Friday, July 06, 2007

Coalition unity in Chile

There was a discussion here a few weeks ago about whether there were disillusioned voters in Chile that the coalition of the right (the Alianza) could potentially pick up. Along similar lines, there is an article in the April 2007 issue of Comparative Politics (sorry, the full text needs library subscription, and I don't even think CP has new articles online).

Eduardo Alemán and Sebastián M. Saiegh, Legislative Preferences, Political Parties, and Coalition Unity in Chile

Competition between two stable multiparty coalitions has dominated electoral and legislative politics in post-Pinochet Chile. However, several scholars dispute the argument that a fundamental change has realigned the party system. The point of contention is whether a bipolar pattern has replaced the traditional three-way split (tres tercios) in political competition. These alternative hypotheses about the cohesion of parties and coalitions in the legislative arena can be tested through an analysis of the voting records of Chilean deputies. Coalition membership rather than partisan positions dictate legislative behavior. Therefore, the Chilean electoral coalitions are not merely electoral pacts. Rather, they constitute two distinct policy-based coalitions.

In terms of legislative voting, therefore, there is no distinct “center” that could move either way. One question I have is whether the deputies (i.e. members of the lower house) of the Concertación continue to reflect the preferences of their constituents, or whether there are people who consider themselves “centrist” and therefore would be willing to move toward the right. In short, is Chile now bipolar?


Anonymous,  4:03 PM  

I have not yet read the article (and, no, as far as I know, CP has yet to enter the 21st century and make current articles available on line). However, it would have been quite surprising not to find coalition unity in Congress, in part due to the electoral system, and especially for the president's coalition (because the president constitutionally controls so much of the policy agenda).

But, as Greg notes, that does not tell us much about the representativeness of the coalitions vis-a-vis voter preferences. If there really are only two programmatic tendencies in Chile, one might have expected the party labels to have been subsumed by now. That the separate party identities still exist more than 18 years since the coalitions' creation suggests that the parties still reflect something distinctive from the broader coalition identities.

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