Business, Economic Experts, and Conservative Party Building in Latin America: The Case of El Salvador

Riitta-Ilona Koivumaeki


A wave of leftist governments has swept Latin America in recent years, attracting a great deal of scholarly attention. Yet a number of new conservative parties have attained considerable electoral success, as well. This paper argues that a conservative party can succeed electorally and consolidate organizationally when it is supported by two strong groups in society: the business community and the neoliberal technocrats. To assess the argument, I explore the successful trajectory of the rightist Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA) in El Salvador. I then evaluate the generalizability of the argument by comparing ARENA’s trajectory with another conservative party in the region, Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI) in Chile. In addition to proposing a new theory for conservative party success in Latin America, the paper calls for the revival of socioeconomic explanations in political science.

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