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Roberta Rice, "From the ground up: The challenge of indigenous party consolidation in Latin America," Party Politics, 17 (March, 2011), 171-188. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
Bolivia's President Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party made history on 22 January 2006 when he became the country's first indigenous head of state. In December 2009, Morales was re-elected to a second term in office in another convincing victory. While the strong showing by the MAS in the presidential race of December 2005 may have come as a surprise to many observers, the party's impressive performance at the municipal level foreshadowed Morales's national win. The MAS is part of a new cohort of ethnic parties in Latin America.1 The decision on the part of indigenous peoples to create their own political parties and contest the electoral arena represents a significant development in Latin America, one that has begun to attract serious scholarly attention. An important dimension that has been overlooked by the growing literature on indigenous movements and democratic political representation is party consolidation. Much of the emphasis of this body of scholarship has been in determining party formation and initial electoral success (Collins, 2004; Madrid, 2008; Rice and Van Cott, 2006; Van Cott, 2005). However, to predict the electoral fate of indigenous-based parties, and whether they will permanently alter the structure of their respective party systems, we need to understand their prospects for consolidation. To this end, the present study addresses the following question: Are indigenous peoples' parties developing solid party roots in society or are they merely benefiting from a protest vote against the system?

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. OLS regression on indigenous party vote-share in municipal elections in Ecuador
Table 2. Mayoral wins of indigenous-based parties in Ecuador
Table 3. OLS regression on indigenous party vote-share in municipal elections in Bolivia
Table 4. Mayoral wins of indigenous-based parties in Bolivia

Last Paragraph:
(First paragraph of Conclusion) Success in party formation does not guarantee success in consolidation. This is especially true in the case of the weakly institutionalized party systems of Ecuador and Bolivia, where new parties come and go at breakneck speed. In the context of a hostile political environment, indigenous peoples have entered formal politics not through assimilation, but by politicizing ethnic identities (Van Cott, 2000). This study has asked whether or not the new indigenous parties are simply benefiting from a protest vote against the system. I have argued that, for the most part, indigenous parties have been successful in cultivating solid party roots in society. The evidence clearly demonstrates that the MAS party of Bolivia has consolidated its base of support at both the local and national levels. In the case of Ecuador's Pachakutik party, the evidence is mixed. The party has not been able to maintain a stable electoral base at either the local or national level, but it has managed consistently to renew just under a majority of its municipal victories while expanding its support in other districts.

Last updated March 2011