Political Cleavages: Issues, Parties, and the Consolidation of Democracy

By Alejandro Moreno | Go to book overview

violence and instability. That same year, Mexicans also witnessed the rise of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), the first guerrilla group that had declared war against the Mexican government since the minor guerrilla movements of the 1970s. Events such as these are likely to influence voters in favor of stability, and the ruling party may be seen as the only one that can guarantee it. I examine the Mexican case in Chapter 4.

In sum, it is likely that there is a relationship between the existence of a democratic-authoritarian cleavage and democratic consolidation. The former may be a catalyst for the advancement or reversal of the latter, or the centrality of the former may be an indicator of the latter.


CONCLUSION

There has been an important scholarly revision of the left-right axis of political competition in advanced industrial societies. The main revisionist views argue that political competition takes place in a context defined and influenced by new issues that change the meaning and the social bases of left and right. However, the study of political cleavages and party competition still takes democracy for granted. The process of democratization since the 1970s has brought political competition to new settings, and the need for another revision of the left-right axis seems imminent. The main aspect of this revision is that party competition in the newly democratizing societies takes place in contexts where democracy is not consolidated, offering voters the opportunity to choose not only among parties and candidates but also among types of political regimes. In new democracies, voters may use democratic means (elections) to pursue authoritarian goals (the maintenance or the return of authoritarian government). The purpose in this book is to show the main political cleavages formed around new issues, democratic-authoritarian divisions, liberal-fundamentalist orientations, and economic left-right concerns. On that basis, we may compare political cleavages in stable and new democracies as well as political cleavages in the post-Communist and the Latin American new democracies. This chapter has addressed the main theoretical bases for the book. Specific theoretical aspects are addressed in the following chapters.


NOTES
1.
Kitschelt ( 1995a) includes at least fifteen variables in factor analysis to find a libertarian-authoritarian dimension. Many of those variables tap issues that are not very salient in most new democracies. Therefore, it would be conceptually and empirically inappropriate to use the libertarian-authoritarian concept in the analysis for new democracies. If a great number of issues are considered in each category, they are hardly tied in a coherent way, especially as we move downward in societies' levels of economic development. The lower the level of economic development, the more

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