Abstract

In response to the growing salience of re-centralization in several Latin American countries that decentralized in the 1980s and 1990s, this paper examines presidential efforts to re-centralize fiscal power in the 1990s. In our study of re-centralization in Argentina and Brazil, we assess the utility of four common political economy explanations: the presence of economic crisis; the partisan powers of the president; the division of formal powers between the branches; and the extent of intra-bureaucratic conflict. We find that the success of economic stabilization measures facilitated re-centralization in both countries, though the pathways connecting the two phenomena were partially distinct. In Argentina, key re-centralization measures were rapidly achieved after stabilization as the result of the president's strong partisan powers and in the form of political deals within the Peronist party. Subsequently, the dissipation of President Carlos Menem's powers over the course of his second term facilitated the "return of the governors." In Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso re-centralized despite weak partisan powers, largely by using his reputation as a successful stabilizer to build a broad reform coalition. In Cardoso's Brazil, strong partisan cohesion in important cabinet posts also served as a partial substitute for the lack of partisan power in the legislature. These findings suggest the need for a closer examination of re-centralization efforts, particularly in the wake of macroeconomic stabilization and economic reform.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4278
Print ISSN
0023-8791
Pages
pp. 90-122
Launched on MUSE
2004-02-13
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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