Undoing Democracy: The Politics of Electoral Caudillismo

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9780739129357: Undoing Democracy: The Politics of Electoral Caudillismo
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In an effort to understand how and why democratically elected governments evade the limitations that democratic accountability and popular participation place on them, Undoing Democracy examines how democratic rule was undermined in Nicaragua in the 1990's. David Close and Kalowatie Deonandan focus their analysis on the pact struck between the country's two main parties, the Liberals and the Sandinistas, which allowed the passage of the constitutional amendments that weakened Nicaragua's basic political institutions. The authors also consider, in detail, the country's political economy as well as the roles played by civil society, the Catholic Church, and N.G.O.s. Undoing Democracy will sharpen our understanding of democratic transition and consolidation, and will serve as an important contribution to the literature on Nicaragua, Latin American politics, and democratization.

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About the Author:

David Close is professor of political science at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Kalowatie Deonandan is associate professor of political science and director of the International Studies Program of the University of Saskatchewan.

Review:

Free and fair elections do not always lead to greater democratization, as this important and readable collection demonstrates. Although the book focuses on Nicaragua, by extension it shows why increasing numbers of citizens in "Third Wave" democracies have become disillusioned with their political systems. Those who think that democratization is a one-way street should read the powerful evidence collected here; left and right can collaborate to emasculate democracy. (Mitchell A. Seligson, Vanderbilt University)

Undoing Democracy is an articulate and carefully constructed collection of essays on the process of decomposition and reversal to authoritarianism in post-Sandinista Nicaragua. The merit of the collection goes beyond the systematic analysis of the pitfalls of the notion of “democratic transition” in one of the so-called “third wave” democracies. Undoing Democracy offers profound theoretical contributions to an emerging critical strand of comparative analysis, challenging many of the assumptions and ideological fallacies regarding contemporary democracy, liberalism, globalization and democratization in an era of unilateralism. (Jorge Nef, University of South Florida)

This close-up look at democratic decomposition offers a valuable corrective to the simplifying assumptions of an earlier 'transitions to democracy' literature. Comparativists will appreciate the spadework of these knowledgeable country specialists who extract the lessons of Nicaragua's strange odyssey, wherein a revolutionary path to democracy turned into an electoral path to strongman rule. An important cautionary tale of how neoliberal economics and clientelistic habits of the political class derailed incipient democratization. (Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University)

Undoing Democracy, filled with strong contributions from noted Nicaragua experts, provides an invaluable record of the erosion of democracy during the Aleman administration. It reveals how re-emergent caudillo politics and the Liberal-Sandinista pact undermined Nicaragua's democratic substance despite the retention of democratic forms. This is a must-read for anyone interested in Nicaragua and the fate of Third-Wave democracies. (John A. Booth, University of North Texas)

Undoing Democracy is a rare, lucidly written, and coherently edited analysis of post-revolutionary Nicaraguan politics. (Shelley A. McConnell, Senior Associate Director of the Americas Program at The Carter Center)

This important collection of ten articles focused on the administration of Arnoldo Aleman reminds us that there is nothing automatic or unidirectional about the transition to democracy. (Judith Adler Hellman, York University; author of The World of Mexican Migrants)

Even though the empirical examples in Undoing Democracy deal with Nicaragua in the late 1990s, the theoretical insights in this book can be applied and tested in other parts of the world, from fledgling and aspiring democracies (such as Iraq) to older experiments in democratic transition (of which there are many examples). (Latin American Politics and Society)

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