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Democratizing formal politics : indigenous and social movement political parties in Ecuador and Bolivia, 1978-2000


During the 1980s and 1990s public faith in democratic governance was undermined throughout the Andes by a number of factors, including the persistence of elite brokering and weak, unaccountable political parties. The entrance of social movements into the electoral process presented itself as an antidote to this problem. A comparative study of the relatively successful experience of Ecuador's Pachakutik movement and that of Bolivia in the 1980s, when members of the Katarista indigenous movement ultimately failed in their attempts to launch political parties, seeks to identify the factors that contribute to the success or failure of social movement parties and to test the idea that such parties can transform political institutions and practices in fledgling democracies. Theoretically the dissertation draws on and makes links between the social movements and political parties literatures. Data gathering involved primarily qualitative methods, including interviews, participant observation, and archival research. I argue that the contrasting outcomes between Ecuador and Bolivia can be traced to crucial differences in the historical evolution of each country's indigenous movements and, in particular, to the role the state played in fostering peasant organization. In so doing, I build on Douglass North's concept of path dependency and apply it to social movement organizational development. Somewhat surprisingly, I find that longer and more intensive state tutelage in Bolivia was associated later on with greater difficulty in developing viable social movement parties. In contrast, the more autonomous development of peasant and indigenous organizations in Ecuador, characterized by a historically more adversarial relationship with the state, resulted in stronger organizational structures, the growth of a pan-indigenous identity, and earlier success for a movement-based party, despite the smaller relative size of the indigenous population. In terms of social-movement parties' potential to contribute to democratic consolidation, a close analysis of Pachakutik's performance and organization demonstrates that these parties often develop qualitatively new models that can challenge clientelistic practices at the local level. However, this only becomes possible once they have developed key internal resources: (1) a unifying identity, (2) an autonomous democratic organizational structure, and (3) a track-record of addressing local needs

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