Legislative Politics in Latin America

By Scott Morgenstern; Benito Nacif | Go to book overview

14
Explaining Legislative Politics in
Latin America
SCOTT MORGENSTERN

Instead of focusing on presidents, militaries, financial sector bureaucrats, or social actors, the preceding pages have placed the Argentine, Brazilian, Chilean, and Mexican legislatures at the center of democratic politics. While the authors all agree that the legislatures are potent, it is also clear that the legislatures take a less proactive role than does the U. S. Congress. In this chapter I draw on the previous chapters to argue that the legislatures take a generally reactive role, but within this role there is great variance in the way in which the legislatures assert their power and insert themselves into the policy process. I argue further that the chapters have also offered significant evidence that, as postulated in the introduction, many of the differences are explicable by institutional variation.

The country chapters are arranged to focus on substantive questions about executive–legislative relations and the role of parties in organizing the business of the legislature. In this conclusion I return to the thematic questions raised in the introduction about the importance of reelection rates, electoral systems, partisan alignments, and constitutional powers on legislative politics. In doing so, this chapter has two primary goals. First, a main methodological strategy of this book has been to borrow from the U. S. model in deriving descriptions of key pieces of the legislative process and explanations for legislative behavior in Latin America. But, we have also shown that the assumptions embedded in models of the U. S. Congress must become variables in a comparative context. In particular, in contrast to members of the U. S. Congress, many Latin American legislators are less focused on reelection, more reliant on party leaders, and/or concerned with intrapartisan rivals at election time, not members or opponents of a single majority party, and faced with distinct amalgamations of

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