Jorge Antonio Alves and Wendy Hunter, From Right to Left in Brazil’s Northeast: Transformation, or “Politics as Usual”?

How does political change occur in subnational units of federal systems? Long under conservative rule, Brazil’s state of Bahia has experienced the recent electoral rise of the Workers’ Party (PT). How has the left party wrested control from the right? Challenging previous studies, which focus on establishing new organizational networks, we emphasize the traditional leveraging of linkages to higher levels of government and forging of pragmatic alliances. Marked parallels between PT strategies in contemporary Bahia and those of the old political machine suggest the pursuit of a territorially segmented strategy to penetrate different subnational units. The PT, which had hoped to transform the existing system, was instead changed by it. Segmentation allowed the PT to win office but at the cost of its transformational project.

Laura Gamboa, Opposition at the Margins: Strategies against the Erosion of Democracy in Colombia and Venezuela

This article argues that the goals and strategies the opposition uses against presidents with hegemonic aspirations are critical to understand why some leaders successfully erode democracy, while others fail. Using interviews and archival research, I trace the dynamics of erosion in Alvaro Uribe’s (Colombia) and Hugo Chávez’s (Venezuela) administrations. I show that during the first years of these governments, the opposition in both countries had some institutional leverage. The Colombian opposition used that leverage. It resorted to institutional and moderate extra-institutional strategies, which protected its institutional resources and allowed it to eventually stop Uribe’s second reelection reform. The Venezuelan opposition forsook that leverage and chose radical extra-institutional strategies instead. The latter cost it the institutional resources it had and helped Chávez advance more radical reforms.

Veronica Herrera, From Participatory Promises to Partisan Capture: Local Democratic Transitions and Mexican Water Politics

Scholarship on participatory institutions has emphasized participatory institutional uptake, but not their long-term sustainability. Through an analysis of citizen water boards in two Mexican cities, this article presents a causal pathway argument from pluralism to partisan capture. This article argues that support for participatory institutions is high for opposition parties who have historically been locked out of power because participatory institutional change can help outsider parties undermine entrenched ties that benefit incumbent parties. However, when challenging parties become incumbents, their preferences for supporting participatory institutions may change as participatory service delivery institutions become venues for dissent as well as represent political spoils that can be used to consolidate party control. These findings reveal a disturbing tension between democratization and participatory institution building in Mexico and beyond.

Benjamin G. Bishin and Feryal M. Cherif, Women, Property Rights, and Islam

To what extent do conventional explanations of women’s rights, such as religion, culture, core rights, and advocacy, help to explain the status of women’s rights in Muslim majority countries? Religion and patriarchal culture are commonly cited to explain the persistence of gender inequality. While often overlooked, the study of property rights offers leverage for differentiating between religious and cultural explanations of women’s status given their different prescriptions regarding the acquisition and management of property. Examining developing and Muslim majority countries, we find that patriarchal norms, more so than religion, constitute the main barrier to gender equality. Further, we find that core rights like women’s access to education and, to a lesser degree, norms-building by women’s rights groups best explain where women enjoy effective property rights.

Alejandro Bonvecchi and Emilia Simison, Legislative Institutions and Performance in Authoritarian Regimes

The literature on authoritarian regimes assumes legislatures are inconsequential because dictators ultimately retain their hold on power. We challenge this assumption arguing that legislatures embedded in power-sharing arrangements are costly to ignore, their design affects lawmaking patterns, and they are more influential when executives are collective, rather than personal. We test these arguments on a case for which complete records exist: the Legislative Advisory Commission in Argentina’s last military dictatorship. Our findings show that the combination of tripartite power-sharing by the armed forces, a collective executive, shared legislative power, and decentralized agenda power led to higher rates of government legislative defeats and bill amendments than typical in authoritarian regimes. These findings support the theory that legislatures under authoritarianism are more influential when power-sharing arrangements include collective executives.

Michael Ahn Paarlberg, Transnational Militancy: Diaspora Influence over Electoral Activity in Latin America

Politicians in many countries campaign among citizens residing abroad, even though migrants have extremely low rates of participation or, in some cases, no right to vote at all. What benefit, then, does a foreign-residing, non-voting electorate provide parties? Politicians interviewed in Mexico, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic express belief that migrants influence the votes of relatives in their home countries by sending remittances. Using a series of hierarchical models, I test whether this is true, by estimating the effect of having U.S.-residing relatives on a set of seven political activities of Latin American voters. I find migrants do influence their relatives; however, this influence does not affect basic level voter participation, but rather reinforces existing partisan sympathies and motivates activities typical of party militants.

Jeremy Menchik, Review Article, The Constructivist Approach to Religion and World Politics

The new generation of scholarship on religion and world politics is moving beyond the flawed paradigms of the past. The author explains why classic secularization theory is widely doubted before evaluating books that represent the three approaches of the most recent research. The newest entry, the “constructivist” approach, is examined in depth; it draws on social theory and cultural anthropology to better theorize secularism as an analytical category and to explain how (religious) ideas and actors shape major political outcomes. The “revising secularization” approach modifies classic secularization theory. The “religious economies” approach marries rational choice with the economic sociology of religion. The author discusses the strengths and weaknesses of all three approaches while arguing against the search for a grand theory of religion.