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Power in the Balance

Presidents, Parties, and Legislatures in Peru and Beyond

Barry S. Levitt

Publication Year: 2012

In Power in the Balance: Presidents, Parties, and Legislatures in Peru and Beyond, Barry S. Levitt answers urgent questions about executive power in “new” democracies. He examines in rich detail the case of Peru, from President Alan García’s first term (1985–1990), to the erosion of democracy under President Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000), through the interim government of Valentín Paniagua (2000–2001) and the remarkable, if rocky, renewal of democracy culminating in Alejandro Toledo's 2001–2006 presidency. This turbulent experience with democracy brings into clear focus the functioning of formal political institutions—constitutions and electoral laws, presidents and legislatures, political parties and leaders—while also exposing the informal side of Peru’s national politics over the course of two decades. Levitt's study of politics in Peru also provides a test case for his regional analysis of cross-national differences and change over time in presidential power across eighteen Latin American countries. In Peru and throughout Latin America, Levitt shows, the rule of law itself and the organizational forms of political parties have a stronger impact on legislative-executive relations than do most of the institutional traits and constitutional powers that configure the formal "rules of the game" for high politics. His findings, and their implications for improving the quality of new democracies everywhere, will surprise promoters, practitioners, and scholars of democratic politics alike.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii


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pp. ix-x


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p. xi

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pp. xiii-xv

The list of people who have supported this project since its journey began is extensive, and assembling these acknowledgments has been both humbling and heartwarming for me. It also reminded me that this book on institutions...

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1. Introduction: On Power

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pp. 1-25

Only four blocks separate the main buildings of Peru’s national legislature, the Congreso de la República, from the seat of presidential power, the Palacio de Pizarro. If it were not for the noise and bustle of downtown Lima, these institutions...

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2. Beyond Formal Rules and Institutions: Theorizing Executive and Legislative Powers

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pp. 26-42

Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa.” This maxim is ubiquitous throughout the Ibero-American world, and its meaning goes beyond literal translation. At its most benign, it suggests that “every rule has a loophole.” It also insinuates...

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3. Constitutions and Constitutionalism in Peru,1985–2006

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pp. 43-91

Not the rules themselves, but rather adherence to the rules: that is what Nicolás de Pierola seemed to be lamenting. And ironically, the president’s quip rings true precisely for the commanding heights of state power. Since the promulgation...

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4. Party Organizations and Electoral Movements in Peru, 1985– 2006

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pp. 92-154

In this chapter I analyze the precipitous decline and then modest rise of political party organizations in Peru. Notwithstanding their troubled historical legacy, political parties in Peru showed promise in the 1980s.2 Personalistic, ad hoc electoral movements...

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5. Echo Chamber? The Decline and Rise of Peru’s Legislature,1985– 2006

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pp. 155-207

In earlier chapters, I traced the decline of constitutionalism and the disintegration of political parties in Peru from the 1980s to the 1990s. The net result of these two processes was, as I demonstrate in this chapter, a tremendous concentration...

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6. Institutionalism and Presidential Power in Latin America

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pp. 208-232

What explains the variations in, and fluctuations of, presidential power in Latin American countries? And how should we study formal organizations and institutions in settings that might be characterized as informally or weakly...

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7. Conclusion: On Balance

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pp. 233-254

In the long sweep of its history as a republic, the cadence of Peru’s political “conversation”—the exchanges among elite political actors operating within formal institutions—has not settled into the staid, predictable speech patterns...

Data Appendix

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pp. 255-258


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pp. 259-278


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pp. 279-308

Interviews Conducted by the Author

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pp. 309-313


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pp. 314-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780268085797
E-ISBN-10: 026808579X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268034139
Print-ISBN-10: 0268034133

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 797816805
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Power in the Balance

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Political parties -- Latin America.
  • Legislative power -- Latin America.
  • Executive power -- Latin America.
  • Executive power -- Peru.
  • Legislative power -- Peru.
  • Political parties -- Peru.
  • Latin America -- Politics and government -- 1980-.
  • Peru -- Politics and government -- 1980-.
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