Party and Democracy in Brazil

November 19, 2009 - 4:00 pm

Frances Hagopian, University of Notre Dame

Brazilian parties have long been believed to be among the weakest in Latin America, hobbled by shallow roots in the electorate, high rates of electoral volatility, and unfaithful politicians. Yet, since the early 1990s, contrary to the conventional wisdom, party-oriented legislators have emerged and party discipline has been on the rise. Why this has occurred is explained by the ways in which market reforms made party-programmatic electoral strategies more valuable than patronage-based ones. An original survey of the Brazilian Congress illuminates the nature of partisan campaigns, party polarization on policy, and the values legislators attach to party program and voter loyalty, which, in turn, account for the willingness of politicians to delegate authority to party leaders, not to switch parties, and to observe party discipline on roll-call votes in the 51st legislature (1999-2001).

Frances Hagopian is Associate Professor of Political Science and a faculty fellow and former director of the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre Dame. She studies the comparative politics of Latin America, with emphasis on democratization, the political economy of economic reform, and religion and politics in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. She is editor of Religious Pluralism, Democracy, and the Catholic Church in Latin America (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009); co-editor (with Scott Mainwaring) of The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America (Cambridge 2005), and author of Traditional Politics and Regime Change in Brazil (Cambridge, 1996), as well as articles and book chapters. In 2007-2008 she was a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She has previously taught at Harvard and Tufts Universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.