The Legacy of Dictatorship for Democratic Parties in Latin America

Erica Frantz, Barbara Geddes


When dictators seize power, they face a choice about how to deal with the pre-existing political parties. Some simply repress all parties, some ally themselves with one of the traditional parties and use it to help organize their rule, and others repress pre-existing parties but create a new party to support themselves. This study examines how these decisions affect the subsequent development of party systems after redemocratization. Looking at the experience of Latin America, a region that has experienced its share of dictatorships, we show that dictators who allied with traditional parties or repressed existing ones have contributed to very stable party systems. By contrast, dictators who repressed the old parties but created a new one destabilized their countries’ party systems for some time after the return of democracy.

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