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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Competing without parties : voter mobilization in Peru Hurtado Lozada, Enilda Veronica Beatriz


Through an examination of the functioning of Peru’s precarious democracy, this dissertation presents four empirical studies on party system collapse, fragmented social mobilization and uneven state capacity. Using mixed methods of inquiry that include twenty-two in-depth interviews with political actors, three months of archival research, analysis of government data and an original survey experiment, the dissertation contributes to our understanding of the long-term consequences of the absence of political parties in democracy. Using a comparative case study approach focused on left-wing political initiatives, the first paper offers a theoretical rationale for the persistent lack of political parties in Peru. I argue that political parties operate as mere electoral vehicles that, despite their ambition to evolve into a political party, fail to coordinate long-term alliances with social organizations. As a result, the current state of Peruvian party politics is one of constant creation and dissolution of small electoral vehicles led by personalistic candidates with vague ideological and programmatic commitments. In the second paper, I turn to analyzing the consequences of the instability of Peru’s party system on voters’ evaluation of candidates during elections. Through an original survey experiment conducted during the 2021 presidential election, I show that candidates’ use of misinformation is not punished by voters, and argue that this lack of punishment is driven by voters’ normalization of incivility in the political arena. Finally, in the third and fourth paper, I explore how in the absence of strong parties, presidents use alternative avenues to build popularity and enact policy. Specifically, in the context of Covid-19 pandemic, I conduct two comparative studies that emphasize the importance of presidential leadership to enact stringent pandemic restrictions as a response to the uneven capacity of the state in the country. I show that the retributions these policies have on their public support are conditioned by political factors such as the timing of the policy, its framing and the power of the opposition.

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