The Partisan Origins of Democracy in Latin America


This study examines the origins of democracy in Latin America in the late 19th and early 20th century with a focus on South America. It argues that the central actor in the struggle for democracy in the region were elite opposition parties who promoted the key democratizing reforms to serve their own political interests. Democracy was most likely to emerge in Latin America under three conditions: 1) where there were relatively strong opposition parties; 2) where those opposition parties had long been politically excluded; and 3) where there was a split in the ruling party. I explore these arguments using quantitative as well as qualitative methods and a combination of archival and secondary sources, including roll-call votes on key reform legislation, census data, texts of legislative debates, journalistic accounts, and letters and memoirs of the key participants.