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Karen L. Remmer, "The Politics of Institutional Change: Electoral Reform in Latin America, 1978-2002 ," Party Politics, 14 (January, 2008), 5-30.

First paragraph:
Over the past two decades, an extensive body of research has explored the political consequences of electoral laws. The central finding has been not only that 'institutions matter', but that they matter in predictable ways, fostering governments that are more or less representative, stable, effective and inclusionary in nature. Inter alia, the accumulated inventory of theoretical propositions covers the impact of presidentialism vs. parliamentarism, plurality vs. majority run-off presidential systems, election timing, district magnitude, formulae for translating votes into legislative seats, federalism and nomination powers, as well as interactions among different sets of institutional arrangements.1 Despite these achievements, major questions about electoral rules remain unanswered. Among the most pivotal are those relating to the dynamics of political change and endogeneity of political institutions. How are shifting patterns of political representation related to institutional change? Do party system discontinuities cause or reflect electoral reform?

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Changes in presidential electoral rules: plurality vs. majority run-off
Figure 1. Presidential run-off reforms and party system fragmentation
Table 2. Adoption of presidential run-off elections and party system fragmentation
Table 3. Changes in the simultaneity of presidential and legislative elections
Figure 2. Concurrent elections and party system fragmentation
Table 4. Electoral reforms affecting the lower house of the legislature
Table 5. Multinomial logit estimates of legislative electoral reforms
Table 6. Impact of electoral legislative reforms

First paragraph of Conclusion:
The Latin American experience since the wave of democratization began in the late 1970s has been punctuated by recurring conflicts over electoral rules. The sheer frequency of electoral reform represents an interesting empirical puzzle, particularly in light of established understandings of the role of electoral institutions. Instead of stabilizing political competition into predictable patterns, electoral rules have both reflected and given rise to significant political change. Paradoxically, the existing institutionalist literature offers greater insight into the causes of rule changes than into their political consequences.

Last update December 2007