find majorities. Furthermore, upper chambers are generally strong in Latin America (Nolte and Llanos 2004), and controlling an upper chamber is often sufficient for the president to prevent a veto override.

Second, contrary to expectations in the literature, extensive presidential decree powers decrease the probability of the occurrence of cabinets which control only a minority of seats in the lower house of congress. A potential explanation for this phenomenon is similar to the argument developed by Strøm (1990) for minority governments in parliamentary systems. Parties prefer to stay in opposition when the government has a weak independent influence on policy. The other explanation is that pre-electoral coalition formation is more prevalent when presidents’ institutional authority is high, as political actors make a relatively simple calculation about the benefits and the costs of coordination in presidential elections. The more powerful the president, the higher the incentives for pre-electoral coalition formation (Hicken and Stoll 2008; Freudenreich 2013). And if the a coalition is in power anyway, it is easier to extend this coalition to secure a majority in the lower house of congress.

Third, considerations of governability and pre-electoral bargaining describe two distinct yet compatible sets of factors that influence cabinet formation in presidential systems. Many cabinet coalitions in Latin America are congruent or extended versions of the pre-electoral coalition of the president and parties of the main presidential competitor are generally excluded from the cabinet, but these factors are distinct to the incentives of legislative bargaining. The explanatory power of variables associated with governability increases once variables of pre-electoral bargaining are included in the statistical model. For example, cabinet coalitions are more likely to form when they include the median party in the lower chamber of congress, but this effect is only statistically significant when one controls for the effects of pre-electoral bargaining.

Overall, the paper tries to show that an inclusive approach is necessary to study coalition dynamics in presidential systems. Pre-electoral commitments strongly affect cabinet formation and thereby also confound the relationship between cabinet formation, legislative bargaining and governability.

Literature

Cheibub, José A. 2007. Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Freudenreich, Johannes. 2013. Coalition Formation in Presidential Systems. Ph.D. diss., University of Potsdam.

Hicken, Allen, and Heather Stoll. 2008. Electoral Rules and the Size of the Prize: How Political Institutions Shape Presidential Party Systems. Journal of Politics 70, 4: 1109–27.

Linz, Juan J. 1994. Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy: Does it Make a Difference? In The Failure of Presidential Democracy: The Case of Latin America, ed. Linz and Arturo Valenzuela. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 3–89.

Nolte, Detlef/Mariana Llanos. 2004. “Starker Bikameralismus? Zur Verfassungslage lateinamerikanischer Zweikammersysteme.” Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen 35: 113-131.

Pérez-Liñán, Aníbal 2007. Presidential Impeachment and the New Political Instability in Latin America. Cambridge University Press: New York.

Strøm, Kaare. 1990. Minority Government and Majority Rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Farida Jalalzai – Women Presidents of Latin America: Beyond Family Ties?

This is a guest post by Farida Jalalzai, the Hannah Atkins Endowed Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science at Oklahoma State University

In his article “On Election Day, Latin America Willingly Trades Machismo for Female Clout” New York Times contributor Simon Romero asserts “Up and down the Americas, with the notable exception of the United States, women are soaring into the highest political realms” (Romero 2013). In exploring this development making headlines, my book, Women Presidents of Latin America: Beyond Family Ties? (Routledge 2016) analyzes four recent women presidents also known as presidentas: Michelle Bachelet (Chile, 2006-2010; 2014-), Cristina Fernández (Argentina, 2007-2015), Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica, 2010-2014) and Dilma Rousseff (Brazil, 2011-2016).  Given the powers presidentialism affords presidents, women’s increasing tendency to play these very strong political roles present a puzzle.  Since institutional factors account heavily for women’s success and presidentialism appears the most difficult system for women to break through (Jalalzai 2013), how can we explain women’s ability to gain the presidency in Latin America?  Historically, women leaders in presidential systems (particularly women directly elected by the public) were generally limited to relatives of male leaders and this proved to be a personal factor linking women presidents worldwide, including those from Latin America. With the election of Michelle Bachelet in Chile, these traditional patterns appeared to be shifting.  What conditions, therefore, allowed for a broadening of routes, beyond family ties, for women in Latin America?  While an important question, I was also interested in the larger implications the election of powerful women posed. Once in office, do the presidentas make positive changes on behalf of women? My findings were primarily based on responses derived from over 60 elite interviews conducted between 2011 and 2014 in these countries. Respondents included political elites and experts of diverse partisan leanings such as cabinet ministers, legislators, party leaders, consultants from think tanks and academics, and a sitting president (Chinchilla)..  I supplemented interviews with data from public opinion polls, media and scholarly analyses, and information from governmental and non-governmental organizations.

In addressing my first question, I found that all presidentas benefitted from centralized and exclusive presidential nomination procedures (see also Hinojosa 2012). Not only were they essentially handpicked by their predecessors, their publics’ were largely supportive of the outgoing president’s policies.  While benefitting from continuity, with the exception of Fernández (as the former first lady, the only political wife in the group) they did not enjoy top placement or independent bases within their parties.  As such, their nominations were perceived as somewhat surprising and occasionally met with party resistance.  Yet, their outsider statuses likely explain why they were viewed as appropriate successors in the first place.  Critically, Chinchilla, Bachelet, and Rousseff also campaigned on how they would change the face of politics.  The combined approach of change and stability proved fruitful.

Regarding their impact, I examined three types of potential effects of their leadership on women:

  1. Appointing more women to political offices
  2. Positively influencing levels of political engagement and participation, political orientations, and support for women in politics among the general public
  3. Supporting policies on behalf of women

Throughout, I compared women to their male predecessors.  Because of their strong ties to the outgoing presidents, we might have expected the presidentas to behave fairly similarly.  Yet, as women, they may have done more to empower women than their male counterparts. My analysis identified mixed evidence.   While presidents Bachelet and Rousseff prioritized appointing more women than did their male counterparts, this did not seem to hold true for either Chinchilla or Fernández. In analyzing data from representative surveys and from my interviews, findings confirmed key differences between the presidentas.  More positive shifts in public opinion and participation were linked to Rousseff’s presidency (my book only covered her first term—it does did not account her cataclysmic fall from grace and subsequent impeachment) while Bachelet’s showed little consistent or significant effects.  In interviews, respondents easily identified positive influences Rousseff’s and Bachelet’s presidencies offered.  In contrast, both the representative surveys and interviews concerning Chinchilla and Fernández regularly indicated backsliding.  Support for women’s policies proved most prevalent in Bachelet’s presidencies.  Rousseff, to a lesser degree, also made women’s issues an important part of her first term.  While many programs were extensions of Lula’s, Rousseff added more depth to existing programs.  She also connected seemingly gender neutral policies to women, particularly poor women.  We see little prioritization of women’s issues, in contrast, during Fernández’s and Chinchilla’s presidencies, affirming the variability in positive effects of presidentas on women.

Three years after the article quoted above was published, another journalist for the New York Times, Jonathan Gilbert, posed the following question: “What has happened to the powerful women of South America?”  The previous fervor had given way to disappointment as the presidentas analyzed here encountered plummeting approval ratings, much of which is related to economic travails, and nearly all were ensnared in corruption scandals. While this book suggested mixed effects of women presidents, I wonder if women face greater scrutiny for their lackluster performances or alleged engagement in inappropriate behavior. These remain open questions, but ones worth pursuing in future investigations as enhanced scrutiny shapes women’s abilities to exercise power generally and behalf of women specifically. These questions will be even more salient with the United States on the brink of electing its first woman president. As Hillary Clinton is a former First Lady, her path to power is not very puzzling.  Still, no doubt this historic moment will soon give way to investigations regarding what Clinton’s presidency offers women and whether she too receives undue scrutiny because of her gender.

References

Gilbert, Jonathan. “South America’s Powerful Women Are Embattled. Is Gender a Factor?” The New York Times. May 14, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/world/americas/dilma-rousseff-michelle-bachelet-cristina-fernandez-de-kirchner.html?_r=0

Hinojosa, Magda. 2012. Selecting Women, Electing Women: Political Representation and Candidate Selection in Latin America. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Jalalzai, Farida. 2016. Women Presidents of Latin America: Beyond Family Ties? New York: Routledge Press.

Jalalzai, Farida. 2013.  Shattered, Cracked or Firmly Intact? Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Romero, Simon. “On Election Day, Latin America Willingly Trades Machismo for Female Clout.” The New York Times. December 14, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/world/americas/on-election-day-latin-america-willingly-trades-machismo-for-female-clout.html?_r=0

Farida Jalalzai is the Hannah Atkins Endowed Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science. Dr. Jalalzai’s research analyzes the representation and behavior of women and minorities in politics and the role of gender in the political arena. Her work focuses on women national leaders. Her first book Shattered, Cracked and Firmly Intact: Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide (Oxford University Press 2013, updated paperback 2016) offers a comprehensive analysis of women, gender, and national leadership positions. Her second book, Women Presidents of Latin America: Beyond Family Ties?  (Routledge 2016) examines several case studies of the behavior of women national leaders including presidents Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), President Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Cristina Fernández (Argentina). Her current projects include a co-edited volume “Measuring Women’s Political Empowerment Worldwide” (with Amy C. Alexander and Catherine Bolzendahl, under contrast at Palgrave) a co-authored book Senhora Presidenta: Women’s Representation in Brazil during Dilma Rousseff’s Presidency (with Pedro dos Santos), and  “Blood is Thicker than Water: Family Ties to Political Power Worldwide,” a global analysis of the prevalence of family connections among executive political office holders (with Meg Rincker).

Rut Diamint and Laura Tedesco – Rethinking political leadership in Latin America

This is a guest post by Rut Diamint (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella) and Laura Tedesco (Saint Louis University/Madrid Campus) based on their newly published book, Latin America´s Leaders, available here.

In writing Latin America´s Leaders, we had four objectives: to review the main bibliography on political leadership; to examine the domestic political conditions that impact on the emergence of different types of leaders; to offer a qualitative analysis of interviews with political leaders; and to devise a typology of democratic leaders.

Our research[i] was motivated by questions related to the democratic quality of leaders[ii]. Why do democratically elected leaders undermine democracy as soon as they are in power? Is there any relationship between the features of political party systems and the leaders’ democratic quality? Why has the return to democracy not done away with Latin America’s tendency to generate strong leaders?

We looked at Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Uruguay. While all these countries suffered similar political and economic crises during the 2000s, the outcomes were different: five presidents were expelled in Argentina, three in Ecuador, one in Venezuela and none in Uruguay and Colombia. In Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela the crises brought about the fragmentation or collapse of the party system and the emergence of strong leaders. Conversely, in Uruguay the 2002 crisis neither affected the political party system nor became a major systemic crisis; the traditional political parties lost the elections and the Frente Amplio won the presidency for the first time since its creation in 1971. In Colombia, political parties underwent an important transformation following the political reforms in 1991 and the 2003, and political stability with a high degree of institutionalization allowed a strong leader in the form of Álvaro Uribe to come to power – yet these features also helped to control his political ambitions.

We conducted 285 interviews with former Presidents, Vice-Presidents, MPs, mayors and party leaders. The aim of the interviews was to learn how leaders interpret democratic quality and how far they perceive themselves as the architects of democracy.

Our interviewees talked about powerful presidents who concentrate power and, in many cases, usurp power from other institutions. Many presidents in Latin America dis-empower institutions to empower themselves.

The qualitative analysis of the interviews showed two different groups: in Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela the analysis of Néstor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Rafael Correa and Hugo Chávez dominated the interviews while in Uruguay and Colombia our respondents examined political leadership together with the role of political parties, state institutions and historical processes.

One of our conclusions is that the degree of institutionalization of the political party system influences the type of leader that emerges in a given country.[iii] We developed a typology based on three elements: the political context, the ability of the leader to lead and the impact of the leader on the quality of democracy. Cutting across these elements are three dimensions of leadership: the relationship between the leader and the rule of law; the leader’s efforts to achieve consensus or in contrast to provoke polarization; and the leader’s methods to increase power. Our typology highlights leaders’ democratic quality by looking at their attitude to rules (obey, challenge or manipulate) to opposition (polarize, tolerate or build consensus) and to power (share, concentrate or usurp).

Democratic-enhancer Ambivalent Democrat Soft Power Usurper Power Usurper
Rule developer Rule-Obedient Rule-Challenger Rule-Manipulator
Bridge-Builder Receptive Soft Polarizer Polarizer
Respectul Rule-Challenger Power Builder Power Maximizer

Democratic-enhancers include leaders who push for the building or reinforcement of democratic institutions, accept the limits on power imposed by state institutions, respect and promote democratic rights and civil liberties, and leave their posts on time. This type of leader invariably belongs to a political party in which he has developed his career.

The ambivalent democrat respects people’s rights, works in a cooperative manner but seeks to accumulate personal power. Unlike the democratic-enhancer they respect but do not strengthen democratic institutions. The ambivalent democrat can actually end up weakening democracy in his bid to increase his own personal power.

The soft power usurper navigates between challenging and accepting the rule of law and state institutions. The historical context becomes crucial since it can either facilitate or block the leader´s ability to gain autonomy. In crises, this type of politician can take advantage to reduce other institutions’ maneuverability. However, at some point, a brake is applied by his party, the judicial, the legislative power or even societal pressure. The soft power usurper then retreats in the hope of more favorable conditions arising that will enable him to fit the political game to his own personal or collective aims.

Power-usurpers accumulate power by absorbing it from other state institutions, either by minimizing the role of the legislature and/or by undermining the independence of the judiciary. Power-usurpers are democratic leaders who have been elected in free elections. However, some end up manipulating constitutional or electoral instruments to increase personal power, thus worsening the quality of democracy. Power-usurpers believe that they are the only legitimate representatives of their people. Politics becomes embedded in them. They generally aspire to perpetuate themselves in power.

In Uruguay most leaders are democratic enhancers. In Colombia, Álvaro Uribe was a mix of ambivalent democrat and soft power usurper, while Juan Manuel Santos is a democracy-enhancer. In Argentina, Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner were soft power usurpers. In Ecuador, Rafael Correa combines elements of a power usurper with a soft power usurper. In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez was the archetype of a power usurper: he challenged the rules, polarized society and maximized his power.

This typology distinguishes four ideal types that measure leaders’ degree of democraticness. It offers a framework for how leaders´ political influence and democratic quality can be studied in other parts of the world. And it can serve as an instrument to promote democratic-enhancers and avoid the rise of power usurpers.

Notes

[i] The research was done between 2009 and 2012 and was financed by Foundation Open Society Institute, Washington DC.

[ii] The quality of democracy has been debated in Guillermo O´Donnell, Jorge Vargas Cullell and Osvaldo Iazzetta (2004) The quality of democracy. Theory and applications (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press) and Pippa Norris (2011) Democratic Deficit. Critical Citizens Revisited (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

[iii] The degree of institutionalization of political parties has been analyzed by Manuel Alcántara (2004) ¿Instituciones o máquinas ideológicas? Origen, programa y organización de los partidos latinoamericanos (Barcelona: Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona); María Matilde Ollier María Matilde (2008) “La institucionalización democrática en el callejón: la inestabilidad presidencial argentina (1999-2003)”, América Latina Hoy, vol. 49, pp. 73-103 and Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully (eds.) (1995) Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America (Stanford: Stanford University Press).


Rut Diamint is professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at Universidad Torcuato di Tella, researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET) and a member of the Advisory Committee of Club de Madrid and the UN Secretary General Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. She has been visiting professor at Columbia University, and has received scholarships from Fulbright, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the PIF programme of the Canadian government, the Tinker Foundation, the UN Commission for Peace Studies and the US Studies Center for US–Mexican Studies, University of California at San Diego.

Laura Tedesco is associate professor of political science at Saint Louis University, Madrid Campus, and at Instituto de Empresa, Madrid. She has received scholarships from the British Council, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and CONICET (Argentina) and grants from the British Academy and the Open Society Institute. She has taught at Universidad de Buenos Aires, FLACSO, the University of Warwick and the University of East Anglia. She has been a consultant for UNICEF and worked as an analyst for FRIDE, Spain.

Argentina – Center-Right Challenger Mauricio Macri Wins the Run-Off

On the pages of this blog just over three weeks ago, Ezequiel González Ocantos and Luis Schiumerini, two great colleagues of mine here at Oxford, wrote an incredibly detailed post that deconstructed the first round of the recent Argentine presidential elections. Their insightful analysis suggested that the days of Peronism in Argentina could be numbered. They contended that the main non-Peronist challenger to the presidency, Mauricio Macri, as a result of a combination of factors, including his strategic move to the center and the deteriorating economic situation, combined with his morale boosting first round victory, may have been enough to lure discontented voters from the camp of Sergio Massa (the third placed candidate in the first round election) and win the presidential run-off election on November 22.

Their analysis has proven rather prescient. Last Sunday, Macri, the non-Peronist challenger of Cambiemos, a largely centrist coalition comprising the vestiges of the long-standing Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), Macri’s own political party, Propuesta Republicana (PRO), and the Coalición Cívica, defeated Daniel Scioli, the chosen successor of the current Peronist incumbent, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Macri, the outgoing Mayor of Buenos Aires and his vice-presidential running mate, Marta Gabriela Michetti, won the election with 51.4 per cent of the votes in the run-off. With a solid 80 per cent turnout (approximately 25 million voters), Macri has a mandate for change.

There are a number of reasons for Macri’s victory. A proper analysis can be found in the post by Ezequiel and Luis but in short, they suggest Macri’s electoral success is rooted in his emergence as a credible political challenger, which was only bolstered by his first round victory, and his pragmatic move to the center and promise to maintain the most popular statist policies of the incumbent, combined with “the increasing doubts about Scioli’s ideological commitment to either Kirchnerism or anti-Kirchnerism, corruption scandals, and a series of events that underscored the deterioration of the economic situation,” all of which enabled Macri to successfully persuade Massa voters to support him.

One thing is for sure. This is a change election. It is the first time since 1999 that a non-Peronist candidate has won the presidency and it will be the first time since 2001 that a non-Peronist has held the presidency. Of course, Macri faces a number of formidable challenges, not least of which include the legacies of Kirchnerist polarization and the current economic situation, but change does seem to be in the air. Shortly after his election, Macri gave a news conference, a practice that had largely disappeared under the presidency of Cristina Fernández.

For a proper and full analysis of this election and the electoral data however, I guess I will just have to very nicely ask Ezequiel and Luis to write a follow-up post.

The 2015 Presidential Race in Argentina: A “Change” Election?

This is a guest post by Ezequiel González Ocantos and Luis Schiumerini, University of Oxford

In October 2011 President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner monopolized the Argentine electorate, securing 54% of the popular vote and with it a second term in office. Her victory was in many ways overwhelming: she won in almost all of the country’s municipalities; the distance with the runner up was over 30 per cent; and her allies secured comfortable majorities in both chambers of Congress. Yet four years later, in October 2015, Fernández’s faction of the Peronist Party, in power since 2003, suffered a reversal of fortune. Not only did the government’s candidate and governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli, fail to win in the first round, but his runner up, Mayor of the City of Buenos Aires and non-Peronist challenger, Mauricio Macri, finished the race dangerously close (36.86 vs. 34.33%). Macri won in 5 provinces, and put into question Peronists’ hegemony over some of their traditional bastions. Most notably, his coalition defeated Peronism in the strategic battle over the governorship of the largest, richer and politically influential province: the Province of Buenos Aires.

These results were unexpected. Kirchnerism had emerged from the primary elections held in August 2015 in relatively good shape, winning almost 40 per cent of the popular vote and defeating Macri’s coalition by nearly a 10 per cent margin.[1] These numbers made Scioli and his followers highly optimistic about their chances of victory in the upcoming October election; they were indeed very close to meeting the requirements of the less demanding of the two Constitutional paths to a first round win.[2] So what happened between August and October 2015? More importantly, what happened between 2011 and 2015 to reduce the odds of Peronist continuity? What are the implications of last Sunday’s election for the future of party politics in Argentina? Who will win the presidency in the November runoff?

The Emergence of Credible Challengers

The last four years of Kirchnerist rule in Argentina were very different from the first eight. After her resounding victory in 2011, President Fernández had to deal with much lower rates of economic growth, much higher levels of inflation, a pronounced devaluation of the currency, a partial default on the country’s foreign debt, and high profile corruption scandals involving the president’s inner circle. In times of economic decline or stagnation, voters asked to make evaluations of incumbent performance are more likely to distance themselves from the President. Moreover, it is in this type of context that corruption scandals are more likely to become a relevant factor in voters’ decision making functions. But as Figure 1 shows, even though voters became increasingly concerned about the economy, trust in Fernández’s government remained stable and at acceptable levels all throughout her second term. Although trust in her administration regressed to the mean after the October 2011 honeymoon, it never plummeted and even recovered in the months prior to Sunday’s election. Given this stability in the government’s popularity, it makes sense to ask why the impetus for change suddenly gained momentum during the first round of the 2015 presidential race.

Figure 1. Trust in Cristina Fernández’s Government (2011-2015)

Fig1Source: Índice de confianza en el gobierno. Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

Voters do not make prospective or retrospective evaluations in a political vacuum. These calculations are only electorally relevant in so far as citizens are able to compare the incumbent with credible challengers. One of the reasons why Fernández obliterated the opposition in 2011 was that the latter lacked credibility, strength and political capital. It remained highly fragmented, fielded tickets with little downward integration (e.g. presidential candidates were not matched with strong gubernatorial ones), and lacked effective leadership. For example, the runner-up in 2011, Hermes Binner, belonged to a party with limited territorial reach, no political infrastructure in the all-important Province of Buenos Aires, few relevant coalition partners, and no parliamentary influence. It is likely that most voters did not even consider not voting for the government, or voting strategically to bolster the chances of one of the many opposition candidates.

The situation in 2015 was quite different. In addition to a continuing deteriorating economic situation, voters were now offered two alternatives to the incumbent, which were credible and counted with effective forms of partisan, territorial, and leadership capital. In this context, prospective and retrospective evaluations acquired a new meaning and electoral significance.

The main non-Peronist challenger was Cambiemos (Let’s Change), a coalition between the historic Radical Party, Macri’s PRO and the Civil Coalition, the latter two formed after the 2001 economic and political crisis. The Radical Party provided a nationwide territorial presence and subnational campaign resources such as militants, surrogates, candidates, and crucially, election monitors. Macri provided the Radical Party with what they lacked, i.e. a leader with a well-known record in office and reputation for managerial competence. Cambiemos was able to field competitive candidates in several gubernatorial and mayoral races, generating the potential for positive coattails up and down the ticket. Although the incentives to coalesce around Macri were obviously bolstered by economic decline and higher —though not high— levels of discontent with the government, in early 2015 it was by no means obvious that a broad opposition coalition would emerge. The fact that several key members of the non-Peronist camp overcame coordination problems, as well as personal and ideological differences to form Cambiemos was a crucial development leading up to a close first round result. The presence of Cambiemos in the ballot made it possible for citizens to express their discontent by voting for a credible alternative, one with governability potential.

The presence of Sergio Massa as a viable second challenger added nuance to what would otherwise have been a polarized election. Massa, Fernandez’s former chief of staff, also cultivated a reputation for managerial competence during his tenure as mayor of Tigre, a highly visible municipality in the the Province of Buenos Aires. Unlike Macri, Massa had the added value of being a Peronist, providing an alternative for his co-partisans disaffected with Kirchnerism. This position allowed Massa to defeat Peronism in the 2013 legislative elections in the strategic Province of Buenos Aires and placed him as a credible Presidential candidate. While Massa’s inability to differentiate himself from Macri and the defection of some key allies to Scioli’s camp weakened his candidacy, he remained an electorally relevant player, polling around 20 per cent. A crucial element in Massa’s bid for the presidency was the support of José Manuel de la Sota, the leader of Peronism in the second largest province, Córdoba.

Campaign Effects and Realignments

This three-way yet weakly polarized scenario opened space both for campaign strategies to shape voter choice and also for preferences to change over the course of the campaign. Given the government’s enduring popularity, and Scioli’s high approval ratings in the Province of Buenos Aires, Macri’s campaign avoided an outright ideological confrontation with left-leaning President Fernández. Instead he focused on occupying the center ground. His rhetoric deemphasized programmatic differences and highlighted instead valence issues such as the need for “another way of doing politics.” Backed by a strong record governing the City of Buenos Aires, the message offered disenchanted voters technocratic competence in the face of bad performance in several key areas of the national administration, and a different, more moderate style of government. Given the centrist strategy adopted by Macri, Massa opted for more polarizing rhetoric. To do so, he moved to the right on security issues and politicized corruption in Fernández’s administration that had become a very visible issue in the public debate.

Scioli had a more difficult terrain to navigate as he both needed to appeal to Kirchneristas and non-Kirchneristas. Support from the Kirchnerista coalition was lukewarm, as Scioli was perceived as too moderate and willing to compromise on key stances held by Fernández. In order to appease these concerns, he accepted the imposition of a Kirchnerist hardliner as a running mate, but also sought to signal that he was his own man. For example, he announced a cabinet dominated by non-Kirchnerists, and used his surrogates to indicate his intention to reach an agreement with holdout creditors. This ambiguity was also apparent in his campaign slogans, which combined non-ideological appeals to values such as ‘hope’ and ‘hard work’, with statements in favor of extending Fernández’s interventionist economic policies. It is likely that this ambiguous strategy backfired, as it cemented Scioli’s electoral ceiling by tying him to the government’s supporters and not bringing new voters to his camp.

When comparing the results of the primaries with those of the first round, it is possible to see that these campaign strategies were accompanied by critical shifts in voter preferences, leading to a greater concentration of opposition voters around Macri. At the end of the day, Scioli lost over two percentage points (36.86%), Macri gained almost 4 (34.33%), and Massa managed to add some decimal points to his non-trivial performance in the primaries (21.34%). These results prevented a first round Scioli victory, ended the momentum behind his candidacy, and transformed Macri into the new favorite.

Figure 2. Macri’s Vote Share at the Section Level. Primary vs. First Round

Fig2Through a complex balancing act, Macri made inroads into two segments of the electorate. First, the pledge not to undo some of Kirchnerism’s most popular statist policies allowed Macri to lure voters who despite being unsatisfied with the performance of the government still support the main pillars of its economic policies. The second source of growth came from voters ideologically opposed to the government, who solved their coordination problem by shifting from Massa to Cambiemos. Both components can be illustrated by looking at changes in vote share across the electoral districts or departments that make up 6 provinces representative of Macri’s overall performance (Figure 2) [3] Observations above the dashed 45-degree line indicate that Macri improved his performance relative to the primaries, while observations below it suggest that his vote share declined.

The case of Córdoba stands out. Home to the second largest electorate in the country, Macri averaged a 15 percent vote share surplus in the province. This allowed him to improve his performance in every single district. Córdoba exemplifies two key components of Macri’s growth. First, this growth came at the expense of Massa, who suffered a net vote share loss in every provincial district.[4] Second, Macri’s success reflects the defection of the rural vote from Massa’s coalition. Ideologically opposed to Kirchnerism, the so-called gringos displayed a text-book example of strategic voting, abandoning Massa for Macri, who had a clearer shot at the presidency. Macri’s success with the rural vote went beyond Córdoba, and extended to provinces such as Santa Fé and Entre Ríos, where Cambiemos lost in the primaries but won in the first round.

Ultimately it was the Province of Buenos Aires, home to 40 percent of the electorate, that enabled Macri to translate his growth in the interior of the country into a higher national vote share. Out of the impressive 1,591,268 additional votes that Cambiemos received on Sunday’s first round, 520,870 (33 percent) came from the Province of Buenos Aires. Though not as big a gap as that observed in Córdoba, Figure 2 shows that Macri improved his vote share in most districts across the province.[5]

If Buenos Aires exemplifies how Macri was able to penetrate the metropolitan component of Peronism’s core constituency by winning key municipalities in the Greater Buenos Aires region, the Province of Tucumán illustrates his ability also to damage Peronism in its less developed Northern core. This was perhaps the least anticipated aspect of the dealignment process observed between August and October. Macri’s success in Tucumán is in part explained by the scandal surrounding the gubernatorial election held in September 2015, in which the Kirchnerist incumbent party won by a confortable margin. Allegations of fraud led to a sustained cycle of protest against the provincial executive and to a lower court ruling invalidating the election. These exceptional circumstances are likely to have persuaded opposition voters to coalesce around Macri, a phenomenon not observed in neighboring provinces such as Salta and Jujuy. But the fact that he did so well in the largest of the northeastern Peronist bastions certainly contributed to his nation-wide growth.

Figure 3. Massa’s Vote Share at the Section Level. Primacy vs First Round.

Fig3Turning to Massa, Figure 3 confirms that Macri’s crucial growth in Córdoba is explained by Massa’s debacle. Yet, Massa managed to compensate the losses inflicted by Macri by making inroads in the two core constituencies of Peronism: the urban areas of the Province of Buenos Aires, and the Northern provinces. Indeed, Massa improved his performance in most sections of the province of Buenos Aires. His growth in the northern region was even more impressive. Unlike Macri, who only improved in Tucumán, Massa exhibited a substantial increase in this province as well as in Salta and Jujuy, where he won the race.

Figure 4. Scioli’s Vote Share at the Section Level. Primary vs. First Round.

Fig4Macri and Massa’s growth obviously came at the expense of Scioli (Figure 4). The largest portion of his decline in vote share is accounted for by the results in the Province of Buenos Aires, where both of his challengers made substantial inroads. His reversal of fortune was particularly surprising in the northern provinces where extreme poverty, voters’ reliance on public employment, and other forms of clientelism normally create buffers that shield the incumbent Peronist vote. Interestingly, like Macri, Scioli also improved his performance in Córdoba, but this was not enough to counter losses in other provinces.

Political scientists often distinguish between two causal forces that shape vote choice during electoral campaigns. The so-called fundamentals are the structural variables that shape the preferences of voters regardless of campaign dynamics, such as economic performance, class, region, and partisanship. Campaign effects, on the other hard, include the processes that unravel as a result of the events and strategies deployed during the course of the campaign, and that end up influencing vote choice. The Argentine electoral campaign thus far has shown how fundamentals and campaign effects complement each other. Campaign dynamics meant that many voters were yet to be persuaded by Macri’s message when they cast a ballot in the primary elections. The fundamentals still biased them against the risks entailed by a change in government, opting either for Scioli or for less competitive opposition candidates. Come the first round of the general election, Macri’s move to the center, the increasing doubts about Scioli’s ideological commitment to either Kirchnerism or anti-Kirchnerism, corruption scandals, and a series of events that underscored the deterioration of the economic situation, persuaded many voters to jump ship.

Who will win in November?

Some may argue that, notwithstanding Macri’s successful balancing act, his chances of winning the runoff are slim. In this sense it is important to note that Massa stole votes from both core constituencies of the traditional Peronist coalition: the metropolitan low income voters of the province of Buenos Aires (and other big cities), and the state-dependent voters of the northern provinces. A phrase famously attributed to Perón comes to mind: “For a Peronist there is nothing better than a fellow Peronist.” This would suggest that those voters who left Kirchnerism for Massa will come back to Scioli once the runoff pits him against a non-Peronist like Macri. Meanwhile, Macri has exhausted his growth potential after stealing all the rural conservative voters that Massa had to offer.

Although this is an entirely plausible scenario, there is an alternative one, often overlooked in the post-election analysis. It is possible that the above interpretation of the nature and potential behavior of Massa supporters gives too little credit to voters, too much credit to the strength of Peronist party identification, and unwarrantedly assumes that the average Massa voter is a staunch Peronist. First, Massa’s emergence as a viable challenger in 2013, as well as his recent resilience, was based on the articulation of an anti-Kirchnerist message. This suggests that many of those attracted by this rhetoric are voters who strongly dislike the president, her policies and governing style. It would therefore make sense for them to support Macri in the runoff. And those who are Peronists and therefore might be in principle more reticent to vote for Macri are not obviously bound to vote for Scioli in November. It is unclear that on its own the Peronist identity, whatever its content and meaning, is strong enough to change the minds of these individuals who were initially enticed by Massa’s crisp anti-government message.

Figure 5 presents public opinion data collected by the Argentine Panel Election Study in July 2015. Of those who expressed support for Massa, 31% evaluated Fernández’s administration poorly or very poorly, and 33% thought it was neither good nor bad. This distribution is not very different from that observed among Macri supporters. Although somewhat dated, these figures suggest that Cambiemos has potential for growth among those who voted for Massa in the first round.

Figure 5. Evaluations of Fernandez’s Administration Among Macri and Massa’s Voters

Fig5Source: Argentina Panel Election Study 2015, First Wave.

There is also the issue of valence. On the one hand, the substantial and uniform growth of Macri in the most populated provinces suggests that being a credible, competent manager matters to voters. Moreover, Macri has also benefited from a valence shock by virtue of winning the narrative about the outcome of the first round and showing that he can credibly beat Kirchnerism. Cambiemos may have narrowly lost the war, but so far it has won the peace. This is not only due to Macri’s unexpected performance, but also to the fact that his coalition won the governorship of the Province of Buenos Aires, the quintessential Peronist bastion. In this context, it wouldn’t be surprising if non-Macri voters updated their valence evaluations after observing that many of their compatriots have already done so in favor of Cambiemos. This is true even for Scioli supporters. It is reasonable to assume that Scioli’s non-trivial 36.86% of the vote is not solely made up of hardcore Kirchnerists, but also includes voters who supported him because of his moderation and his experience governing the largest province in the country. It wouldn’t be surprising if a non-negligible portion of these voters were to re-think their vote ahead of the November ballot.

Given these two plausible scenarios, the outcome of the runoff remains uncertain. But regardless of who wins in November, the 2015 electoral cycle could have far reaching political consequences. In particular, it has enabled non-Peronist parties to make unexpected inroads into Peronist stongholds. Although Peronists still control most of the provinces and enjoy a considerable advantage in both chambers of Congress, their territorial grip over the most populous areas of the country is not as firm as it used to be in the years following the 2001 debacle, which led to profound imbalances between Peronists and non-Peronists. In 2015 the Radicals won two important governorships, a myriad of provincial capitals and many small municipalities. Similarly, Macri’s PRO, initially a highly personalistic party circumscribed to the City of Buenos Aires, will now control the two most visible and resourceful subnational executives, i.e. the Province and City of Buenos Aires. PRO candidates were also extremely close to winning the governorships of large provinces such as Santa Fé and Entre Ríos, further consolidating the party’s potential for territorial expansion and institutionalization. If Macri wins the presidency it is likely that this trend will continue, with important implications for the structure of Argentina’s party system. Because of these developments, this may well have been the last election of a political cycle dominated by the legacies of the 2001 crisis.

[1] According to Argentina’s electoral law, all candidates must participate in a primary, even if they face no internal competition. The party as a whole must surpass a vote share threshold in order to be allowed to compete in the Presidential race. In August 2015 Scioli participated in an uncontested primary, whereas the other two main presidential hopefuls, Macri and the leader of the anti-Kirchnerist faction of the Peronist Party, Sergio Massa, competed against their respective challengers to secure the nomination.

[2] Victory can be achieved by winning 40% of the vote with a 10% margin of victory, or by wining 45% of the vote, regardless of the margin of victory.

[3] Departamentos are aggregate electoral precincts comparable to US counties. Though in some provinces they overlap with municipal boundaries, in others they do not serve any administrative or institutional purpose. Here we use the words sections and districts interchangeably.

[4] In the primaries Massa competed against Córdoba’s incumbent governor, José M. De la Sota. In August their combined vote share in Córdoba was larger than that of Cambiemos and Scioli..

[5] Because Buenos Aires also exhibited a uniform increase in turnout, these vote share increases at the district level led to net increases in the national vote share.

The authors want to thank Andy Tow (http://www.andytow.com/), Pablo Celayes (@PCelayes), and Andréz Vázquez (@avdata99) for their generous help getting departamento level electoral results.

Ezequiel Gonzalez Ocantos (Ph.D. Notre Dame, 2012) is Associate Professor in the Qualitative Study of Comparative Political Institutions in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow in Nuffield College. His research focuses on the determinants of judicial behavior in cases of state repression. In particular, he studies how the diffusion of international legal ideas by local activists changes the way judges and prosecutors in Latin America perceive these cases and the legal viability of ruling against impunity. His book manuscript “Shifting Legal Visions: Judicial Change and Human Rights Trials in Latin America” is currently under advanced contract with Cambridge University Press. His work on this and other topics has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics and Comparative Political Studies and The International Journal of Human Rights. Gonzalez Ocantos received APSA’s 2013 Edward S. Corwin Award for the best doctoral dissertation in the field of Public Law.

Luis Schiumerini is a Post-doctoral Prize Research Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College, and received a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 2015. His book project examines the causes of incumbency advantage and disadvantage in developing democracies. In other research, he studies preferences for redistribution and mass protests.

Lucas González and Miguel Ignacio Mamone – Who Distributes? Presidents, Congress, Governors, and the Politics of Distribution in Argentina and Brazil

This is a guest post by Lucas González, researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) and professor at the Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA) and Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM) in Buenos Aires, Argentina

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In the last decade, federal expenditures in public housing, sanitation, roads, and urban works rose by 108% in Brazil and 429% in Argentina, becoming one of the most important redistributive tools in the hands of the federal government. Those funds represented almost 8% of the total budget in Argentina and 3% of the total Brazilian budget. Investment in public infrastructure has a highly redistributive impact and constitutes a budget item over which the federal government has large discretion. Redistribu­tive funds are those that can generate potentially large economic and social externalities in the loca­lities or regions where they are invested. The regional distribu­tion of infrastructure funds is a mechanism through which  money can be redistributed from the regions that pay taxes that finance these funds to others in which the investment is actually made.

In a recent paper (Gonzalez and Mamone 2015), we studied the main factors that affect distributive politics in Argentina and Brazil, two highly unequal presidential federations in Latin America and where redistribution has historically been a sensitive and politically divisive issue. Using original data on federal infrastructure spending for the 24 provinces in Argentina and the 27 states in Brazil for the period 1999-2011, we asked what is the role of presidents and governors when it comes to allocating federal monies to subnational units in developing federal democracies.

Although most researchers recognize a crucial role to presidents, legisla­tors, and state politicians, we are limited in our under­standing of the factors that shape distribution. Existing scholarship studies the federal resource allocation across regions by focusing almost exclu­sively on the role of congress and its internal ope­rations, such as committee composition and par­tisan configuration. However, more recently, some studies have begun to explore the influence presidents have over the allocation of federal outlays (Larcinese et al., 2006; Berry et al., 2010). But there is little agreement on how presi­dents influence the distribution of federal outlays. Some argue presidents influence the budgetary pro­cess by following electoral expectations: they allo­cate more funds in districts were they expect larger electoral benefits and returns (Dixit and Londregan 1996). In contrast, Cox and McCubbins (1986) argue that the optimal strategy for risk-averse candidates is to dis­tribute to their reelection constituency and over-in­vest in their closest supporters to maintain existing political coalitions.

In Latin America, most presidential systems put lar­ge powers and responsibilities in the hands of pre­sidents. Presidents in Latin America can introduce bills, veto laws, legislate by decree during emergen­cies, and have preeminence in the making of annual budgets. As a result, presidents have been endowed with larger legislative powers to get their policy agenda passed and this has helped the executive to win greater leve­rage vis-à-vis the legislature over time. We therefore claim that presidents prefer to invest in districts where their party is strongest, not to shore up swing areas, and certainly not to waste money where the party does not have a chance. Although this argument stresses the relevance of partisan links, it does not identify which partisan links are relevant to explain distributive outcomes: it may be those between pre­sidents and federal legislators, national and regio­nal party leaders, federal ministers or high-ranking federal officials and state politicians, or between presidents and governors.

Our empirical findings indicate there is large variation between Argentina and Brazil in the relevance of the partisan links between presidents and governors, and the influence of congress and its committees. Ceteris paribus, allied sub­-national units in Argentina and Brazil received substantially more funds than opposition districts. Provinces and states are also more likely to get more funds if they are electorally secure and not swing districts, when controlling for third variables. They get more funds when the difference between the share of votes of the governor and the main party in the opposition is larger. Presidents favor more secure provinces controlled by allied governors in Argentina. Due to the closed-list proportional representation electoral system, governors are decisive in defining the list of candidates for their party tickets, so they exercise a decisive influence over provincial delegations in the federal congress

In contrast, the in­teraction term between the swing and allied variables for the Brazilian sample is statistically insignificant and moves in the opposite direction than expected. Scholars claim that gover­nors are indeed influential (especially before 1994) due to the centrifugal configuration of Brazilian fe­deral institutions, electoral laws such as the open-list proportional representation system (which weakens party leadership and promotes fragmentation and regionalization of the party system), the decentra­lized organization of national parties, the powers governors have over policymaking, their control of resources for patronage and pork, and the influen­ce governors have over career prospects for federal legislators. However others contend that governors’ influence has been increasingly weakening since the 1988 and 1994 constitutional reforms: from the legislative powers of the president and the cen­tralized legislative organization in congress, to structural factors such as pro-poor growth that favored the Left at the national level and eroded conservative parties’ support at the local level. In our results for the Brazilian case, the coefficients for allied and secure districts move as expected. Allied and secure states tend to receive more funds, signaling that presidents compensate secure districts, irrespective of them being in the core of the presi­dential coalition.

Our results also indicate that infrastructure distribution in Argentina is mainly decided by the national and provincial executives and not the federal legislatu­re. Congressio­nal committees do not affect the outcome, but con­gressional delegations do matter in Brazil. Individual and collective amendments are the key negotiating tool between presidents and legislators and a mechanism throu­gh which the president crafts legislative support in exchange for pork in both chambers of congress. Furthermore, we observe that elections are not relevant in explaining distribution in either of the two cases and that presidents are mostly motivated by political considerations.

How can we explain the differences between Argen­tina and Brazil? Why are governors more relevant in Argentina and congressional delegations more in­fluential in Brazil? We can only risk some hypotheses that need to be further developed and analyzed systematically. In Argentina, governors have a large influence over the forma­tion of legislative party lists and exercise a deci­sive influence over provincial delegations in the federal congress. Consequently, presidents need to negotiate legislative support with governors, especially tho­se in their coalition. Moreover, presidents depend on governors as they are more effective in mobilizing the electorate and building up federal electoral support than national party delegates. As a result, some re­gions of the country may receive federal funds not only from their congressional representatives doing constituency service. Presidents may also compen­sate governors for their territorial political support and their capacity to deliver votes and seats. In relation to the differences in the relevance of congress, one possible answer could point out to the degree of concentration of political power in the hands of the president and the need to build up legislative coalitions. When presidents get enough political support from their own parties (in terms of seats and discipline) to pass crucial legislation in congress, they may have fewer incentives to form broad legislative coalitions. Under those circumstances, presidents would be more likely to concentrate decisions on how to distribute and to force cooperation from the legislature. On the contrary, when presidents do not get enough political support from their own par­ties and need to build up legislative coalitions with other parties, congress will be more likely to play a more relevant role. After all, this is the crucial arena for inter-party bargaining. Presidents in Argentina have received 2.5 times more support in congress from their own parties in the period under study than in Brazil (42.4 percent versus 17.2 percent).

We also found that programmatic factors, such as equity and efficiency criteria, play a secondary role in distributive politics, especially in Argentina. Most of the efficiency criteria are not relevant factors to explain the allocation of infrastructure funds in the two ca­ses. Only urbanization rate moves as expected and receives empirical support in Brazil. In Argentina, the statistically significant criteria move in the op­posite direction than expected: more industrialized provinces receive less federal infrastructure funds. In Brazil, states with a larger share of poor people receive fewer funds but so do richer states in terms of per capita GDP. Combined results for poverty and income in Brazil seem to indicate that more overre­presented, less populated, middle and lower income states with fewer average poor households received more public works. Northern and Midwest states are the ones that resemble those structural characte­ristics. Why does Brazil seem to be more programmatic than Argentina? Why does Argentina not seem to clearly follow equity or efficiency criteria in the distribu­tion of federal infrastructure spending? Possible clues could point to some usual suspects: institutions, parties, or the bureaucracy. It may well be that the president has formal rules that allow him/her more discre­tion in Argentina than in Brazil. In Argentina, the president has legal authority to reallocate budget transfers. This discretion has been used to form and sustain crucial territorial governing coalitions, to some extent crafted through the distribution of public infrastructure spending. The question would be, then, why does Argentina have these rules and not Brazil? It may also well be that Brazil has more programmatic parties in government (the Workers Party) than Argentina (the Justicialista Party, whi­ch is more ideologically heterogeneous and more fragmented territorially), and this obviously in­fluences programmatic decisions in government. Or we can also point to the state and its bureaucracy, and claim that merit-based bureaucratic planning offices in Brazil have more say and influence over presidential decisions than in Argentina.

References:

Berry, Christopher, Barry Burden, and William Howell. 2010. The President and the Distribution of FederalSpending, American Political Science Review (104)

Cox, Gary, and Mathew McCubbins. 1986. Electoral Politics as a Redistributive Game, The Journal of Politics (48)

Dixit, Avinash and John Londregan. 1996. The Determinants of Success of Special Interests in Redistributive Politics, The Journal of Politics (58)

González, Lucas and Ignacio Mamone. 2015. Who Distributes? Presidents, Congress, Governors, and the Politics of Distribution in Argentina and Brazil, Revista Ibero-Americana de Estudos Legislativos (4)

Larcinese, Valentino, Leonzio Rizzo, and Cecilia Testa. 2006. Allocating the U.S. Federal Budget to the States: The Impact of the President, The Journal of Politics (68)

Lucas González holds a PhD in political science at the University of Notre Dame. He is researcher at the Na- tional Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) and professor at the Universidad Católica Ar- gentina (UCA) and Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is currently a postdoctoral visiting fellow at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Watson Institute, Brown University. He has coauthored two books and written articles, the last ones published in The Journal of Po- litics, Latin American Research Review, Latin American Politics and Society, Publius: The Journal of Federa- lism, América Latina Hoy (Spain), Revista de Ciencia Política (Chile), and Desarrollo Económico: Revista de Ciencias Sociales (Argentina). Email: lgonzalez@unsam.edu.ar.

Miguel Ignacio Mamone is PhD student in political science at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella and an Assis- tant Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Universidad Catolica Argentina. He holds a doctoral scho- larship at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) of Argentina. He specializes in Latin American politics, federalism, public spending, and redistribution.

Magna Inácio and Mariana Llanos – The Institutional Presidency in Argentina and Brazil

This is a guest post by Magna Inácio and Mariana Llanos from the Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais and GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies respectively

It is based on the following article recently published by the authors: INACIO, Magna and LLANOS, Mariana. The Institutional Presidency from a Comparative Perspective: Argentina and Brazil since the 1980s. Bras. Political Sci. Rev. [online]. 2015, vol.9, n.1, pp. 39-64. Available here.

Even the most influential chief executives need the political support and technical assistance of trusted advisors, technical staff, and government agencies. The scholarly literature has documented the increasing centralization of authority around the person of the chief executive and the steady movement toward the institutional reinforcement of the political core executive as developments that have taken place in most advanced industrial countries in the last forty to fifty years. Students of the United States’ presidency, on their part, have shown that presidents have had incentives for creating and strengthening technical, administrative, and advisory presidential support bodies both to confront critical junctures and to help face the challenges that are posed in a system characterized by separate institutions sharing powers.

In Latin America, presidents enjoy significant policy-making powers in multiple policy realms as a means to influence the legislative agenda, control the allocation of resources, appoint and dismiss thousands of different government officials, and respond directly to the demands of their electorate. However, the distinction between executive leadership and the institutional nature of the modern presidency has not been really addressed yet, despite there having been a significant expansion of studies on presidentialism. Our work sheds light on this under researched topic by focusing on the presidencies of Argentina and Brazil since redemocratization in the 1980s.

In particular, our study concentrates on the “institutional presidency”, that is, the cluster of agencies that directly support the chief executive. These agencies are part of the bureaucracy of the executive branch, but they are not located within the executive cabinet; their defining characteristic is that they operate under the direct authority of the president and are responsible for supporting the presidential leadership. Following the specialized literature, we argue that the growth of the institutional presidency is connected to developments occurring in the larger political system – that is, to the governmental and political challenges that presidents face.

Likewise, we argue that the type of executive cabinet – a factor that until now has not played a significant role in presidential studies, which are mostly based on the US case – poses various challenges to presidents and, thus, impacts differently on the structure of the presidency. Our empirical references, the presidencies of Argentina and Brazil and typical cases of single-party and coalitional presidentialism, respectively, allow us to test the impact of the aforementioned factor. In effect, we expect to find greater centralization –a shifting of the functions of the wider executive branch to the core executive – under coalition presidentialism because presidents must share cabinet positions, negotiate, and manage relations with coalition partners. In single-party governments, meanwhile, presidents can more freely assert themselves over the whole executive structure; in other words, centralization should be less necessary. Similarly, we expect the type of government to affect the types of agencies that form the institutional presidency, with coalition presidents building a more complex and varied presidential organization.

Presidency

Number of Institutional Presidency Units and Core Units Argentina and Brazil, 1984–2010

To test our hypotheses we first collected information on the number of agencies under presidential authority in Argentina and Brazil per year from 1984 until 2010. Our data show reverse developments having taken place over these years, where the institutional presidency has at times been expanded and at other times reduced – and we thus inquire into the causes of such evolutions. We then estimated the effects of a set of political variables on those agency developments: we included the type of executive cabinet, and the extent of political support for the president, among other political and economic control variables. Our assumption was that the institutional presidency grows in response to the constraints of a political environment that can be a potential challenge to the presidential leadership. Our findings confirm our expectations. The regression analysis shows that as the number of parties in the cabinet increases, so does the size of the institutional presidency. It is also confirmed that when governing parties hold a legislative majority the number of presidential units decreases. Among the contextual variables, the model shows that economic reforms pose risks to presidents that translate into incentives to enlarge the institutional presidency.

Agency movements have not only affected the size of the institutional presidency but also the types of agencies that form it. Our analysis shows that the monolithic Brazilian presidency of the 1980s has since been substituted by an internally differentiated and specialized institution, including a diversity of policy units, advisory bodies, and the strengthening of core units –those supporting administrative, legal, and institutional tasks. Instead, in Argentina, the internal makeup of the presidency is today less differentiated, as important functions such as coordination haven been decentralized in the wider executive.

In short, our analysis provides evidence indicating that the type of government – coalitional or single-party – matters, for the variations in the architecture of the presidency. This is both a hitherto unexplored area of research vis-à-vis Latin America and an interesting agenda for the presidential literature in the future.

Bios

Magna. InacioMagna Inácio is an associate professor at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG). Her research interests include coalition governments, the institutional presidency, and legislative parties. Currently, her research is concerned with the institutional development of the Presidency in Brazil and Latin American. She has published co-edited books: Legislativo Brasileiro em Perspectiva Comparada (with Lúcio Rennó). (Ed. UFMG); Elites Parlamentares na America Latina. (Argvmentvm Ed, 2009) and chapters in “Algo más que Presidentes. El papel del Poder Legislativo en América Latina”. (co-edited by Manoel Alcantara Saez e Mercedes Garcia; Fundación Manuel Gimenez Abad 2011); O Congresso por Ele Mesmo. (edited by Timothy Powers e Cesar Zucco; Ed. UFMG 2011). She has published in journals such as America Latina Hoy and Jounal of Politics in Latin America. E-mail: magna.inacio@gmail.com.

llanos_1503Mariana Llanos is a Senior Research Fellow at the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies. Her main research field is comparative political institutions, especially in Latin America. She has worked on presidentialism, presidential breakdowns, president-congress relations, president-judiciary relations, judicial appointments. She is also currently working on the institutional presidency in comparative perspective. Full details of all her publications and current porject can be found here.