Saturday, February 09, 2019

How Vice-Presidents Screw Up Latin American Politics

Leiv Marsteintredet and Fredrik Uggla, "Allies and Traitors: Vice-Presidents in Latin America," Journal of Latin American Studies (forthcoming 2019).


Vice-presidents in Latin America have often been at the centre of political turbulence. To prevent conflicts within the executive, most Latin American countries have therefore put in place formulae to elect presidents and vice-presidents on a joint electoral ticket. Still, it is common for presidential candidates to pick running mates from other parties in order to construct alliances and appeal to a broader set of voters. But the presence of such ‘external’ vice-presidents seems to increase the risk of presidential interruption in general and impeachment processes in particular. Accordingly, we argue that the frequently overlooked institution of the vice-president deserves attention as a possible intervening variable that can contribute to the explanation for government crises and their outcomes in Latin America.
The famous quote from U.S. Vice President John Nance Garner (under Franklin Roosevelt from 1933-1941) was that the position was "not worth a bucket of warm spit" and was the "the spare tire on the automobile of government."

Brian Winter noted this article at Americas Quarterly as he discussed the already highly problematic relationship between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his running mate Hamilton Mourão. Latin American vice-presidencies are no bowls of spit because, unlike the U.S. now, they are often from different parties, intended to shore up an alliance. But once they are elected, they want the presidency. I remember writing about Julio Cobos, the Argentine VP who voted against Cristina Kirchner as a tie-break, then ran away.

Anyway, Marsteintredet and Uggla do a great historical dive and even use two original databases (one for each author, it seems). External running mates make electoral sense but often have undermined political stability. They led to, in the wonderfully phrased term, "presidential interruption." They acknowledge how many other factors are at play and how difficult it is to establish causation, but it's an interesting argument.

BTW, I chatted with Leiv about impeachment on my podcast back in Episode 31.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP