Parties and Ballot Access in Latin America: A New Trend in a New Political Context

Authors: Gherardo Scherlis | Published in: working paper series on the legal regulation of political parties, no. 31, July. | Date of publication: 2013

For the last ten years a group of Latin American countries have passed legal reforms raising ballot access requirements. Although each of these reforms have been profusely discussed in every one of the countries involved, so far, they have not been linked as constituting a regional trend. Firstly this paper shows that this trend actually exists, so reversing the dominant leaning on reforms in this field during the 1980s and 1990s. Secondly, the paper shows that the ongoing regional trend emerges in the aftermath of a legitimacy crisis which has been surmounted in every one of the cases. More specifically, the paper identifies a common sequence followed by four countries (Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru) which leads to the raise of ballot access requirements. The sequence involves the following stages: first, a legitimacy crisis which paves the way to reforms opening up the political system; second, once the legitimacy crisis is left behind, a consensus emerges on the negative consequences of the previous reforms; and third, this consensus culminates with the introduction of the restrictive reforms which have dominated the Latin American landscape for the last decade. Every case is analyzed by observing the coalescence of what Matthew Shugart (2001) defined as the inherent and contingent conditions necessary to account for the passing of electoral reforms. 

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