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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Governing on the left : essays on governance and party development in contemporary Latin America Resmini, Fabio


This dissertation is comprised of three papers that explore the governance challenges of left-wing presidents in Latin America and the instrumental role that political parties play in solving these challenges. It builds on extensive fieldwork in Ecuador and Bolivia and interviews with former ministers, congresspeople, party officials, media owners, journalists, and experts. The first paper looks at the widespread phenomenon of personalist electoral vehicles and examines why some develop into full-fledged organized parties while others do not. Through a mixed-method approach combining process tracing on the case studies of Venezuela’s MVR/PSUV and Ecuador’s Alianza PAIS and large-N statistical analysis, the paper finds that leaders’ formative political experiences shape whether such parties decide to invest in party organization. Party officials that were socialized in radical left parties early in their career are more likely to advocate for party building and their presence within party cadres is associated with stronger party organization. The second paper explains variation in the communication strategies of left-wing incumbents in response to hostile media environments. Through process-tracing of the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia, the paper finds that the composition of governing parties’ core constituencies shapes the communication strategy of left governments. Parties whose core constituencies are unorganized lack societal channels of communication with the electorate and are forced to create and use state-controlled media structures to disseminate information. On the contrary, parties that draw support from organized constituencies take advantage of affiliated societal organizations to communicate with their electoral base, and do not depend on mediatized communication. The third paper explains the dramatic downfall of Alianza PAIS, the most electorally successful party in Ecuador’s recent history. It shows how, after his switch to a neoliberal policy agenda, President Moreno (2017-2021) dismantled his own party by starving it of the resources necessary to thrive. The paper marshals evidence from interviews, newspaper articles, and roll call votes to demonstrate how three conditions were causally important for this outcome to happen: the top-down structure of the party, the support Moreno received from the opposition, and the fact that Alianza PAIS represented a future threat to Moreno’s policy legacy.

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