Populism and the quality of democracy in Argentina and Chile

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Populism and the quality of democracy in Argentina and Chile
Sterns, Daniel W
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viii, 104 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Populism -- Argentina ( lcsh )
Populism -- Chile ( lcsh )
Democracy -- Argentina ( lcsh )
Democracy -- Chile ( lcsh )
Democracy ( fast )
Populism ( fast )
Argentina ( fast )
Chile ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 97-104).
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by Daniel W. Sterns.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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LD1193.L64 2008m S73 ( lcc )

Full Text
Daniel W. Stems
B.A., Metropolitan State College of Denver 2001
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science

This Thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Daniel W. Sterns
has been approved
Anna Sampaio

Stems, Daniel W. (M.A., Political Science)
Populism and the Quality of Democracy in Argentina and Chile
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Christoph H. Stefes
This thesis examines the relationship between populism and democratic quality in
Argentina and Chile. It examines the current literature on populism and democratic
quality and provides a comparative historical analysis of the self-reinforcing
properties of populisms relationship with democratic quality in Chile and Argentina
from independence through 2007. A critical juncture occurred during the
independence process whereby in Argentina, strong caudillos emerged and
established a self-reinforcing process of populism and weak democratic institutions.
Conversely in Chile, without the influence of ccmdillismo, a self-reinforcing process
of institutional development emerged. In order to illuminate this relationship two
indicators of democratic quality are examined, the rule of law and democratic
accountability. Today, Chile has emerged with a relatively higher quality judiciary
and accountability due in part to the historical legacy of strong institutional
development and the minor incursion of populism. Argentinas lower quality rule of
law and accountability can be traced to the strong impact of populism and weak
institutional development.
This abstract accurately represents the contents of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
istoph H. Stefes

I dedicate this work to my support network of family and friends without whom the
words would be meaningless. Specifically, I would like to dedicate this to my wife,
Kristy and my daughter Eliana, the former has made countless sacrifices to ensure
the completion of this work and the latter has unknowingly given up numerous hours
of quality daddy time. Tom and Marianne, also deserve special recognition for their
extraordinary parental capabilities.

I would like to thank my advisor and thesis chair Christoph H. Stefes for his
continuous guidance and unwavering support throughout my entire graduate program
and especially during the supervision of my thesis. Additionally, I would like to
thank my thesis committee members Anna Sampaio, Jana Everett, and Michael
Ducey. I would also like to thank program assistant Cory Gruebele for his persistent
logistical assistance.

1. INTRODUCTION...............................................1
2. POPULISM...................................................9
Populist Persuasions..................................12
Support for Populism..................................15
Conditions for Populism...............................17
A Working Definition of Populism......................21
Quality of Democracy..................................30
Rule of Law...........................................33
The Judiciary.........................................38
Populism, the Rule of Law and Accountability..........40
4. CASE STUDIES: ARGENTINA AND CHILE.........................47
Era I: Independence to Statehood......................48
Argentina (1810-1916)............................48

Chile (1810-1924)................................56
Era II: Populism State Intervention, and Instability...60
Argentina (1916-1983)............................61
Chile (1920-1990)................................68
Era III: Democratic Reform and the Legacy of Populism..77
Argentina (1983-2008)............................77
Chile (1990-2008)................................86
5. CONCLUSION.................................................90
Prospects for the Future of Democratic Quality.........92
Populism and Democracy.................................94
WORKS CITED.........................................................97

3.1 Sectors of populism.......................................46
4.1 Timeframe.................................................47

At the core of all liberal democracies lies a tension between minority and
majority rights. Successful attempts at balancing these rights can strengthen
democratic institutions and lead to a high quality democratic state. On the other
hand, a failure to balance these rights can lead to a breakdown of democratic
institutions and a total collapse of democratic government. Therefore, it is crucial
for societies undergoing democratization or working toward a higher quality of
democracy to understand fully the significance and nuances of balancing these
rights. Furthermore, as a way to balance these rights states should focus on
developing and improving democratic institutions.
This thesis will attempt to clarify and highlight elements of inherent rights
tensions dwelling in democracies at various levels of democratization and at
various levels of democratic quality. It will expand upon the existing body of
knowledge, and hopefully provide additional guidance for people involved in the
theoretical and practical aspects of the daily struggle of improving democratic
quality and balancing democratic rights.
For these purposes, I will analyze the relationship between populism and
democracy. Both terms are rooted in the elusive concept of the people and this
shared etymology underscores the lure toward understanding their relationship.
Who are the people and what exactly is popular sovereignty? Often, various

groups in society have dramatically opposing viewpoints and variant political
aspirations. The working class seeks higher wages, safer working conditions, and
shorter hours, while the industrial managers, landowners, and other economic elite
want to secure as much profit from their resources as possible. Balancing these
interests through peaceful political institutions and processes increases the chances
of consolidating democracy and improving democratic quality. How might
societies best balance minority and majority interests, and what does it mean to
have a pluralistic society where every individual can influence the political
spectrum of the democratic process?
Populism is a political strategy, whereby a personalistic leader is elected to
government office with direct appeals to large numbers of mostly unorganized
masses (Weyland 2001: 14). A populist leader will also promise significant
changes for the social, political and economic condition of the people, receive
support from a multi-class coalition, employ divisive anti-status quo rhetoric, and
work to consolidate power into his/her own leadership position. When populism is
evaluated within the context of democratic theory many of its key components are
A state can be considered democratic if it has public contestation and
participation in government including: free and fair elections, opportunities to
oppose the government, the ability to form political organizations, the ability to
express political ideas without significant repression, exposure to alternative

viewpoints, and at least two differing political parties (Dahl 1971: 20). At this
minimal level of democracy, populism can have a positive relationship with
democracy. Populist leaders often usher in enfranchisement, mobilization, and
direct government opposition through rallies and protests. However, when
populism is evaluated within the context of current scholarship on democratic
quality, other more negative aspects of the relationship become apparent.
Specifically, my study of populism and its relationship with democracy
should accentuate the importance of building democratic procedures and
institutions while reminding us of the inherent dangers of consolidating power into
the hands of a single individual masquerading as the solitary representative of the
people. A closer examination of the somewhat symbiotic yet dysfunctional
relationship between populism and democracy can offer insights and a more
meaningful understanding of each of their extraordinary characteristics and their
capacity to impact millions of peoples lives. This thesis will attempt to enhance
our understanding of that relationship through an evaluation of populisms affect on
democratic quality i.e. how does a countrys history of populism affect its current
quality of democracy?
Latin America is an excellent region to study both political phenomena, as it
continues to struggle with democratization and has consistently turned toward
populism for salvation. The most obvious and positive relationship of populism
and democracy is demonstrated through populisms incorporation of the masses

into the political system. However, upon further examination it becomes clear that
populism often has many lasting negative affects on democracy, especially when
the level of analysis focuses on the quality of democracy. Incorporating voters into
a democratic system provides a relatively small amount of real political power for
enfranchised voters. On the other hand, developing a strong civil society, rule of
law, and democratic institutions can better serve both minority and majority
interests, while providing a more comprehensive and peaceful arena for balancing
individual rights with the rights of majorities.
It is my assertion that despite the positive aspects surrounding the
incorporation of disenfranchised voters and strengthening the electoral features of
democracy, populism has other powerful negative impacts on democratic quality.
A comparative study of populism and democratic quality between Argentina and
Chile will illuminate this relationship. The cases were chosen on the basis of a
most similar systems design whereby Argentina and Chile exhibit numerous
similarities thus limiting the total number of variables. Most importantly,
Argentina and Chile both inherited the legacy of Spanish Colonialism setting them
on similar footing during their periods of independence. Furthermore the two
countries share numerous cultural, geographical and demographic traits. Yet, today
several distinctions have become apparent; Chile has developed a more stable and
higher quality democratic government than its neighbor to the east. Diverse factors
have influenced these discrepancies, but Argentinas persistent populist regimes

have notably contributed to political instability and lower quality of democracy.
This chapter examines the historical roots of populism and democracy in each
country, and evaluates the manner in which populism affects democratic quality.
How does a countrys history of populism affect its quality of democracy?
Both states also experienced recent periods dominated by brutal military
regimes followed by a transition or return to democratic processes and institutions.
Today, both are fairly stable democracies that meet the basic minimum
requirements to be considered an electoral democracy. Freedom House scores
Chile as having the highest marks 1,1 in political rights and civil rights; Argentina
has a score of 2,2 for the same categories, suggesting only a slight difference in
democratic quality. Upon closer inspection, however, a larger discrepancy appears
between the two states and their quality of rule of law: Chile received a score of 15
(on par with Germany-16) while Argentina received a score of 10 ("Freedom in the
World 2007 Subscores"). Another key indicator of democratic quality put forth as
the Bertlesmann Transformation Index (BTI) has scored (on a 10 point scale10
being the highest) Chiles rule of law at 9.0, and Argentinas 6.0 ("Bti 2006"
2006). These scores offer little actual insight into the functioning of institutions or
the factors leading to such scores, but it is clear that Argentina has a significantly
lower quality rule of law than Chile.
Chile and Argentina also share similar democratic structures. Both
maintain bicameral legislatures, constitutionally outline a separation of powers, and

have legal traditions based on civil law (where lawyers and justices study and
implement the codification of law, strict legal interpretation, as opposed to common
law traditions that are focused on the interpretation of the law, or legal precedent).
One of the most prominent discrepancies between the two states has been
the role of populism. Chile has had a limited and restrained historical relationship
with populism, while Argentina on the other hand, has had multiple populist
leaders including the most notorious populist of them all, Juan Peron. How has the
pervasive experience with populism in Argentina and its relative absence in Chile
affected the quality of the rule of law and accountability in each state?
I employ a qualitative methodology of comparative historical analysis in
order to analyze the self-reinforcing properties of populisms relationship with
democratic quality. As I began to investigate the historical role of populism in
Argentina and Chile, I traced the development of populism back to the early days
of caudillos. It became clear that each country set about on completely different
democratization trajectories despite their many other similar attributes. Therefore,
it seemed important to investigate the entire span of each countrys state
development beginning with independence. Something had sent them on different
paths, and populism seems to have played an important role.
Based on the comparative methods established by (Collier and Collier
1991) and advanced by (Pierson 2003) I examine the impact of populism and its
predecessor caudillismo on the development of democratic institutions over an

extended period of time. It is essentially a path-dependent argument; a critical
juncture occurred during the independence process whereby in Argentina, strong
caudillos emerged and established a self-reinforcing process of populism and weak
democratic institutions. Conversely in Chile, without the influence of caudillismo,
a self-reinforcing process of institutional development emerged. Both countries
subsequent democratization trajectories were partially determined during their
period of state formation by the critical juncture defined by the presence or absence
of caudillos.
A feedback loop was created in each state. In Argentina, the impact of
caudillos weakened the development of democratic institutions and opened the
space for future populist leaders. The future populist leaders continued the cycle of
weakening democratic institutions. While some democratic institutions were
developed between populist incursions, they were not strong enough to withstand
the next cycle of populist rule. This cycle continues to this day, and is a significant
factor in the current level of Argentine democratic quality. Conversely, In Chile,
the feedback loop was centered on strong institutions, especially political parties
and the rule of law. Democratic institutions were developed that were able to
withstand pressure from populist leaders and other authoritarian regimes. Today,
Chile has emerged with a relatively high level of democratic quality, due in large
part to its trajectory of populist exclusion and early establishment of democratic

Examining the relationship of populism and democratic quality over a
period of two hundred years separates the seemingly short-term positive aspects of
populism from its more negative long-term implications. This method illuminates
the causal chains (the links between historical processes) of populism and
institutional development and leads to a better understanding of their complex and
often self-reinforcing aspects (Pierson 2003: 187). This is not to say that populism
is the only causal element with a negative impact on Argentinas democratic
quality, or that the development of democratic institutions is the only causal
element leading to a higher democratic quality in Chile. Rather, the self-
reinforcing historical developments of populism and democratic institutions in both
countries were significant components leading to each states current level of
democratic quality.
First, I will provide an overview and definition of populism. Due to
conflicting scholarship and the ambiguous nature of populism as a concept, I felt it
was important to extensively elaborate on its history and review several relevant
academic debates in order to provide an adequate definition and foundation for
further investigation. Thus, the second chapter summarizes and provides a working
definition of populism. The third chapter assesses the current debate on
democratization and democratic quality. Here, I also establish the two aspects of
democratic quality that I will focus on: the rule of law (especially the judiciary) and
accountability. This is followed by a look at the three sectors of populism that

foster an environment inhospitable to the democratic rule of law and accountability:
consolidation of power in the executive, clientelist practices, and a dualistic, zero-
sum, divisive discourse. The fourth chapter summarizes Argentina and Chiles
historical relationship with populism and democracy, and examines the impact of
populism (or lack thereof) on the rule of law and accountability. The fifth chapter
presents my conclusions and makes suggestions for additional research.

Beginning in the late 19th century numerous leaders have been branded
with the label populist. From Juan Peron in Argentina to Boris Yeltsin in Russia to
Huey P. Long in Louisiana, populist leaders have left an indelible mark on the
political landscape of the world. Income redistribution, class or labor struggles,
suffrage, and other politics that pit the proletariat against the bourgeois often take
center stage during populist rule, but when carefully studied it becomes difficult to
associate specific ideologies or policies with populism. Contradictions arise at
every turn, with populist leaders claiming to be ruling in the name of the people
while consolidating power into their own hands; this leaves few decisions to be
made through scrupulous negotiation and compromise. As scholars continue to
seek a definitional consensus, the many paradoxes of populism become the impetus
for a meaningful, lively debate, and at the core of this debate are issues that carry
great theoretical and practical significance for millions of people.
Populism is a complex and elusive concept, yet it remains central to
understanding politics in several divergent cultures and political regimes.
Populisms dirge has been played recurrently over the past three decades, but its
extinction as both a concept and a reality is ostensibly distant. Populism has a
history rooted in the twentieth century, and shares this history with a prevalent rise

of democracy. The first form of populism to be seriously engaged by scholars
emerged in Russia in the 1870s. This movement carried out by Russian
intellectuals was known as narodnichesho, and it attempted to serve the interests of
the peasants with .. .a form of agrarian socialism based on a federation of peasant
communes.. .(Canovan 1981: 83). The second major form of populism to be
researched commenced in the United States in 1892 with the establishment of The
Peoples Party. This agrarian movement led by farmers of the South and West
culminated in the presidential bid by William Jennings Bryan, and pitted the
working class (farmers and other laborers) against the elite. Russian populism and
U.S. populism were quite dissimilar however, with Russian populism organized by
a socialist minded intelligentsia and U.S. populism organized by farmers sans
socialist agenda (Canovan 1981). The differences between these early forms of
Russian and U.S. populism underscore the complicated nature of working toward a
consensual definition, as populism can seemingly be either a rural or urban
phenomena and may have either socialist or capitalist undercurrents.
Latin America offers another unique brand of populism, and due to
populisms regional ubiquity, Latin America has taken center stage for research on
the topic. According to Latin American historian Alan Knight, populism is Latin
Americas most durable political system (Knight 1998: 236). The twentieth
century hosted a significant number of populist regimes throughout Latin America;
populism in its nascent form emerged in Uruguay under the leadership of Jose

Battle y Ordonez and in Argentina under Hipolito Yrigoyen in the early 1900s.
While these leaders did not demonstrate profound levels of populist characteristics,
others followed and expanded upon their style. Populisms prominent reign was
between 1920-1965 when it became the norm in many countries.1 Some of the
populists during this time were: Lazaro Cardenas (Mexico 1934-1940), Juan Peron
in Argentina (1946-1955 and 1973-1974), Romulo Betancourt in Venezuela (1945-
1948 and 1959-1964), and Getulio Vargas in Brazil (1930-1945 and 1950-1954).
The modem era ushered in the neopopulists: Carlos Menem in Argentina (1989-
1999), Alberto Fujimori in Peru (1990-2000), and Collor de Melo in Brazil (1990-
1992); they were labeled neopopulists because they instituted neoliberal economic
reforms. The neopopulists have been followed by another rise of populism, more
closely related to the style found during the classic period; this round began with
the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1998 and continues with Evo
Morales election in Bolivia in 2006.
Populist Persuasions
What precisely made each of the aforementioned leaders populists? The
answer to this question lies in understanding various interpretations and studies of
populism, and developing a working definition of populism properly suited for this
1 For an excellent summary of populist regimes through 1965 see Micheal Conniff s Introductory
chapter in Michael L. Conniff, Latin American Populism in Comparative Perspective. 1st ed.
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982)..

paper.2 In order to define populism I will examine ideologies that might be
associated with populist rule, assess if there are any consistent policy implications,
determine if there are associated pre-conditions of populism, review the support
network of populist leaders, and evaluate any other important characteristics of
Early studies of populist regimes focused on pre-1965 leaders, and during
this time urbanization was thought to be a critical component for building the
electoral base of populist leaders. As millions of people migrated to the cities and
began working in factories, the working class began to organize. Demands for safe
working conditions, humane treatment and better wages resulted in the formation
of unions. This new working class constituency was largely untapped by the
political process, which was dominated by the traditional elite (Roberts 2006: 134).
Some of the early populists focused on incorporating the disenfranchised or
unaffiliated into the political process. Social integration of the masses became a
central theme of populism (Conniff 1982: 11). In light of this, populist leaders
were responsible for ushering in political mobilization, suffrage, and other elements
of basic electoral democracy in Latin America.
Many studies have attempted to link populism with specific policies. Early
studies focused heavily on the social aspects of populism. As part of a campaign
2 The definition for populism that I use will be based on conditions found in Latin America.
Whether or not the study of Latin American populism can lead toward a universal perception of
populism remains outside the scope of this study.

promise to alleviate severe socioeconomic disparities, populists often make bold
statements about redistribution, reclamation of national industries (especially oil
and gas), improving and providing access to education and adequate health care,
and generally enhancing the lives of the poor and working classes. Largely because
of this, populist leaders have been affiliated with Marxist, leftist, or socialist
ideologies, and with policies consistent with these ideologies. However, this has
not always been the case. Populist leaders have drawn from a multitude of
ideological and economic perspectives: socialism, communism, democratic
capitalism, and fascism (Conniff 1999). There is no direct relationship between
populists and any clear set of ideologies. Some leaders will begin their regime with
one set of ideological persuasions only to conclude their regime with an entirely
new set; an inherent lack of consensus in mass politics leads to aberrations in
policy and ideology. No large group of individuals can agree on every policy
decision made, and this creates a dilemma for populist leaders. Which part of their
support should they listen to? Because you cant please all the people all the time,
populist leaders often juggle policy decisions in a manner that is inconsistent with
any specific plan or goal, resulting in sometimes schizophrenic outcomes. They
will dole out favors to targeted groups at various times. For example, land has
often been reclaimed by populist leaders in the name of the country, only to be
redistributed to targeted support groups such as members of the military.
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez began a land grab in 2005 that continues today,

and while some of that land will be given to poor farmers and their families, a large
percentage will most likely be doled out to various Chavez supporters (Corrales
2006). Again, populists do not necessarily further a specific ideology or impose
consistent policies.
Support for Populism
Any leader of a regime, from an authoritarian state to a social democratic
state, requires a certain level of support from one or more of the following: elites,
masses, political parties, organizations, and institutions. All populists must have a
strong element of mass support that is reflected through popular elections. Whether
or not these elections are free and fair is a separate matter, but some semblance of
electoral validation is required. Therefore, organization and support of the
masses provide the foundation for every populist leader, and it is a central
component for analysis. Exactly who constitutes the people or masses is a
fundamental theoretical question innate to populism. However, populists do not
rule solely with popular support; additional support networks are needed.
Support must also come from at least one of the following: political elites,
economic elites, military elites, the middle class, a political party, labor unions, or
other societal organizations. Some form of a multi-class support network is needed
to elect and maintain populist leadership. This multi-class element has remained
pertinent to understanding populism since it was first posited by Torcuato Di Telia

in 1964.3 His influential study found that all populists had support from at least
two classes (Conniff 1999: 14). However, aside from the multi-class element, the
support networks for populist leaders has been rather inconsistent; some leaders
utilized party support while others rose to power as outsiders challenging the
established institutions.
Support from political parties and populist involvement in political parties
has a mixed record. Most populist leaders have an aversion to party politics, as it
often loosens their grip on political control and adds another level of accountability.
Some populist leaders like Lazaro Cardenas of Mexico manipulated party politics
by adding a mass base of support to an existing party then revamping it to better
serve his interests (Roberts 2006: 130). Historian Paul W. Drake argues that the
strong parties in Chile created an environment incompatible with populism, and
therefore populisms influence on Chilean politics remained brief and marginalized
(Drake 1978; Drake 1999). Typically populism arises in a situation where no
populist party exists or the existing party has an extremely low level of
institutionalism (Weyland 1999: 381). Thus populists can co-opt existing parties,
create their own (only to radically restructure it later), or rise to power without any
party support.
3 His study on populism provided the framework for much of the ensuing research on populism.
Torcuato S. di Telia, Populismo y reforma en America Latina, Dasarrollo economico 4, no. 16
(1965): 391-425.

Support for populist leaders generally begins with a multi-class coalition
including some backing from the masses. The populist leader is adverse to party
politics with support coming from sections of the middle class, elites, or military
members that have a strong aversion to the establishment or status quo. Regardless
of the composition of support for a populist leader, an anti status-quo rhetoric is
Conditions for Populism
Another important piece of the populist puzzle examines relationships
between pre-existing conditions and the salience of populism in Latin America.
However, proving these relationships has proven elusive; the various conditions
thought to lead to populism cannot be consistently linked to the rise of populism.
However, certain conditions have provided a more favorable climate in which
populism can thrive. In other words, there is an important connection between
many of these conditions and populism; certain structural, socioeconomic, and
cultural conditions converge making it more likely for populism to emerge and
Since the individual leader encompasses the core of populism, political
systems that consolidate power into the hands of a single individual are more
accommodating for populists. Populist leaders are much more likely to arise in
regimes with a strong executive office that is filled by direct popular election and is
independent from continued party support (Weyland 1999: 389). Presidential

systems are more conducive to populist regimes than other forms, and Latin
Americas high percentage of presidential governments provides a fertile soil for
Both as policy and as a condition, economics have also taken center stage
for studies on populism. Dombusch and Edwards (1991) volume on the
macroeconomics of populism, links populist policy with redistributive economic
models that have disastrous consequences such as: high inflation, lower wages,
capital flight, a stabilization program often led by the International Monetary Fund,
and even the violent overthrow of the regime. While their economic models may
provide an accurate description of events in the region, they should not be linked
definitively to populism. Populist leaders do not consistently implement a specific
economic policy. Although not a precise indicator of populism, the persistent vast
disparity in income distribution and wealth in Latin America has provided an
excellent arena for populism to take hold. Clearly, this situation provides fuel for
the fiery rhetoric commonly associated with populist leaders. Populisms
resiliency is intimately linked to the problems of social inequality and
heterogeneity that have undermined autonomous collective action on the part of
Latin Americas lower classes (Oxhom 1998: 222). Therefore, populism contains
some element of rectifying past wrongs inflicted upon the lower and/or working
class, and populist leaders often use this element as a uniting force. The

redistribution of wealth is a central, recurring promise made by populist leaders
during their election campaigns (Conniff 1982).
Recent work by Kurt Weyland on the relationship between populism and
the adoption of neoliberal economic policies has helped support the claim that
populism is not associated with specific policy options (Weyland 1999). In fact,
the term neopopulism can be associated with those leaders that rose to power via
populist tactics i.e. promises of redistribution and social spending, and then
implemented neoliberal economic policies including drastic market reform,
privatization of nationalized industries, and the removal of tariffs and other
protectionist policies. Neoliberal economic policies go against what is often
thought to be traditional populist economic policies. Examples of neopopulist
leaders include: Alberto Fujimori in Peru, Carlos Menem in Argentina, and
Fernando Collor in Brazil. Weylands convincing assertions have generated
controversy amongst scholars of populism, as many believe that this deeply
broadens the definition and dilutes the relevance of populism. However,
decoupling economic and other policies from populism clarifies the core of
populism, providing a sharper tool for cutting to the heart of populism and its
relationship with democracy.
Populism often surfaces during a crises, but more accurately it surfaces
during periods of social or economic transition; this transition provides a window
of opportunity for a thrust or resurgence of populism (Roberts 2006: 133).

Transitions such as urbanization, the Great Depression, the rise of import
substitution industrialization (ISI), and the lackluster success of neoliberal
economic policies have all contributed to the development of a nurturing
environment for populism.
Furthermore, various technological advancements throughout the twentieth
century have provided a solid platform for populist leaders. Reaching out to the
masses has been simplified by modem technology. For example, the integration of
the radio into the far reaches of society allowed populist leaders to make direct
appeals to their followers. Airline travel made it possible for leaders to rapidly
traverse their grounds and meet with their constituencies in ways not possible with
auto, bus, or rail. Television and the internet have also increased the direct
outreach of populist leaders to their followers. Today, Hugo Chavez uses a weekly
television program called Aid Presidente (Hello President) to reach his mass of
popular support; technology continues to play a supporting role for populism.
Cultural arguments have also been advanced explaining populisms
prevalence in Latin America. Caudillos and clientelism have been regularly
associated with populism, and clientelisms ubiquitous presence throughout Latin
America supports this cultural explanation. Clientelism is based on the traditional
practice of patron/client relations, whereby villagers maintain a relationship with a
village patron who is responsible for the clients protection, access to resources,
and other such aspects desired by the client. In return, the client offers the patron

financial support and/or resources such as food, land, other goods; in modem
societies the client offers a vote for the patron to hold an elected office. Caudillos
are charismatic military leaders that have led campaigns sometimes representing
the masses or working class. The caudillo elicits mass support, builds a reputation
as defender of the dispossessed, and articulates an ill-defined nationalism (Martz
1983: 23). These cultural arguments postulate that the traditions of clientelism and
caudillos have been replaced by populism in the twentieth century, and seem to be
authenticated by the prevalence of both phenomena in Latin America.
A Working Definition of Populism
Latin America has a high level of populism simply because so many
supportive conditions converge at so many levels of society. Populism has
overlapped with and included multiple trends or models; some policies, ideologies,
economic models, and support structures are more prevalent than others, but studies
of these trends have not provided the ability to predict the actions of populists or
the conditions that lead to populism. Of course, this is precisely why populism is
so difficult to define; it is too easy to conflate rhetoric and outcomes that are not
necessarily populist with the actual attributes that encompass populism.
It may seem then that the utility of populism is dead, if not populism itself,
but this conclusion would overlook some critical, core elements of populism. First,
populism can be defined from a negative perspective; what populism is not
populism does not mean popular. Again, while a certain level of mass support or at

least an appeal to the masses is required, some populist leaders have not led with
popular support and many of their policies have certainly been quite unpopular. It
is the appeal to the masses that separates populism from popular. While popular
implies a majority of support, populists do not always maintain a majority of
support, but rather only need support from large numbers of followers (Weyland
2001: 14).
It is also important to recognize that populism works well as a descriptive
historical term. Inherent in a populist framework of Latin American politics is a
sense of chaotic, frenetic, and passionate politics. In a general historical sense,
populism works well as a term describing an incoherent political landscape with
many nuances, idiosyncrasies, and contradictions. Although no specific policies
can be determined under the rubric of populism, elements of a political style are
clearly visible. According to Alan Knight (1998), populism is a style with specific
attributes: crisis, confrontation, personalism and mobilization. Populism as a
descriptive historical term is a style of leadership encompassing crises,
confrontation, personalism, and mobilization. As such, populism imparts an
understanding of political tone, but it does not lead to any understanding of
political outcomes.
Furthermore, by limiting the definition to the political domain and
employing a classical, minimalist definition the variant forms and degrees of
populism can all be incorporated into analysis. For example, some populist leaders

may be more or less authoritarian in nature, but they all have tendencies to
consolidate power. Kurt Weyland provides us with an excellent foundation for a
working definition of populism:
Populism is best defined as a political strategy through which a
personalistic leader seeks or exercises government power based on
direct, unmediated, uninstitutionalized support from large numbers
of mostly unorganized followers. This direct, quasi-personal
relationship bypasses established intermediary organizations or
deinstitutionalizes and subordinates them to the leaders personal
will. (2001: 14)
As a relevant political strategy, populism is quite useful. For example, when the
label authoritarian is applied to a regime type, specific connotations about the
undemocratic nature of that regime are apparent. In a similar vein, when the label
populist is applied to a leader, specific attributes should also be illuminated.
Therefore, I have borrowed Weylands minimal definition, but I will expand my
investigation into the attributes of populism that are closely linked with democracy.
Populism is a political strategy whereby a leader:
is elected via a direct appeal to the people.
promises significant changes for the social, political, and/or
economic condition of the people.
promises and/or attempts to further incorporate the people into the
political system.
rises to power with a level of multi-class support.
uses clientelist methods to solidify and strengthen support.

offers a position that is anti-status quo, anti-establishment, or anti-
oligarchy and is employs divisive and dualistic rhetoric (us versus
works to consolidate power into a single leadership position, and
circumvents, ignores, or disrupts many democratic processes and
offers no consistent policy or ideology.
Ultimately, populism is a political strategy where a leader rises to and preserves
his/her power via attempts to initially or further incorporate the masses, workers,
laborers, or otherwise disenffanchised/underrepresented majority into the political
system. The rhetoric and reality of this incorporation revolves around political
power, and can be associated with providing a voice for the people. Rather than
building institutions where individuals from the working class can achieve real
political power, the masses are incorporated in a clientelist manner where the
populist leader exchanges votes for services. Populist leaders promise and attempt
to reform state politics and policies in order to directly benefit the people; usually
in the form of election reform, higher wages, better working conditions, education,
and higher standards of living. Often, several of these conditions actually do
improve, but fail to stabilize and persist because of the lack of strong democratic
institutions and the lack of other processes whereby the people can vocalize their
concerns and implement change. The peoples access to political power is
entirely in the hands of the populist leader and their ability to affect the political
system evaporates as soon as the populist is no longer in power. The hostile

political climate and the schism that forms between the populist regime and the
states established oligarchy further diminish any prospects for democratic reforms.
Populism often leads to policies and outcomes that fail to serve the interests of the
very people whom it portrays to represent.

If the second half of the twentieth century witnessed a Zeitgeist of
democratic transition and consolidation, then perhaps the beginning of the twenty-
first century will witness the same for increasing levels of democratic quality.
Political scientists often focus on the current political trends of the world, so it was
natural that a great deal of theorizing and researching on democratization occurred
simultaneously with the expansion of democracy. The scholarly interest followed
the rapid increase in the number of electoral democraciesfrom 69 in 1989 to 117
by 1999 (Karatnycky 2000). Today, according to one assessment by Freedom
House there are 123 electoral democracies, but only 90 of those have been given
the status of completely free (Puddington 2007). Even within the 90 free
countries, citizens lives can be drastically different, and several forms and/or
levels of democracy exist.
We have entered a new era of studies where the realization that not all
democracies are created equal has become a defining mantra. Studying the
reasons behind variance in democratic quality, ways of improving it, and precisely
how to measure and define democratic quality have become increasingly important
tasks for improving the lives of citizens in democracies. This is not to say there is
no need for furthering the study and work of completing democratic consolidation

and transition (since so many people around the world still live under the rule of an
authoritarian regime), but many people living within democracies continue to
experience serious hardships due to a low level of democratic quality. Therefore,
the study of democratic quality expands upon democratization theories by creating
theoretical and methodological standards for evaluating, measuring, and improving
Theories of democratization have focused on the various phases leading to
the implementation of a democratic regime, and are often divided into studies of
transition and consolidation. Early democratization studies created a framework
for analysis that centered on a minimalist definition posited by Joseph Schumpeter;
he asserted that competitive elections were the defining feature of democracy
(1950). Schumpeters research led toward the fixation on the primacy of elections
as the defining feature of a democracy.
Others followed that attempted to slightly broaden this perspective; Robert
A. Dahls (1971) notion of polyarchy established pluralism as a defining feature of
democratic regimes. Dahl specifically avoided the term democracy because he
realized he was describing an aspect of democracy, public contestation.
Polyarchies are regimes that have been substantially popularized and liberalized,
that is highly inclusive and extensively open to public contestation. (Dahl 1971: 8)
Dahls seminal definition provides an excellent building block for research on
democratic quality. In order to effectively study democratic quality, a state must

first possess the minimal attributes required of a democracy. For example, it would
be impossible to study the quality of cashmere if there were no cashmere to study,
so a state must first be classified as a democracy in order to study its associated
level of democratic quality. I will employ Dahls minimum criteria for a polyarchy
as the criteria to classify a state as a democracy. I may also synonymously use the
term electoral democracy, in order to more accurately portray the minimalist
emphasis on the electoral components. Therefore, in order to be considered a
democracy, the state must have public contestation and participation in government
including: free and fair elections, opportunities to oppose the government, the
ability to form political organizations, the ability to express political ideas without
significant repression, exposure to alternative viewpoints, and at least two differing
political parties (Dahl 1971: 20).
Early democratization theories often ignored the large discrepancies found
between various democratic regimes. However, minimalist definitions remain
useful as they allow for the consistent study of several key attributes and phases of
democratization leading up to a point where basic electoral democracy is realized.
For example, the role of elites, civil society, socioeconomic factors, and other
cultural conditions can be consistently analyzed according to their role leading to
the point of electoral democracy; it was possible to contextualize these forces
within their associated phases of transition or consolidation under minimalist
definitions. Academic consensus on the precise preconditions or other elements

composing a democratic transition and consolidation has not been reached, but the
phases can be analyzed and consistently interpreted by specific qualities.
Transition theories focus almost exclusively on examining the causal
elements leading to the moment where a state operates under the rubric of a basic
electoral democracy, and have failed to offer a deeper understanding of the type of
democracy that emerges. This approach has been criticized as being short-
sightedsince operating as a democracy (in the electoral sense) doesnt necessarily
equate to operating as a good democracy. This imbalance has led critics to
attempt to more accurately brand low quality democracies as delegative or
illiberal (O'Donnell 1994; Zakaria 1997). General, competitive and free
elections turned out to be insufficient in guaranteeing the rule of law, civil rights
and horizontal accountability (Merkel and Croissant 2004). Zakaria suggests that
these illiberal democracies are worse than authoritarian regimes as they become
stuck in a quasi-democratic existence, and are less likely to operationalize the
liberal aspects of democracy (Zakaria 1997). His distaste for these regimes is
warranted, but some form of democracy is better than no democracy at all (Plattner
1998; Kupchan et al. 1998; Diamond 2003). However, Zakarias point illustrates
the need to build strong democratic institutions beyond elections and focus on
elements leading toward a higher quality of democracy.
Regimes can be classified as either undemocratic or democratic; those that
do not meet the basic electoral requirements for a democracy, and those that have

passed this threshold and moved into the global club of electoral democracies. The
latter group of democratic states diverges so greatly from any standard form that
categorizing them all together has limited value. Therefore, it is essential to devise
a system to investigate and analyze these disparate members of the democracy club.
What level of democratic quality do the various members possess, and how do we
measure that level? Evaluating democratic quality requires deciding precisely
which democratic values are most significant and universal. It also involves
qualifying a better type of democracy, since measuring quality would inherently
indicate a higher achievable standard. What properties might an ideal democracy
Quality of Democracy
Here we enter the current debate on democratic quality, and begin to search
for traits that characterize an ideal type of democracy. I will use the work by
Leonardo Morlino and Larry Diamond as the foundation for my investigation into
the relationship between populism and democratic quality; their study evaluates the
quality of democracy through three subsets: quality of procedure, content, and
result (2004: 21-22). Within these subsets, eight theoretically measurable
dimensions of a good democratic regime are highlighted. The first five are
procedural and focus on rules and practices: rule of law, participation,
competition, vertical plus horizontal accountability. The group of substantive
indicators includes two dimensions: the respect for civil and political freedoms and

equality. The last dimensionresponsivenessbridges procedure and substance
by focusing on how much or how little public policies. ..correspond to citizen
demands. (Diamond and Morlino 2004: 22). These dimensions of democratic
quality are not mutually exclusive and either improving or damaging one
dimension of quality can have either the equivalent or opposite effect on other
dimensions. For example, strengthening the rule of law will often strengthen
horizontal accountability (increasing the autonomy of the judiciary strengthens the
rule of law while simultaneously checking the powers of the other branches
improving horizontal accountability). My primary focus will envelop the
procedural realm, but some examination of content and result will also be included.
Prior to continuing, recognition of problematic elements within the study of
democratic quality must be assessed. First, forming a consensus on the precise
dimensions of democratic quality as well as what constitutes a good or a bad
democracy is unlikely to be reached; this is due to a high level of subjectivity
inherent in studying complex systems with opposing values. For example,
expanding popular or electoral aspects of democracy may infringe upon minority
rights or opinions. There is no objective way of deriving a single framework of
democratic quality, right and true for all societies. (Diamond and Morlino 2004:
22) Therefore, it is important to recognize the interactions and trade-offs between
the various dimensions of democratic quality.

Second, there is no normal sequence of political development, in which
preexisting civil rights are consistent with subsequent political and social rights
supportive of democratic development. (Armony and Schamis 2005: 120) Myriad
paths toward democracy and improving democratic quality exist, and each society
must assist in deciding which road is best for its own unique circumstances.
However, a certain degree of universality remains. An assumption can be made
that democracy is the best regime type available to people today, and that the ideal
form of democracy in question is of a liberal nature. This does not assume
democracy to be the pinnacle form of government, but rather claims to be the best
form of government available under current conditions. As witnessed by the spread
and growth of democracy throughout the world coupled with higher levels of civil
rights and deepening freedoms, the universality of democracy itself can be
witnessed and justified (Diamond 2003).4
Third, measuring dimensions of democratic quality is problematic; this is
especially apparent when the tensions inherent to liberal democracy are at stake. If
an increase in quality in one dimension has a negative effect on another, is there an
overall increase or decrease in democratic quality? Moreover, separating
procedures and outcomes carries other risks. Since democracy is a form of
government, it is theoretically possible to have a well functioning government in
terms of outcomes that does not correspond with associated high quality throughout
4 For further justification of democracy see chapter two in, Does Polyarchy Matter? in Robert A.
Dahl, Polvarchv: Participation and Opposition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1971).

the various dimensions (Plattner 2004: 108-109). This poses problems for
measuring democratic quality, as it can often be difficult to separate results from
procedures and contents.
For the purpose of examining the relationship between populism and
democratic quality, I will focus on two of Diamond and Morlinos dimensions: rule
of law and accountability. Both dimensions are procedural, but again some
crossover into the realms of content and result will also be investigated. The rule
of law will be my primary focus. Accountability will also be examined because of
its often-indistinguishable intersections with the rule of law. In selecting these
dimensions, I will attempt to keep the aforementioned caveats in mind, and respect
the complexities and subtleties that underlie all democracies. A focus on only two
dimensions of democratic quality does not preclude divulging details about, or
examining the relationship with other dimensions, as they are inextricably linked.
Moreover, the purpose of this study is not to definitively measure levels of
democratic quality or dimensions of democratic quality, but rather to examine
populisms affect on democratic quality. Therefore it is unnecessary to precisely
measure either dimension, but instead to focus on various studies that broadly
indicate higher or Tower levels of quality.
Rule of Law
Without a vigorous rule of law, defended by an independent judiciary,
rights are not safe and the equality and dignity of all citizens are at risk.

(O'Donnell 2004: 32) Establishing an effective and democratic rule of law
provides the foundation for any high quality democracy. A functioning legal
system based upon a written constitution establishes the guidelines by which all
actors in a democratic society are supposed to abide by. In the context of
democratic quality, a basic electoral democracy will follow the constitutional rules
for electing leaders, and thus solidify the electoral component of a democratic
regime. However, within these minimal, electoral democracies other aspects of the
rule of law are not always respected or clearly defined, thus an ensuing lower level
of democratic quality emerges.
A weak rule of law will likely mean that participation by the
poor and marginalized is suppressed, individual freedoms are
insecure, many civic groups are unable to organize and
advocate, the resourceful and well-connected are unduly
favored, corruption and abuse of power run rampant,
political competition is unfair, voters have a hard time
holding rulers to account, and overall democratic
responsiveness is gravely enfeebled. (Diamond and Morlino
2004: 23).
Furthermore, the rule of law is important for economic development, establishing
the necessary confidence and rules of conduct surrounding property disputes that
are the basis of a free-market economy (Prillaman 2000: 1). The quality of the rule
of law has a profound impact on democratic regimes, and its primacy in
relationship to democratic quality warrants focused study.
The rule of law is a contested and broad concept incorporating numerous
actors (judges, juries, police, lawyers, politicians, plaintiffs, defendants,

bureaucrats, and others), the legal system itself, the democratic regime, and the
state (institutions and bureaucracies). A minimum criteria of the a rule of law
includes: publicly disclosed written law (usually in the form of a constitution)
enacted by the judiciary and other state institutions and equal treatment under the
law (O'Donnell 2004: 33). In an electoral democracy, these minimum
qualifications imply certain rights and obligations attached to basic electoral rights
encompassing the right to vote and the right to hold office. Again, electoral
democracies may have the initial appearance of a high quality rule of law
observable by the legal systems proper handling of elections, but they are often
lacking several quality components. In addition to the political rights, written
constitution, and acknowledgement of equal treatment under the law afforded under
an electoral democracy, a higher quality democracy advances the protection of civil
rights, applies the law equally (no preference is given for social or economic
standing and all similar legal cases treated in a consistent manner), and ensures that
no one is above the lawholding all individuals and institutions accountable
(O'Donnell 2004; Chavez 2004). Accountabilityan isolated quality dimension as
outlined by Diamond and Morlinoheavily overlaps the rule of law dimension; I
will return to this point in the next section.
First, figuring out the quality indicators for the rule of law is essential.
When assessing the quality of the rule of law, ODonnell (2004) outlines several
key dimensions that can be evaluated: the supremacy of the constitution, the extent

to which the legal system is accessible and available throughout the state, attempts
to limit discrimination against minorities and the disadvantaged, the independence
of the judiciary, the transparency of state institutions, and the ability for state
institutions to hold other state institutions accountable. I will attempt to examine
populisms affect on most of the aforementioned quality indicators, but in the
interest of focus and clarity, special attention will be given to ODonnells three
indicators surrounding the judiciary: accessibility of the legal system, the
supremacy of the constitution, and most importantly judicial independence. The
judiciary and its role in providing a high quality rule of law and other aspects
surrounding accountability need further clarification.
Accountability is another non-consensual term with broad implications.
Most scholars agree that political accountability can be distinguished from general
accountability as it only applies to state actors (Mainwaring 2003). Political
accountability also implies that in addition to breaches of legality actors can be held
responsible for actions that do not break any laws; including poor political
decisions or policy outcomes (Schmitter 2004: 48). Guillermo ODonnell divides
accountability into two facets: vertical accountability and horizontal accountability
(O'Donnell 1994: 2003). Vertical accountability holds public officials accountable
by non-elected citizens and is largely associated with voting. Public officials are
held accountable to their constituents via re-election i.e. if their performance does

not live up to the expectations of voters then they will not be re-elected. It is
important to remember that in a democracy, citizens are not only the carriers of
certain rights; they are the source and the justification of the very claim to rule
upon which a democratic polity relies when making collectively binding
decisions. (O'Donnell 2004: 38) The judiciary plays an important role in
maintaining free and fair elections by upholding the electoral guidelines and
through the arbitration of legal disputes surrounding an election.
Recent work by Catalina Smulovitz and Enrique Peruzzotti (2000) outlines
another type of vertical accountability labeled societal accountability. Societal
accountability recognizes the role that civil society plays in holding public officials
accountable through non-voting measures such as applying pressure from
organized citizen groups, the media, or other civil society elements on various
public officials and/or institutions; civil society can also activate agents and
institutions of horizontal accountability by illuminating wrongdoings (Peruzzotti
and Smulovitz 2002). Societal accountability can increase democratic quality on a
number of dimensions, but in relationship to the judiciary organized groups and the
media can assist in illuminating corruption and fraud, executive meddling in the
courts (judicial independence), and other forms of judicial dysfunction. Despite the
often-ambiguous nature of finding the direct relationship between civil society and
accountability, it is clear that the relationship exists and overlooking it would
ignore the axiomatic complexity of all high quality democracies. [SJocial

sanctions derived from the public exposure of wrongdoing can destroy the political
capital and reputation of public officials, they are far from toothless. (Smulovitz
and Peruzzotti 2000: 151)
Horizontal accountability provides measures of oversight and balances
between elected officials, state institutions and their peers. As articulated by James
Madison, horizontal accountability is rooted in the need to create measures for
government to control itself and that, ambition must be made to counteract
ambition. (Madison 2004) The division of governments into three branches -
legislative, executive and judicial is an easily recognized component of horizontal
accountability. Horizontal accountability is broader than this however, and
according to ODonnell (1999: 38) includes other, state agencies that are willing
and able, to take actions that span from routine oversight to criminal sanctions or
impeachment in relation to actions or omissions by other agents or agencies of the
state that may be qualified as unlawful. Accountability functions of the judiciary
are vital to ensuring democratic quality, the judiciary is a key institution of
accountability; public officials who are accused of a legal transgression need to
answer to the courts (Mainwaring 2003: 15).
The Judiciary
Specific functions of judiciaries vary across time and place, but a few
important standards can be recognized. In a democracy, judiciaries uphold the rule
of law and provide the resources, expertise and personnel needed to interpret and/or

implement constitutions. Furthermore, democratic judiciaries are responsible for
protecting various rights guaranteed through citizenship and provisionally outlined
in constitutions, including the protection of political and civil rights. The judiciary
also provides significant property dispute arbitration, establishing the necessary
legal framework for a capitalist economic system; the need for contract laws,
property laws, labor laws, and other legal measures illustrate the significance of a
functional judiciary for a stable economy (Prillaman 2000: 3). Another role of the
judiciary is assigned informallypublic opinion and support for democracy is
often coupled with respective views on the judiciary. For numerous individuals
living in democratic states, dealings with police and courts serve as opinion
forming experiences. In other words, how people view their positive or negative
experiences with the judiciary manifests into public support or disillusionment with
democratic institutions and the rule of law (Prillaman 2000: 3).
Measuring the independence of the judiciary provides insight into the
quality of the rule of law. The independence of the judiciary (freedom of
constraints and controls imposed by other branches of government or other agents)
plays an important role in holding various power brokers accountable to the rule of
law (Chavez 2004: 10-11). Judicial independence can be threatened from
numerous state and non-state actors. Judges can be bribed or threatened by
politicians, business executives, drug cartels, and other criminals. The problem
facing most nascent democracies in Latin America, where ultra-presidential

systems are common, is the executive subordination of the judiciary. Rebecca
Chavez outlines five indicators for this executive subordination: violation of a
transparent and merit-based appointment process, violation of judges tenure,
violation of judges salary protection, variation in supreme court size (packing the
court), and rulings that favor the government but contradict the law (Chavez 2004:
Populism, the Rule of Law and Accountability
Populism, as I defined earlier, has a unique relationship with democracy.
At times populism has led toward enfranchisement, mobilizing people and giving
them access to the electoral process and as such embodying individuals with real
political power; this is the most direct and positive role of populism. Populism can
emerge when too much emphasis is placed on individual political rights (elections),
and too little attention paid to the constitutional nature of democracy i.e. ultimate
power in the hands of the people (peoples actual influence in governing a state)
(Abts and Rummens 2007). In other words, a system obsessed with elections often
overlooks the day-to-day involvement and influence of citizens with their
democratic institutions. Large groups of people can be left without any real
political power even though they have the right to vote. Realizing and working
with this inherent tension serves as a theoretical foundation for analyzing the
relationship between populism and democratic quality.

While populism can serve to bolster electoral democracy, its fundamental
flaw is that the peoples will can never be fully enacted, and that the people do not
exist except as part of an ever-receding imaginary horizon. (Panizza 2005: 29)
Representative liberal democracy allows for each citizen to play a role in the
political process by electing officials to represent their interests; it is a compromise
that simultaneously allows for individuals to participate in the political process
while protecting the position of minorities. If all decisions of state were made
through referendum, not only would this be problematic logistically, but also there
would be no space for dissent from minority or opposition groups. Similarly, when
a populist leader is elected, and the said leader invokes the rhetoric of representing
all the people (becoming the voice of the nationor el pueblo), the space for
opposition is either non-existent or begins to seriously erode. A high quality
democracy, on the other hand, incorporates pluralism; it respects the rights of
individuals, popular rule, and minorities through an institutionalized political
Many populist regimes have achieved the basic underpinnings of electoral
democracy while limiting and suppressing other important aspects of democratic
quality: rule of law, accountability, and strong opposition parties. Many populist
regimes could be labeled delegative or illiberal and have lacked the basic
democratic underpinnings to meet the minimal definition of electoral democracy.
Other populist regimes have met the standards for a basic electoral democracy but

continue to undermine democratic quality by weakening democratic institutions.
Carlos de la Torre (1998: 89) sums up the legacy of populism as creating, a style
of political mobilization and a rhetoric that link the state and civil society through
mechanisms that do not correspond to the rule of law or the respect for liberal
democratic procedures. From this perspective, populism serves to undermine
democratic quality.
Research by Kenneth Roberts and Kurt Weyland has demonstrated that
populism can often institutionalize the electoral process thus stabilizing electoral
democracy while concurrently weakening the quality of democracy by undermining
political parties (Roberts 2003; Weyland 1999). Populist leaders are adverse to
political parties, and more than one formidable and competitive political party is an
essential aspect of any high quality democracy. Furthermore, it is my assertion that
populism affects other aspects of democratic quality as well, especially the rule of
law and accountability (primarily by weakening and undermining the judiciary).
I will explore the historical relationship between populism and democratic
quality by examining the self-reinforcing processes of populism and democratic
institutions. My primary focus will be on populisms impact on democratic quality.
Populism fosters an environment inhospitable to the quality of the rule of law and
accountability in three sectors: consolidation of power into the executive,
clientelism, and a divisive discourse. A more detailed description and explanation
of the sectors and their relationships with democratic quality is necessary.

First, the consolidation of power by a populist president has a lasting impact
on the rule of law and accountability. Upon winning the office of the presidency,
populist leaders often consolidate power by controlling the legislature, directly
undermining the judiciary, and either rewriting or disregarding the constitution.
Populist executives will take control of the judiciary by packing supreme courts,
illegally rewriting constitutions, removing disloyal justices, and otherwise
circumventing the rule of law. Additionally, populist presidents will attempt to
control the legislature by any means (legal or illegal). These actions directly
weaken judicial independence, the supremacy of the constitution, and horizontal
accountability; the associated negative affect of these actions can last well beyond
the presidents term in office. Consolidation of power is the most direct and
obvious aspect of populisms impact on democratic quality and imparts profound
and lasting consequences on the quality of the rule of law and accountability.
Second, populisms clientelist exchange of votes for services leads to an
incomplete and underdeveloped public understanding of democracy. Clientelism
leads to tolerated and widespread corruption. Citizens become preoccupied with
voting for their populist leader, and rely on this individual leader to solve all of
their problems. So much so, that the act of circumventing the rule of law and
accountability measures is often interpreted by citizens as a sign of strong
leadership (Merkel and Croissant 2004: 206). Organized labor and unions are also
directly controlled by the populist leader through hierarchical clientelist practices.

By controlling the methods of political organization and by not structuring these
organizations in a democratic fashion, populism further weakens the development
of civil society. For example, Peron manipulated the unions to the point where he
was in direct control of the entire labor movement, and he used the unions as a tool
to win re-election (Collier and Collier 1991: 342). Rather than building unions with
a democratic organizational structure and lasting self-sufficiency, they were
controlled in a top-down clientelist manner that left the unions relatively powerless
and in a state of disrepair after Perons fall from power. This contributed to a lack
of development of civil society, and as previously mentioned, a weak civil society
and low institutional development contributes to an ineffective, and inaccessible
legal system. A strong and vibrant civil society is needed for any high quality
democracy, and populisms entrenched association with clientelism has lasting
negative implications for the rule of law and accountability.
Third, populism usually carries an intense and divisive discourse between
elite power blocs. Populist leadership must directly challenge the interests of the
ruling elite or oligarchy in order to appeal to the masses and win the presidency.
Populists incorporate an anti-establishment rhetoric, and promise radical change.
In societies with strong legal traditions and pre-existing peaceful arbitrations
between opposing elite power-blocs, it is much more difficult for divisive rhetoric
to become entrenched. Property disputes and competing economic interests
between elites have led to the development of a judicial system capable of peaceful

arbitration. Elite conflicts of interest also manifest into the development of
political parties to carry forth specific opposing agendas (Chavez 2004: 17-20).
Societies without the institutionalized experience of peaceful dispute arbitration are
more likely to see a dysfunctional or weak judiciary, and non-existent or weak
multiparty structure. When a populist leader is elected via some element of mass
support, the new leader will immediately begin to threaten the interests of the
ousted elite power bloc. Populism, through its divisive discourse, radicalizes
politics and minimizes the space and opportunities for collaboration, consensus and
compromise. The subsequent zero-sum game is disastrous for democracy, and can
culminate in horrendous human rights abuses and the complete breakdown of
democratic politics. Populisms anti-establishment rhetoric and divisive discourse
fortifies and unifies the old elite power bloc against the newly emerging populist
rule. Thus, energy and focus is diverted away from compromise and the
development lasting democratic institutions, and turned toward obstruction of all
efforts and activities of the opposition.
Each of these sectors is manifest in various processes, which in turn impact
the rule of law, accountability, and democratic quality. All three populist sectors
under scrutiny here are intrinsically connected and often have overlapping qualities.
For example, the consolidation of power is instigated by a need to completely
control the opposition in reaction to the hostile environment created from the
divisive discourse. The table below helps illustrate these relationships:

3.1 Sectors of Populism
Sector of Populism Populist Action Impact on Rule of Law Impact on Accountability
Consolidation of power Direct control of the judiciary Arbitrary use of the legal system Direct control of the legislature Other democratic institutions eliminated or controlled by the executive Limits judicial independence Threatens supremacy of the constitution Weak legislature and judiciary limit horizontal accountability (no checks and balances to the executive) Democratic institutions are severely weakened by executive control
Clientelism Corruption No plan for developing democratic institutions No attempts to build civil society Blatant attacks and outright control of the press Civil Rights violations Property rights violations Inadequate or obstructed access to legal system Societal Accountability severely weakened or non-existent Horizontal accountability weakened by corruption
Divisive Discourse Polarization of society Radical means of dispute resolution No respect for political opposition Suppression of political opponents Weak judiciary Disputes resolved outside courts-no legal tradition Threatens supremacy of the constitution Discrimination encouraged Civil Rights violations Weak legislature and judiciary limit horizontal accountability Absence of multiparty system

As discussed in the first chapter, Chile and Argentina serve as two
democratic states well suited for the historical analysis of populisms relationship
with democratic quality. To illustrate this relationship I will compare three eras in
Argentine and Chilean democratic development. The table below summarizes the
4.1 Timeframe
ERA Argentina Chile
I Independence to Statehood 1810-1916 1810-1920
II Incorporation of Labor and State Intervention 1916-1983 1920-1990
III Democratization 1983-2008 1990-2008
During each era democracy and populism will be evaluated, with careful
attention to the rule of law and democratic accountability. In Argentina, I will
attempt to assess how populism has affected each of the aforementioned democratic
quality indicators by looking at the three major sectors of populism: consolidation
of power, clientelism, and its divisive rhetoric and discourse. Of course, it is
empirically challenging to conclude the effect of the absence of a political

phenomena, so the corresponding Chilean sections will focus on the way in which a
history of political compromise and democratic institutions elements that
populism negatively impacts, has restrained populism and increased the quality of
democracy. Chiles brief encounter with populism should also demonstrate that the
negative effects of populism are still noticeable even under the restraints of strong
democratic traditions and institutions. The sections covering Chile will also serve
to offer the comparisons between Chile and Argentina, as a reflection on the impact
of populism in Argentina. By highlighting the similarities between Chilean and
Argentine processes of political incorporation, elite dispute resolutions, and in turn
evaluating their subsequent deviating patterns of democratic development, I am
able to successfully identify the historical impact of populism on democratic
quality, and the resilience of an established pattern of building strong democratic
Era I Independence to Statehood
Argentina (1810-1916)
Argentine landowners dominated this period of history as they developed
massive ranching estates in the fertile pampas, and fueled Argentinas economic
development well into the twentieth century. These estancias and haciendas were
controlled by a handful of families. Regular disputes between the elite families and
disputes between workers and landowners were often settled violently under the

direct leadership of a caudillo. Caudillos led military campaigns and established
themselves as dominant leaders controlling vast territories throughout the country.
Argentinas populist roots can be traced to the process of violent dispute
resolution and these early 19th century caudillos. These military strongmen
operated on a foundation of patron-client relations or clientelism, usually
exchanging goods and services for protection. It was a relationship based on
inequalities of wealth and power, where the caudillo was either a landowner or
represented a landowners interests and then regulated relationships with the
workers (Lynch 1992: 5). Additionally, since they did not own their land, most
workers were marginalized and subject to poor living standards, harsh working
conditions, or extended periods of unemployment. The dispossessed would take
matters into their own hands and seek the power of their own caudillos to violently
disrupt agricultural activities and directly challenge the interests of the elite.
During the early years of independence, Argentinas reliance on violence and
strong caudillo leadership for resolving disputes established the pattern of power
relationships that opened the space for a regular recurrence of populism.
As early as 1813, nascent forms of populism were present in Argentina
under the caudillo Jose Gervasio Artigas. Artigas, a powerful landowner, distanced
himself from his oligarchic upbringing and earned the respect and support of the
working class, many of whom were black, Indian, mulatto or mestizo (Brown 2003:

95-98). He promised land reform in return for their allegiance in a battle for
federalism (regional control as opposed to central control from Buenos Aires and
Montevideo) (Brown 2003; Lynch 1992; Rock 1985). While his attempts at land
redistribution were never actualized, he was able to rise to power with direct
appeals to the disenfranchised, and his legacy of populist incorporation set a
Juan Manuel de Rosas was the second noteworthy Argentine caudillo of the
19th century, and he was carried to the governorship of Buenos Aires province by
popular appeal. He adopted the customs, language, dress, and skills of the estancia
working class in order to gain their support, but he did not represent their interests.
Instead, he used their support as a means of control, and his control of the workers
was rewarded by the support of the landowners (the emerging elite whose interests
Rosas actually represented). Understanding the politics surrounding Argentinas
national unification and Rosas rise to power illuminates Argentinas continuous
populist leanings.
During the first few decades of the 1800s, the port city of Buenos Aires
was established as an important power center for Argentina and the surrounding
regions, as virtually all trade passed through the estuary of the Rio de la Plata
(Brown 2003). Landowners began to move to Buenos Aires to administer their
extensive holdings from the city, and once established in Buenos Aires they were in

a much better position to control trade and other business policies. With better
access to capital, proximity to other landowning elites, and a location at the center
of political power, landowners were able to increase the size of their estates and the
efficiency of their operations. However, another powerful group was already
controlling Buenos Aires, a group of elite bureaucrats, intellectuals, and military
men that had gained power during the struggle for independence from Spain (1810-
1829). This faction of political elite (nationalistas) dominated Buenos Aires, and
was working on plans to expand their control over the entirety of Argentina.
Moreover, the constitution of 1826 granted the president power to appoint and
dismiss provincial governors (Rock 1985: 101). This directly threatened the
interests of the emerging landowning elites, and a serious battle for power ensued.
Rosas unified the landowners and the workers of the countryside
(iautonomistas) against the coordinated efforts of the nationalistas and their plans to
develop a centralized government. Rosas co-opted the federalist platform, unified
both the urban and rural federalists, and promised to protect the landowners power
monopoly through a government of divested regional control (Lynch 1992; Rock
1985: 103-104). Rather than actually divesting power to the surrounding provinces
he consolidated power into his own hands, developed Argentinas first form of state
terrorism, violently removed all political opposition, controlled the legislature and

judiciary, and established a virtual dictatorship that lasted from 1829 to 1852
(Lynch 1992; Kelly 1994; Brown 2003).
Before Rosas came to power, life in the rural estancias was dangerous,
chaotic, and unpredictable. Rosas justified his dictatorial grip on power as a means
to create stability and order out of the chaotic conditions of daily Argentine life (a
justification that would become a mantra for future populists). He saw liberalism as
a dangerous path that would only lead Argentina toward more chaos, and he
exploited mens fear of anarchy [to such a degree] that he was able to demand and
obtain absolute power. (Lynch 1992: 252) Rosas displayed many populist
tendencies, but he did not make promises or attempts to incorporate the working
class into the political system. This factor combined with the lack of any
semblance of being elected by a majority of Argentines, distinguishes Rosas
caudillismo from populism. His legacy, however, had lasting negative implications
for the formation of democracy in a manner consistent with populism.
Rosas rule ended in 1852 when he was overthrown by Justo Jose de
Urquiza, a parallel caudillo from the Entre Rios province. The immediate
aftermath of the fall of Rosas was another series of confrontations between Buenos
Aires and the provinces. (Rock 1985: 121) Asa result of the zero-sum politics of
Rosas near totalitarian rule, struggle over political power (centralized or
decentralized government) would not be settled for nearly three decades.

Furthermore, with virtually no Argentine legal tradition, the 1853 constitution was
drafted in a mirror image of the United States Constitution; the absence of
institutional history combined with serious incompatibilities of imposing a foreign
constitution contributed to a nearly universal lack of respect for the constitution.
[T]he people could not trust the Argentine Constitution
because it came from a foreign source and was not imbued in
the countrys foundation. [Moreover,] the Court failed to
serve as the guardian of the rule of law because it was never
deeply rooted in pre-constitutional foundation. (Walker
Due in part to Rosas consolidation of power, clientelism, and absence of
democratic development, the 1853 constitutions supremacy was undermined, and
this subsequently led to a delayed process of democratization. Nevertheless, the
1853 constitution did establish some precedents for separation of powers and the
independence of the judiciary; respect for judicial tenure was secured. From 1862
through 1946, Argentine presidents respected formal rules regarding life tenure
during good conduct. Not a single justice was impeached or removed for political
reasons. (Chavez 2004: 36) This period of strong judicial tenure, efforts at
liberalization, and at least a minimal development of democratic institutions
corresponded with an absence of populist leaders from the national stage.
One of the most significant legacies of Rosas distaste and avoidance of
liberalization, and the resulting overthrow of his regime was Albert Constanineaus

de facto functionaries theory. The de facto functionaries theory held that any
government that came to power without being elected was legitimate as long as
they promised to uphold and respect the constitution (Andres 1999). Advancement
of the theory validated the presidential administration of Bartolome Mitre who
became president soon after winning the Battle of Pavon in 1861 (Rock 1999).
This military campaign was orchestrated in response to an elite ideological division
over centralizing or decentralizing the emerging Argentine government; the same
division that divided the country under Rosas rule. Since the 1853 constitution was
written and ratified in reaction to the totalitarian nature of the Rosas administration,
it was important to constitutionally validate the presidency of Mitre in order to
validate the supremacy of the constitution itself. In other words, if Mitres
assumption of the presidency were seen as invalid it would have threatened the
credibility of the constitution. In order to circumvent this quagmire, the de facto
functionary theory was established to lend credibility to Mitres administration.
Unfortunately this set a precedent, which would last until 1994 and serve as an
official legitimizing doctrine for coups, undemocratic transfers of power, and
violations of rights granted by the constitution (Andres 1999).
Immigration and urbanization during the beginning of the 19th century
drastically altered the process of democratization in Argentina. Between 1869 and
1895, the population of Argentina swelled from 1.8 to 4 million inhabitants, and the

percentage of foreign bom increased from 12% to 25% of the total population. In
Buenos Aires the percentage of foreign bom had reached over 52% by 1895.
(Munck, Falcon and Galitelli 1987: 26) The constitution of 1853 favored and
encouraged European immigration as a way to increase the profits and economic
security of the Argentine elite. As impoverished working class urban numbers
began to swell, particularly within the city of Buenos Aires, the working class
masses began to place pressure on the political elites for incorporation. The
complete disregard for enfranchisement by the oligarchy intensified the struggle for
power by the working class. Labor movements began to organize and intensify
near the turn of the century, and a major strike in November of 1902 in Buenos
Aires, Rosario and Bahia Blanca led to the occupation of the city centre by
infantry and cavalry for fear of a workers invasion. (Munck, Falcon and
Galitelli 1987: 51) Strikes in the years through 1910 led to the deaths of hundreds
of workers, and an intensification of demands by workers for a larger and more
constructive role in the political system. The workers were demanding that their
voices be heard, and the elite were continuing to deny them any real form of
political power.
In 1911, the Argentine congress, pressured by a growing and more
influential middle class, passed the Saenz Pena Laws, which made voting
mandatory and secretive (Rock 1985: 189). This was an attempt by the oligarchy

to thwart the more radical elements of the labor movement, and although initially
symbolic, the expansion of the electorate played an important role in the rise to
power of the Union Civica Radical, (Radical Party or UCR), and the election of
Hipolito Yrigoyen in 1916 (Rock 1985: 190).
In sum, the period from 1810-1916 saw the initial but incomplete
development of constitutional democracy in Argentina. Argentina established
some elements of democratic constitutionalism, especially witnessed in 1916 by the
peaceful transfer of power between two opposing political parties. Unfortunately,
remnants of caudillo style leadership, and its populist undertones (consolidation of
power, clientelism, and divisive discourse) left Argentina ill-prepared to deal with
the incorporation of the working class.
Chile (1810-1924)
The longevity and stability of Chilean democracy is probably the single
greatest factor influencing Chiles modem, relatively high quality of democracy.
However, Chile did experience dramatic and critical anti-democratic episodes in
varying forms: military juntas, numerous occasions of blatant disregard of legal
traditions and institutions, disenfranchisement, fraudulent or controlled elections,
and violent straggles for power. These episodes had a negative, but limited impact
on democratization due in part to the absence of strong caudillos and populism.

Instability marked Chiles period of independence from Spain, and the
period of 1810-30 was marked by numerous civil wars and a variety of
governments. Stability came in 1831 when a coalition of conservative business
interests coalesced around businessman Diego Portales. The new government was,
republican in form and authoritarian in practice. (Loveman 2001: 101) In 1833
Chile ratified a constitution that established the position of a strong executive under
the control of the oligarchy (Faundez 2005: 19). The strength of the executive
would become an issue of contention between various elite factions over the
ensuing decades.
Chiles strong legal tradition began in the 1830s with the ratification of the
constitution, and was further enhanced by constitutional reforms: a commercial
code (1867) and a judicial code (1875). These reforms also served to strengthen
state institutions (Faundez 2005: 44). The establishment and refinement of the
legal system was rooted in a desire by Chiles oligarchy to maximize the economic
benefits of trade and commerce by developing a system to peacefully arbitrate
business transactions and solidify respect for private property (Faundez 2005: 21,
29). Additionally, political stability was a central part of the most visible aspect of
government during the early years of Chilean independence, as demonstrated by the
fact that only three presidents served between the years 1830-61 (Rector 2003). A
trio of international wars between 1830-1880 also unified Chilean society around a

central cause, and the subsequent military buildup provided a condition of internal
security (Loveman 2001: 147-154). After the war of the Pacific (1879-83), Chile
emerged as a victorious, and relatively unified state with nascent aspects of
democratic institutions, and a leading position as a continental power.
However, as with Argentina, Chile suffered from the internal conflicts
between factions of the dominant elite. Two serious insurrections in 1851 and
1859 were mounted over the divisions in political ideology-those in favor of a
strong executive on one side, and those favoring a more parliamentarian system on
the other. Elite divisions between those loyal to the president and those loyal to
congress led to a full-scale civil war in 1891. In a violent struggle for power,
Chilean president Jose Manuel Balmaceda was overthrown by a group of elite
capitalists loyal to congress from the mining industry in the north (Loveman 2001:
158-159). Balmaceda and his supporters were killed or forced into exile, and the
hostility between opposing factions led to a completely polarized political realm.
The civil war and its aftermath illustrate the greater potential for post-
conflict liberalization in the absence of populist leadership. The congressionalists,
the landowning elite who ousted Balmaceda, were opposed to a strong executive.
Without an established pattern of caudillo or populist rule, the victorious elite
sought institutional reform to remedy the political crises. Instead of placing their
own leader or the military in charge of the country, they immediately began to

impose serious legal restrictions on the role and power of the president; they
simultaneously strengthened the power of the congress and the judiciary in order to
ensure their unopposed control over Chilean government. Furthermore, after a
series of political amnesties from 1891 to 1894, the defeated advocates of
presidentialism.. .swore their loyalty to a system that they had spent the lives of
thousands to overturn. (Loveman 2001: 308) A uniquely Chilean form of a mix
between presidentialism and parliamentarianism was established and held power
for thirty years (Faundez 2005: 54). By strengthening the accountability functions
of government while symbolically respecting the role of the president, the Chilean
elite managed to quickly return to an environment of peace and stability. Despite
the charged political climate, the intensity of which paralleled that found under
populist or caudillo regimes, the pattern for post-conflict transition in Chile
included a restoration of democratic institutions.
Furthermore, political parties in the second half of the nineteenth century
were strengthening their role in Chilean politics, and due to the various elite
divisions and the multi-party landscape, broad coalitions were needed to win and
control the presidency. A strong tradition of multi-party politics developed early in
Chilean history. Nonetheless, this did not mean that the elites were prepared to
open the political space to democratization and power sharing amongst the working

class or masses. Politics were still wrought with fraud and corruption, and the
dominant elites controlled the entire Chilean State.
Of course, as with Argentina, a dramatic change in demographics would
permanently alter the political landscape in Chile. Chile experienced rapid
urbanization and population growth around the turn of the century. An increase in
total population of over 160 percent between 1891 and 1925, and a doubling in
population for Chiles largest city, Santiago, led to an increase in industrial output,
management, and the rise of a middle class (Rector 2003: 114). Workers
uprisings, strikes and other violent demonstrations emerged in the 1880s, and
began to intensify throughout the early 1900s. The oligarchys control over the
political system was beginning to show signs of strain; without the control and
guidance of a strong leader, and without opposition and dissention from the main
political parties, government policies were largely focused on maintaining the
status quo. In the absence of strong populist or caudillo leadership, Chilean
politicians did not seek or require the support from the masses, so mass
incorporation came much later for Chile. Yet the tensions and increasing demands
for better working conditions, higher pay, and a higher quality of living were
developing in Chile, and would eventually lead to a failure and crises of Chiles
political system.
Era II Populism, State Intervention, and Instability

Argentina (1916-1983)
Dramatic and often violent attempts to incorporate the working class into
the political system dominated this period of Argentine history, and modest
attempts at incorporation were initiated by Hipolito Yrigoyen. Yrigoyen became
the head of the Union Clvica Radical (Radical Party or UCR) in 1896. He came
from the ruling elite and was Argentinas first president elected after the
incorporation of voters under the Saenz Pena Laws, and he was often considered
the first democratic president of Argentina. The UCR is Argentinas oldest modem
political party and originated from a split within elite leadership. UCRs base of
support was rooted in the middle class (Horowitz 1999: 24). In addition to middle
class support, Yrigoyen sought the backing of the working class, passed several
labor laws, and established better voting practices. Conversely, he did not truly
represent the workers interests, and focused on the interests of the small but
growing middle class and an outcast group of elites that wanted a return to
liberalism and more democratic government.
In an effort to broaden his political support, he expanded the state
apparatus. The relatively high paying jobs and improvements to working
conditions created during Yrigoyens term in office, translated into loyal support
for his presidency. Yrigoyen had a mixed relationship with the working class and
labor in particular; while he often rhetorically supported better working conditions

he would consistently break strikes if he felt the political pressure from the
established oligarchy and the middle class was too great (Horowitz 1999).
Furthermore, Yrigoyen made few attempts to consolidate power into the
presidency, showed respect for democratic institutions, and faced fierce opposition
in congress (Rock 1985: 200).
The oligarchy feared the rise to power of the UCR, and they were appalled
by the increasing power granted to the working class. [I]n the absence of a large
peasantry, [the established elite] lacked a mass base with which to remain
competitive in the national electoral arena. (Levitsky and Murillo 2005: 22) The
elite sought the assistance of the military to restore their control over the state, and
backed a military coup in 1930. The coup in 1930, undertaken at the beginning of
the great depression, continued Argentinas trend of violent and undemocratic
transfers of power, and a period of volatile but uninterrupted rule by the oligarchy
persisted until 1943.
The 1930s are referred to as the decada infame or infamous decade in
Argentina, as virtually all aspects of life were controlled by the ruling oligarchy.
Essentially, the political incorporation of the masses was unresolved, and the
struggle for political incorporation continued. Without the tradition of democratic
institutions to resolve disputes, politics resulted in a zero-sum game where the
opposing sides simply attempted to remove the other from politics. This led to yet

another military coup in 1943. After continued political turmoil the space was
open for Juan Peron to attempt to unify the elites and incorporate the masses.
Peronism retained one of the more potent elements of the
antidemocratic political ideologies of the 1930s: the
aspiration to achieve ideological unification of the countrys
elites. In turn, this aspiration was one of the main reasons
that the emergence of Peronism reinforced Argentinas
political instability. A paradoxical aspect of Peronism was
that though it failed to achieve elite unity, it successfully
incorporated the masses into the political system. (Cavarozzi
Juan Domingo Peron rose to power first through the ranks of the military
and then through the ranks of union organizations. Peron set many of the
benchmarks for populism. He won the election with direct support from the newly
created labor party (Partido Laborista), but upon assuming office he immediately
disbanded the party and created his own party to better serve his interests and
consolidate power (Rock 1985: 260, 282). The Justicial Peronista (Justicialist
Party or PJ) would become a lasting political force in Argentine politics. Peron
rose to the presidency by winning the popular vote and with backing from a multi-
class alliance of dissenting elites, some conservatives, and the Catholic Church
(Horowitz 1999: 33).
He was elected via a direct appeal to the people with an agenda to
incorporate the working class into the political system and increase their wages,
working conditions, and quality of living. It is important to recognize that Peron did

ultimately enfranchise the working class of Argentine society, and improve their
economic conditions. The franchise was also extended to women, with persistence
and support from Eva Peron in 1949. Juan Peron endeavored to represent the
interests of the working class, and he did dramatically improve wages, and working
conditions. He also provided and expanded social benefits such as health care and
vacation time (Levitsky and Murillo 2005: 23). However, his power was based on
mass support, primarily through elections and unions, so he had to continuously
and exponentially improve working and living standards to maintain that base of
support. This was achieved through a massive expansion of the state apparatus and
direct control over most aspects of Argentine bureaucracy, political institutions,
and the unions themselves. For example, investment by the state increased 248
percent between 1946-50, and the state intervened in shipping, railroads, energy
and communication (Tedesco 1999: 13).
Peron radically restructured Argentine politics and dismantled functioning
democratic institutions. Peron continued to consolidate power into the executive
office throughout his presidency, and by the end of his rule he successfully
controlled most aspects of the Argentine government. Peron embraced the
practice of dismissing judges. In response to unfavorable rulings, the PJ-controlled
senate impeached four of the five justices and the Attorney General in 1947.
(Chavez 2004: 38) His record of interference in the legislature and supreme court

were monumental, eroding virtually all aspects of horizontal accountability.
Through direct and strict control of the PJ, Peron was also able to gain control of
the Senate, two-thirds of the house, and additional executive control through
gerrymandering, and regular intimidation (Chavez 2004: 56).
The manner in which Peron incorporated the working class into Argentinas
political system reflects the undemocratic nature of populism, specifically the
elements of clientelism, consolidation of power, and lack of development in civil
society sectors. Peron rose to power through the labor organizations with the
powerful rhetoric of social inclusion; he framed his message in terms of economic
and social rights that needed to be afforded to the working class in order to
facilitate full participation in Argentine government. Paradoxically, Peron sought
to build and strengthen civil society through union representation and thus direct
access by the working class to the state apparatus. In turn, this arrangement
bypassed the liberal democratic institutions (elections and political parties) that
were infused with a legacy of corruption and therefore continued to fail to represent
the interests of the working class (James 1988).
In spite of this effort to build civil society, the movement was so controlled
and embodied by Peron himself that the lasting implications of Peronism failed to
build the aspects of civil society it set out to create. Success of Peron and Peronism
was contingent on providing immediate economic gains for the working class

instead of establishing long-term political stability and democratic institutions. So
much so in fact, that when the heavily state-controlled economy began to falter,
Peron lost support of the workers, the newly created elite sectors of labor, and
ultimately the entire movement. The working class became synonymous with the
state {el pueblo trabajador), and rather than the workers controlling the state, the
state mobilized and controlled the workers (James 1988). When the state failed to
provide the lofty promises accorded to the workers, Perons support system
Moreover, the old elite (the landed oligarchy and industrial leaders) became
impatient and highly concerned with the means of incorporation of the working
class. Again, they knew they did not possess the numbers to win democratic
elections and realized some level of power sharing was necessary, but the
increasing intensity of strikes and protests combined with the loss of profit from the
Peronist sponsored wage hikes, benefits, and inefficiencies of a massive state
apparatus solidified their anti-Peronist sentiment. Furthermore, as a result of the
anti-establishment rhetoric and divisive discourse, the Peronist movement became
increasingly hostile and antagonistic to the oligarchy. As the economic situation
worsened, Peron attempted to strengthen his grip on power by silencing any
opposition and going against members of the elite that initially supported him

(Rock 1985: 303). Eventually, the Catholic church, military, and business leaders
fought back, and in 1955 they overthrew Peron in a military coup.
As a result of Perons divisive discourse the power reclaimed by the pre-
Peron elites was centralized within the military and fiercely coveted; in response to
the zero-sum political climate they immediately outlawed the Peronist Party and
banned formal political competition for eighteen years. Furthermore, the trend for
disrespecting the judiciary and other accountability functions continued and even
intensified in the post-Peron era.
Perons heavy-handed politics and nearly autocratic rule, created a system
without political institutions to facilitate peaceful transfers of power and political
compromise. The ensuing years (1955-1973) saw more military coups and power
struggles coupled with political uncertainty, and a deeply divided dualistic political
realm. Once again, the de facto functionaries theory returned to justify the
undemocratic takeover of government, and the continuous assault on democratic
institutions persisted (Andres 1999: 160). The working class however, still
appreciated the progressive nature and financial benefits of Peronism, and
ultimately returned to his support and remained fiercely loyal to the PJ party.
Moreover, factions within the elite bloc continued to struggle over issues of
democratization, liberalization and the incorporation of the working class.

In 1976 authoritarian military rule returned to Argentina, and this time it
returned with a brutality unmatched in Argentine history. The failure to
incorporate the working class and the legacy of populism left the country so
divided that extreme measures were undertaken to create an environment of
security and stabilization. Rule of law and accountability measures were
completely disregarded or destroyed. At the hands of the military junta the 1976-
83 dirty war is estimated to have killed as many as thirty thousand people, and
kidnapped and tortured thousands more (Walker 2006; Tedesco 1999). Efforts to
eliminate Peronism continued, and hostile insurrection mounted. The military junta
failed to find an internally unified political platfonn, and failed to stabilize or
improve any aspects of Argentine society. After the militarys failures culminated
in a disastrous campaign to reclaim the Falkland Islands the elite could no longer
support military rule. Following a year of frenzied political debate civilian
leadership was restored.
Chile (1920-1990)
As in Argentina, the process of working class political incorporation
dominated this period of Chilean history. From 1973 until 1990, it also suffered
under a brutal authoritarian regime. However, the development of democracy, and
its associated quality indicators (rule of law and accountability) found more fertile
ground in Chile than they did in Argentina.

A pair of strong leaders in the first half of the twentieth century displayed
populist characteristics, but they did not exhibit all of populisms characteristics
and were restrained by democratic institutions. When evaluating the role of Arturo
Alessandri and Carlos Ibanez played in Chilean democratization and incorporation,
a reciprocal relationship between democratic institutions and populism emerges.
First, the tradition of democratic institutions: multi party competition, a respected
legal tradition, and democratic accountability placed severe restrictions on the
populist nature of both Alessandri and Ibanez. Subsequently, the fact that neither
of them exhibited intense divisive discourse, also contributed to a more stable post-
regime transition with a respect for democratic institutions, a less polarized
society, and more gradual incorporation of workers into the political system.
More details about their form of populism will illustrate this relationship.
With a direct appeal to the people, Arturo Alessandri became president of Chile
in 1920, but ultimately failed to consolidate power or to work toward the political
incorporation of Chilean workers. Near the conclusion of World War I, an
economic, political, and social crisis opened the space for a populist leader to
appeal to the plight of the working poor. The Chilean economy collapsed due to a

collapse in the demand for nitrates.5 Alessandri capitalized on the growing
discontent of Chilean workers, and made direct appeals to the middle and working
classes of northern Chile. With a multi-class alliance, he led a coalition of center-
left parties (Liberal Alliance) to victory and captured the lower house of congress
in 1918 (Drake 1978: 45-46). On a similar platform, he was elected president in
While in office, Alessandri failed to implement many of his reforms. He
faced an ineffective and oppositional congress that endlessly debated his proposed
legislation and forced him to reshuffle his cabinet 16 times between 1920-24.
Instead of seeking support from his constituency he turned to the support of the
military to persuade his hand (Faundez 2005: 62-63). The Chilean military had
been under the direct control of civilian leadership since the end of the civil war;
senior members were civilians instead of ranking officers, and the budget and pay
scale were kept low. Alessandri convinced the military to support him by
proposing legislation that would shift prestige and power back to the military.
Military leaders from the conservative elites, aroused by their restoration of power,
soon extended their domination over political affairs, and Alessandri lost his
5 Sodium nitrate, also known as saltpeter, is a salt found in abundance in the Atacama Desert of
northern Chile. It can be used for fertilizer or in the manufacture of explosives. Extraction of
saltpeter was a primary component of the Chilean economy from the 1880s through the 1940s.

credibility and chose to resign from the presidency (Drake 1999: 55). A brief
struggle for power ensued between factions of the military.
Alessandri, returned to power after an internal military junta led by Ibanez
in 1925, and was successful in ratifying a new constitution in 1925. The
constitution focused on strengthening the power of the executive, but was
otherwise quite similar to the 1833 constitution. It did, however, effectively end
the parliamentarian style government. After ratifying the constitution Alessandri
lost a power struggle with Ibanez, and again stepped down from the presidency.
Ibanez ruled Chile from behind the helm of the military or through the office of the
presidency until democratic processes returned in 1932. Ibanez made appeals to
improve the pay and conditions for the working poor, but failed to actualize his
rhetoric. While some labor reforms were made during this period, political
incorporation remained outside the scope of his objectives. Ibanez sought direct
control of the unions, and worked against the leftist trend in labor organization by
directing union organization through the state (Drake 1978). He was more
concerned with orthodox economic policies than providing political access or
improvements for the working class (Drake 1978: 59). At the onset of the Great
Depression, Chile also experienced massive unemployment and economic disaster,
so support for Ibanez evaporated. Enormous public demonstrations became

regular, and Ibanez was faced with a decision to violently repress the
demonstrations or resign. He fled Chile in July of 1931 (Drake 1978).
After further political instability and regime change, Alessandri was again
elected to the presidency in 1932, and worked to restore democratic party politics
to Chile (Rector 2003: 150). During this term in office, Alessandri did not make
appeals to the masses, and displayed very few populist characteristics. He set out
on a course to stabilize Chiles economy, and was largely successful. Alessandri
did not tolerate labor strikes, and declared a state of siege to prevent workers
protests (Rector 2003: 150). A major component of the strategies of both
Alessandri and Ibanez for dealing with labor organizations was to neutralize the
radical left-wing elements (Faundez 2005). The growing power and influence from
left-wing parties and organizations would set the course for the next four decades.
Contrary to Argentina, the political incorporation of the masses in Chile
was mostly facilitated through political parties instead of populist leadership. This
was demonstrated by the toleration and acceptance of the Communist and Socialist
parties by the oligarchy. Rather than being ushered onto the political stage
abruptly by some firebrand, Chilean workers were gradually integrated into the
established order through multiparty, electoral politics. (Drake 1999: 64)
Throughout the 1940s the political and business elite dominated system worked
toward some level of compromise with the increasing power of labor and working

class movements. With the entrance of new ideologically defined political parties,
the conservatives agreed to tolerate pluralism and accept their opposition as valid
competition. In turn, the emerging communist and socialist parties agreed to keep
political participation at a very low level (only ten percent of the population was
required and allowed to vote in elections) and to not organize the rural labor of
Chiles Central Valley (Cavarozzi 1992: 213). It was a tenuous agreement that
would ultimately fail, but again it signifies the more institutionalized approach to
political incorporation in Chile.
The subsequent decades would see the gradual incorporation of the working
class: an extension of the franchise voter registration increased from nine percent
of the population in 1932 to eighteen percent in 1952 to thirty-five percent in 1964
(Faundez 2005: 84, 89), suffrage for women in 1949, an increasing toleration of
union activities, the further development of free press, toleration of the Communist
Party, and a vigorous multi-party democratic system. The system was not perfect,
however, and the democratic institutions were unable to peacefully arbitrate
between the demands from the working class for more wealth and power and the
demands from the oligarchy to preserve the status quo.
In spite of the restraints of the democratic institutions, the populist legacies
of both Alessandri and Ibanez played a role in the eventual democratic breakdown
in Chile, especially when viewed through their influence on the development of the

judiciary and accountability functions of the Supreme Court. The early presidencies
of Alessandri and Ibanez exhibited many characteristics of populism: both appealed
to the working class, attempted to consolidate power in the hands of the executive,
displayed clientelist behavior and corruption, and both regimes established
precedents that would undermine the accountability functions of the court.
The power of the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of
legislation (judicial review) and its ability to review administrative actions were
granted by the 1925 Constitution. However, after Ibanez attempted to reform the
judiciary by replacing members of the Supreme Court and by replacing senior and
lower court judges, the Court tried to maintain a low political profile (Faundez
2005: 129,132,139). The strength of the presidency granted by the 1925
constitution, and the meddling of the executive directly into the affairs of the
judiciary created an environment where the Supreme Court attempted to remain
aloof from politics. Furthermore, the Court was under funded and was unable to
expand or to modernize, greatly limiting its accessibility and ability to protect the
constitution (Faundez 2005: 130).
As the demands of the working class were continuously ignored by the
oligarchy, the entire political spectrum shifted to the left. Radical elements were
soon demanding land redistribution and a Marxist revolution. This culminated in
the election of Salvador Allende, who in 1970 led the Unidad Popular (UP or

Popular Unity), a coalition of the Socialists, Communists and Radicals. Allende set
out on a legal and peaceful attempt at creating a democratic socialist state, and
attempted to legally challenge the oligarchy for better working conditions, housing,
and economic gains (Rector 2003: 172). He attempted to push through legislation
that challenged private property rights and otherwise chipped away at the economic
security of the oligarchy.
President Allende failed because he lacked the power to impose a
revolutionary socialist regime yet insisted on employing the rhetoric
of revolution. He also failed because, unlike a transition to social
democracy, there is no peaceful road to the socialism envisaged by
Marxist-Leninists; Lenins political vision, as he proclaimed, was
always antatgonistic to constitutional democracy. (Loveman 2001:
Chilean society became polarized, not through a populist leader, but from a failure
of policy and the more radical elements within a political movement. The political
neutrality sought by the courts after Ibanez interference left the legal system
unprepared to deal with demands from the oligarchy to legally protect its interests.
The Allende administration was counting on the judiciary to remain aloof
and neutral from its policies, so when the Courts became increasingly hostile
toward Allende, it created a polarized environment. Allende failed to push through
his agenda legally, and the radical elements within the UP grew impatient.
Realizing that the oligarchy controlled the judiciary, and the prospects for legally
implementing a socialist revolution were diminishing, the radical elements of the

UP became increasingly militant. The violence made the oligarchy extremely
uncomfortable, and ultimately, on September 11, 1973 the oligarchy supported a
military coup. Allende refused to surrender and died during the siege; the military
imposed its rule for seventeen years, and populisms limited appearance in Chile
left an indelible mark on the rule of law.
Chile, under the rule of Augusto Pinochet was transformed into a police
state, and all elements of political competition were challenged and uprooted by the
regime. Political parties were banned, and the Pincohet regime forced opposition
into exile. It is estimated that between 30,000 and 200,000 Chileans fled Chile
during the Pinochet rule (Angell 2007: 8). Several thousand were also tortured and
killed. However, due to the strong institutional history, and the large number of
political leaders that survived and returned to Chile from exile, most political
parties survived the regime. The judiciary also survived, by returning to its low
political profile position. During the regime they focused their attention on
arbitrating according to civil code, providing a legitimate foundation for the
Pinochet regime, and ignoring blatant human rights violations. While this behavior
would leave the judiciary with a tarnished public image, it allowed many
institutionalized aspects of the judiciary to survive. Pinochet, in turn, seeking to
validate his regime, left the courts largely intact. As long as they did not challenge
his rule, or oppose his policies, he left them relatively independent. Moreover,

since Chile had such a strong institutional background, Pinochet deemed it
necessary to support his claim to power via an institutionalized process, so he
ratified a new constitution that actually strengthened the judiciarys self-
management (Prillaman 2000: 140-141).
In addition to attempting to extend his Pinochets rule, the 1980 constitution
called for a plebiscite in 1988 where the people could vote in favor or in opposition
to Pinochets plans; if he did not receive a majority vote, then an open presidential
election would be held the following year. Pinochet expected to win this plebiscite,
but he underestimated the space he had opened up for coordinated opposition
(Angell 2007: 32; Cavarozzi 1992: 223). Pinochet had attempted to legitimize his
regime by submitting it to an aura of constitutionalism, but he lost the plebiscite
and was consequently forced to either ruin his credibility by implementing force, or
to step aside and open the door for democracy. Since he was losing support against
several elite factions, he knew he must choose the latter, and with the election of
Patricio Aylwin to the presidency in 1989, Chile began its transition back toward
Era III -Democratic Reform and the Legacy of Populism
Argentina (1983-2008)
When electoral democracy finally returned to Argentina in 1983, it was
without several key democratic traditions and institutions and it was also rife with

mistrust and uncertainty. The transition period was complicated by the fact that the
two major political parties, the UCR and the PJ were in shambles; they were both
without strong leaders and also structurally weak. The UCR, promising human
rights tribunals, was successful in electing Raul Alfonsin to the presidency in 1983,
and this marked the return of electoral democracy to Argentina. The 1983-89
period marked the last time Argentina saw successful multi-party governance; after
the election of Carlos Menem in 1989, the Peronist party controlled and continues
to control the Argentine presidency and congress.6
Alfonsin represented the restructured Radical Party, and attempted to create
and restore democratic institutions, especially focusing on judicial reform and
restoration of the rule of law (Levitsky and Murillo 2005: 26). During his
presidency, Alfonsin faced pressure from the ousted military regime, which still
continued to possess limited power. Throughout his presidency, Alfonsin turned
his attention toward reforming democratic institutions, and ensuring that the
military rule would no longer be a viable option. By the end of Alfonsins
administration, Argentina was on the road to becoming a democratic state.
Alfonsin had an ambiguous record with his democratic reforms. While he
initially unconstitutionally purged the Supreme Court, he later adhered to the
6 A brief interruption of this dominance occurred between 1999-2001 with the election an Alianza
candidate Fernando de la Rua. His term in office was largely ineffective as it occurred
simultaneously with an economic crises.

constitutional appointment process when he appointed members to both the
Supreme Court and lower courts. Alfonsin felt that it was necessary to quickly
replace illegitimate political members in order to restore democracy (Chavez 2004:
32,40). Alfonsin also attempted to restore horizontal accountability; During
Alfonsins presidency, divided government helped drain power away from the
executive. (Chavez 2004: 59) One of Alfonsins greatest achievements and his
major focus was extracting the military apparatus from the government. He
initiated a series of dramatic human rights trials, and successfully relegated the
military to permanent civilian control (Levitsky and Murillo 2005: 26).
Unfortunately, the efforts of Alfonsin to democratize Argentina were not
able to circumvent the historical legacy of populism. He focused his attentions of
desperonizacion (removing Perons legacy) of the unions, and rather than building
the UCRs viability as a political party, Alfonsin set out to destroy the opposition
(Tedesco 1999). It was not an all-out assault on the unions, but more accurately an
attempt to restore their credibility and democratic functions by removing the
intensely hierarchical and corrupt organizational elements. The divisive political
environment continued to divert attention away from institutional stability. This
was compounded with unsuccessful economic reforms, leading to a bleak economic
situation and a large number of discontent workers ready for mobilization.

Carlos Saul Menem, seized the opportunity, and directly appealed to the
disgruntled working class. He was elected as the first Peronist candidate after the
return to democracy, and became a neopopulist; he was elected on popular appeals
but then imposed neoliberal economic reforms, adopted the free-trade policies and
state economic intervention (Weyland 1999). It may seem counterintuitive that a
populist leader elected with direct appeals to improve the quality of living for the
working class, would implement neoliberal reforms, but Weyland convincingly
argues that the outsider status, existing economic crises, aversion to party politics,
and consolidation of power in the executive makes a populist candidate a likely
bedfellow for other outsider proponents of neoliberal reform (Weyland 1999).
They shared a vision of reform that was anti-establishment, and in the case of
Menem the establishment was an inefficient and expansive state economic system
supported by union leadership.
Menem lacked one important element of populism that Peron and Rosas
delivered in abundance, divisive rhetoric and discourse. While Menem exhibited
an independent posture, he was not outwardly hostile toward his opposition. He
exhibited more subtle attempts at confronting opposition, often by incorporating
them within his administration or via outright means of corruption and bribery.
Menem as a populist continued the undemocratic trends of his partys founder, Juan
Peron, and consolidated power into the executive. He again, justified his

expanding power as an emergency clause to stabilize the country. Security,
stabilization, and economic improvements were more important than democratic
Menem sought direct control over the legislature and the judiciary. He
instituted an opaque appointment process where weak qualifications and
demonstrated loyalty to the PJ became the critical criteria for nominees. In 1990,
he expanded the lower courts, and he increased the Supreme Court from five to
nine justices. While his methods were not illegal, he faced opposition from the
Supreme Court itself and the House of Representatives. He used unconstitutional
and secretive measures to ensure the passage of a law that bypassed his opposition
and allowed Menem to make his appointments (Chavez 2004: 42). Furthermore,
the Menem Court refrained from challenging the executive branch in cases of
political significance. (Chavez 2004: 46)
Menem also directly controlled the PJ maintaining a dual role as PJ leader
and national president that allowed him to create incentives for PJ legislators to
support his policy preferences. [H]e used these resources to reward PJ legislators
who voted according to his orders and to punish those who strayed. (Chavez 2004:
64) Menem also used a new tactic to effectively centralize control and bypass
democratic accountability by issuing decrees of necessity and urgency (DNU).
During the 121 year period prior to Menems assumption of the presidency, only 25

DNUs were issued. Alfonsin issued 10 DNUs, but Menem issued 336 between
1989 and 1994 (Chavez 2004: 70).
Monolithic control provided both Peron and Menem with the
partisan powers necessary to subordinate potential horizontal
accountability agencies, including the judiciary and
Congress. The two Peronist presidents dismantled the
elements of the rule of law that had emerged during the
divided government of their predecessors. The recurrence of
unified government coupled with party discipline trapped
Argentina in a vicious cycle in which converging power
centers exacerbated executive dominance to the detriment of
the rule of law (Chavez 2004: 79)
Some progress toward increasing accountability was finally achieved with
the 1994 Olivos Pact, and the implementation of a new constitution. The 1994
constitution was a compromise between the UCR and Menem, whereby the new
constitution limited the executives sway on the judiciary while conceding the
ability for Menem to run for a second term (Finkel 2004). The compromise also
declared all prior non-elected governments null and void, putting an end to the
legitimizing agent of authoritarian rule the de facto doctrine (Andres 1999). The
implications of this agreement were twofold; first, it demonstrated some level of
multiparty competition and a return to democratic procedures, second, it further
consolidated power into the hands of Menem by offering a consecutive term.
Additionally, under Menems concentrated control of power, he was able to
circumvent the required changes to the court and maintain control of the judiciary.

Menems attempt to run for an uninterrupted third term was deemed
unconstitutional, so democratic government peacefully transferred to a new
president, Fernando De la Rua, in 1999. However, de la Ruas presidency came to
an abrupt end in 2001 after the fallout from Menems economic reforms reached
the level of a full financial crisis. Massive rioting and street protests in 2001
occurred with demands for De la Rua step down. Historian Philip Oxhom makes
an astute observation about this apparent show of civil society strength.
[CJivil society and mob rule are not commensurate. The
frustration and suffering of the majority of Argentines was
dramatically vented, and an ineffective, dysfunctional
government was removed from power through institutional
means. While this is unambiguously good for Argentine
democracy, the power to veto unpopular governments and
policies is a far cry from the capacity of different groups
within civil society to play a more active role in defining and
defending their interests.. .(Oxhom 1998: 511 -512)
Without democratic institutions and a strong civil society, individuals are only left
with mass protest to articulate their demands; vertical accountability measures
limited to voting and protest do not lead to high levels of democratic
accountability. This episode reflects the fact that Argentine electoral democracy is
relatively stable, but democratic quality has much room for improvement.
After a couple of years of interim legislative appointments, Nestor Kirchner
was elected to the presidency in 2003, and served his full term through December
10, 2007. Kirchner continued to represent the undefined interests of the PJ, and

displayed many populist characteristics during his term in office. Kirchner initially
appeared likely to implement serious democratic reforms, through the
implementation of transparency measures and the development of a more
independent judicial nomination process. However, he soon switched directions
and turned his attention toward restoring economic prosperity and consolidating
power into the executive.
The longer-term impact of Kirchners reforms remains
uncertain...[Kirchner] concentrated power in the executive,
demonstrated an unusual degree of political initiative and
energy, and undertook a series of bold initiatives from above
that shook up or undid institutional and policy arrangements
associated with discredited past governments. (Levitsky and
Murillo 2005: 43)
Freedom House paints a clearer picture of the Kirchner administration, and in
reference to the direction of its freedom arrow (the positive or negative direction of
democratic developments):
Argentina received a downward trend arrow because of
President Kirchners centralization of power in the executive
branch and limiting of other government branches
autonomy, including changing the tax system to limit the
influence of provincial governors, gaining higher spending
discretion at the expense of Congress, and politicizing the
process of Supreme Court justice selection.
("Freedomhouse.Org: Country Report Argentina 2007"

In 2007 Nestor Kirchner was succeeded by his wife, Christina Kirchner, and it has
been suggested that she will continue in a similar manner and implement many of
her predecessors policies (Barrionuevo and Sreeharsha 2007).
A major study by Wiliam C. Prillaman on the post authoritarian judicial
reform in Latin America examined judicial reform on the basis of three sectors:
independence, efficiency, and accessibility. Both Alfonsin and Menem attempted
to make democratic judicial reforms, but after their reforms were implemented the
judicial system continued to fail to provide accountability. The judicial system
remained inaccessible and inefficient. Prillamans study found that the failure to
simultaneously reform all three sectors led to unsuccessful reforms. The negative
aspects of the unreformed sectors chipped away at the positive aspects of the other
sectors reforms. Additionally, reforms in the efficiency and accountability sectors
were too modest and narrow, and most importantly for my argument, Menems
corrupt activities and politicization of the courts counteracted the progress of the
reforms (Prillaman 2000). Once again, the self-reinforcing cycle of populist
leadership continues to undermine both the accountability functions of the judiciary
and the rule of law.
While Argentine society is not nearly as polarized today as it was leading
up to the 1973 coup, most of the changes can be attributed to the elite pact made
during the transition to democracy. Many elites will no longer support a military

coup, as the dirty war was indiscriminate in disappearing their own sons and
daughters as well. In other words, the military rule was so atrocious that it crossed
all social boundaries, and persecuted anyone seen as opposition (Linz and Stepan
1996: 198). Therefore, military rule is no longer considered a viable option. The
peaceful transfer of power during the economic crises of 2001 demonstrated the
solidification of democracy as the only game in town.
However, unless opposition political parties strengthen, Argentina will
continue to face a great risk of re-polarization. Democratic institutions need to be
established and strengthened in order to provide political representation for all
interests. Without such efforts, a return to the divisive politics and violence so
entrenched in Argentinas history is probable. For now, however, Argentina
remains on a gradual yet positive course toward enhancing the rule of law and
accountability, but it continues to be impeded by the historical legacy and continual
intrusion of populist leadership, ultrapresidentialism, and a weak party system.
Chile (1990-2008)
After the plebiscite restored an elected official to the presidency, the
coalition of several major parties, the Concertacion de los partidos de democracia,
or Concertacion, led by Patricio Aylwin worked quickly to rebuild democratic
institutions and processes (Loveman 2001: 310-311). Nearly two decades of
continuous reform by the Concertacion has led to a return of democracy and

enhancement of democratic quality. Today, both the vertical and horizontal aspects
of democratic accountability and the rule of law maintain relatively high levels of
In their seminal work on democratic transition and consolidation, Linz and
Stepan (1996) outline the impact that different typologies of authoritarian regimes
have on the transition and consolidation of democracy. Accordingly, the embedded
nature of the unified hierarchical military combined with the fact that the incoming
administration was bound to operate under Pinochet's constitution should have
seriously restrained the Concertacions efforts to restore democracy (Linz and
Stepan 1996: 211). Of course, these conditions did inhibit efforts at
democratization, and seriously lengthened the time of Chiles democratic
consolidation. However, in spite of the negative effects from the entrenchment of
the military into the political system, the deeply rooted multiparty system, respect
for the rule of law, democratic traditions, and limited experience with populism
created a nurturing environment for democracy.
The Concertacion worked to restore democracy through a variety of tactics,
but a priority was placed on extracting the military from the political system (Linz
and Stepan 1996: 212). Pinochet left his own constitution, which granted him
control over the military until 1998, and a lifelong seat in the senate. The 1980
constitution created a position for the military to serve as a fourth branch of

government by controlling the powerful National Security Council, and also
established an appointment process that would guarantee the military a strong
representation in congress (enough to provide veto power over constitutional
changes) (Heiss and Navia 2007). During the transition to democratic rule, the
Concertacion successfully negotiated some changes to the constitution that would
limit military oversight, but it was not until 2005 that most of the authoritarian
elements of the 1980 constitution were finally removed (Rohter 2004; "Democratic
at Last" 2005). While some vestiges of authoritarianism still remain within the
constitution, the reforms implemented in 2005 restored a system of checks and
balances and greatly improved the accountability functions of the legislature while
returning the constitutional authority to the rule of law.
The Concertacion also faced problems with the judiciary, and made some
progress implementing judicial reforms and improving the quality and accessibility
of the courts. Again using Prillamans study of judicial reform as evidence; he
found that in Chile, the judicial reforms were coordinated on all three elements
simultaneously, and seem to be making great progress:
The courts clearly are more accountable.. .Efficiency
measures seem to have produced a stabilization in times to
disposition and there is an informal consensus across the
political spectrum that the reforms have provided the
foundation for more proficient courts over time, Finally, an
access-to-justice program has had an immediate impact on

providing access for the poor without overburdening the
courts with a flood of new cases. (Prillaman 2000: 144)
One disconcerting exception to the successful judicial reforms surrounds the
accountability functions of the courts. The tradition of isolation of the Supreme
Court from politics initiated by the populist behavior of Carlos Ibanez and
intensified under the Pinochet regime continues to this day. Judicial review has
been historically limited, and this continues to present problems for the
accountability functions of the court, and the protection of individual rights. [T]he
institutional structure and ideology of the Chilean judiciary together created
professional understandings and incentives that tended to dissuade judges from
taking stands in defense of constitutionalist principles. (Hilbink 2003: 72) In this
context constitutionalist principles mean the construction and implementation of
a constitution to limit the powers of government. The accountability functions of
the Chilean judiciary serve to undermine elements of democratic quality. Overall,
however, the process of democratization has been quite positive for Chile, and the
reforms made over the last seventeen years have placed Chile on a stable road of

Argentina began its independence from Spain under the political guidance
of military caudillos. Jose Gervasio Artigas and Juan Manuel de Rosas established
lasting precedents of clientelism, the consolidation of power, and divisive
discourse. This pattern and style of leadership was continued by Hipolito Yrigoyen
and Juan Peron before culminating in the political breakdown and resulting military
intervention of 1976-83. While incorporating the working class through suffrage,
populism failed to build lasting democratic institutions and severely weakened
democratic accountability and the rule of law. Carlos Menem and Nestor Kirchner
continued this tradition, but were restrained by elite disdain for authoritarian rule
and the acceptance of democracy as the only game in town. However, they both
continued to undermine democratization and the quality of democracy. From the
early emergence of strong caudillos in Argentinas period of state formation, a self-
reinforcing pattern of populism inhibiting the development of democratic
institutions has unfolded. The history of populism in Argentina has negatively
impacted the quality of the rule of law and accountability and continues to diminish
the effectiveness of democratic reforms.

Chile, on the other hand, had a very limited historical association with
populism and instead built lasting democratic traditions and institutions. Chile was
able to develop a respectable legal tradition and the democratic institutions
necessary to resolve disputes between competing factions of the dominant elite.
The tradition of peaceful political arbitration led Chile down the path of
liberalization and eventually allowed the working class to access the same
democratic institutions initially designed for elite use. Thus, generally speaking,
the masses gained political power a bit more gradually, peacefully, and through the
use of democratic institutions, especially strong and variant political parties. The
incorporation of the working class occurred institutionally and gradually, so
peoples political power was distributed outside the electoral process. A respect for
the rule of law and accountability emerged that continues to this day. An incursion
of populism into Chiles democratic system during the first half of the twentieth
century, while severely restrained by the strength of democratic institutions,
managed to negatively impact the quality of democratic accountability via the
limited role of judicial review. Even a brief and restrained form of populism has
negative impacts on democratic quality. However, populism has played a
comparatively minor role in Chiles current democratic condition, and Chilean
citizens today benefit from a relatively high quality democracy. Chile embarked on

a dramatically different path in the absence of populism and instead developed a
self-reinforcing pattern of institutional development.
Prospects for the Future of Democratic Quality
Basic political incorporation (via elections) of the working class and the
people has been achieved by both Chile and Argentina. Both countries witness
regular transfers of power between freely and fairly elected officials, have more
than one political party, and meet all of Dahls minimum polyarchy requirements to
be considered electoral democracies. However, the depth and quality of democracy
between the two countries varies significantly. Chile has overcome the obstacles of
an entrenched authoritarian military apparatus, and returned to a multi-party
democracy with a relatively high quality rule of law and democratic accountability.
Argentina, on the other hand, has continued the legacy of populism and further
strengthened the powers of the executive while limiting the accountability
functions of the judiciary and legislature. Both countries can be viewed as stable
democratic states, but they each face unique obstacles in overcoming negative
aspects of their historical legacies.
Economic inequality in Chile and Argentina remains a problem for
improving democratic quality. Both Chile and Argentina have made great strides
addressing poverty (this probably has more to due with their recent economic
success than other factors) but nonetheless, they have become two of the least