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No model of voting choices in any national context would be complete without taking into account citizen evaluations of government performance. Since the last round of elections, have officeholders presided over a growing economy? Is the crime rate falling, and is there less fear of being victimized? In general, has the country been going on the right or wrong track? Such assessments are ubiquitous in academic survey instruments because they are thought to correlate closely with electoral preferences. Of course, many other factors contribute to the voting calculus, and the effects of government performance judgments have been found to vary considerably across countries or across subpopulations within countries (see, e.g., Alcañiz and Hellwig 2011; Anderson 2007; Duch 2001; Fiorina 1981; Gomez and Wilson 2006). Nevertheless, as Lewis-Beck and Stegmaier (2007) note in their review of the scholarly literature on retrospective voting, it is beyond question that when times are good in a democracy, incumbent parties tend to be returned to office following an election. In bad times, they are liable to be cast out. This verdict has undeniable normative appeal . When times are tough, incumbent parties should be on the defensive. In this chapter, I consider a dimension of performance evaluation that has not received nearly as much scrutiny but could be relevant for voters in newer democracies with some partisan carryover from the pretransition period. Many transitions to democracy involve a clean break with the past, with a ruling party or authoritarian figure being completely discredited, removed, and replaced with a fresh partisan configuration. But in a number of other instances, one of the candidates or parties competing for votes has an actual or symbolic connection to the former hegemonic party or ruling clique; this has been a common experience in former Communist Europe but also in countries as 4 Time to Turn Back the Clock? Retrospective Judgments of the Single-Party Era and Support for the Institutional Revolutionary Party in 2012 JAMES A. McCANN Time to Turn Back the Clock? 87 diverse in their posttransition circumstances as Chile, South Korea, and Taiwan . In these cases, comparisons between two different forms of governing arrangements or regimes may become salient for voters. In addition to asking whether the country has become better or worse off under the incumbent administration—the conventional retrospective performance judgment— citizens might also consider whether times were better or worse in an earlier era, before the move to competitive multiparty politics. In the recent past, when power was not dispersed across different branches of government or divided among rival parties, was the country in better shape? Was the economy better managed? Was there more opportunity? More stability, less social unrest , and more unity of purpose? The grave economic challenges that many democracies faced during and following the 2008–9 global recession could make “pretransition/posttransition” comparisons of this sort particularly accessible . Even without referring directly to governing accomplishments in the pretransition period, the candidate with links to the former ruling party or clique could appeal to voters who believe that trying times call for bolder and better orchestrated leadership reminiscent of that earlier era. This form of retrospective voting may imply a troubling loss of faith in basic democratic principles among citizens, and might serve as a harbinger of a return to single-party rule. Without widespread support in both good times and bad, a system of multiparty pluralist representation premised on the checking and balancing of competing interests cannot last long (Dahl 1956, 132–33; Taylor-Robinson and Ura 2013). It does not necessarily follow, however , that voters who perceive flaws in the fledgling multiparty policy-making environment and support a candidate with ties to the pretransition system will also wish to turn back the clock, which would surely be a radical step. Such a voting choice could instead stem from a belief that officials should act in a more efficient and coordinated—but still publicly accountable—way to solve major national problems, or from simple feelings of nostalgia for a bygone political era, rather than a wish to revive an authoritarian state.1 I examine these themes in the context of the 2012 elections in Mexico, a time when the transition to competitive multiparty democracy would still have been fresh in the minds of adult voters. During the campaign, Enrique Peña Nieto, the presidential nominee of the former ruling party, took an early lead over his main rivals, Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN) and Andr...


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MARC Record
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