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Failed presidencies and social protest in the context of Bolivian politics: Empirical evidence
Unformatted Document Text:  Over the last 25 years, there were at least 15 Latin American presidents who were forced to resign from office or otherwise removed from power (Valenzuela, 2004). This phenomenon, denominated failed presidencies, has been noticeably accompanied by another phenomenon of social character, social protest. In the Bolivian political context, these two phenomena have been particularly connected. Every president since the re-democratization of the country in 1982 has had to deal with various levels in intensity of social protest. In fact, high intensity social protest has played a particular role on the failure of three presidents in Bolivia. The ensuing debate over failed presidencies in particular is just starting to develop. In an effort to explain the different factors affecting failed presidencies, Marsteintredet and Alvarez (2007) have looked at economic and institutional factors. They found that these don’t explain failed presidencies (nor crises) fully. At best, some diffuse relationship can be drawn. They suggest, however, to explore these relationship with case studies. Mustapic (2006) explores the role of Congress on the presidential resignations. She argues that support from Congress has an important role when it comes to presidents stepping down. However, a larger debate on the failures of the presidential system of government has been going on for several decades. Arturo Valenzuela (2004) and others have seen the problem emerging from the failures of the presidential system. Based on Linz’s classic critiques, Velenzuela agrees that the presidential system is conflict-prone and too rigid to deal with such conflict. That rigidity, in the end, contributes to presidential crises and those crises result in failed presidents. Valenzuela, however, has observed that many of the failed presidents have been affected by social protests. This observation is in line with what Hochstetler (2006) has argued later. For her, the Latin American presidents who have been challenged on the streets have tended to follow neoliberal policies, have had minority governments and have been involved in some kind of scandal involving corruption. From these challenged presidents, those who failed experienced high levels of social protest. The question remaining therefore is, why is this happening? What factors intervene for a legitimately elected president to finish his presidency prematurely? The literature has been keen on confronting these inquiries and therefore advancing some theoretical propositions. This article aims at empirically testing one of these propositions: High levels of social protest greatly contribute to the pressures a president feels to finish his term ahead of schedule. To achieve this, I intend to compare, using the most different system design logic, all Bolivian 2

Authors: Buitrago, Miguel.
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Over the last 25 years, there were at least 15 Latin American presidents who were forced to
resign from office or otherwise removed from power (Valenzuela, 2004). This phenomenon,
denominated failed presidencies, has been noticeably accompanied by another phenomenon of
social character, social protest. In the Bolivian political context, these two phenomena have
been particularly connected. Every president since the re-democratization of the country in
1982 has had to deal with various levels in intensity of social protest. In fact, high intensity
social protest has played a particular role on the failure of three presidents in Bolivia.
The ensuing debate over failed presidencies in particular is just starting to develop. In an
effort to explain the different factors affecting failed presidencies, Marsteintredet and Alvarez
(2007) have looked at economic and institutional factors. They found that these don’t explain
failed presidencies (nor crises) fully. At best, some diffuse relationship can be drawn. They
suggest, however, to explore these relationship with case studies. Mustapic (2006) explores
the role of Congress on the presidential resignations. She argues that support from Congress
has an important role when it comes to presidents stepping down. However, a larger debate on
the failures of the presidential system of government has been going on for several decades.
Arturo Valenzuela (2004) and others have seen the problem emerging from the failures of the
presidential system. Based on Linz’s classic critiques, Velenzuela agrees that the presidential
system is conflict-prone and too rigid to deal with such conflict. That rigidity, in the end,
contributes to presidential crises and those crises result in failed presidents. Valenzuela,
however, has observed that many of the failed presidents have been affected by social
protests. This observation is in line with what Hochstetler (2006) has argued later. For her, the
Latin American presidents who have been challenged on the streets have tended to follow
neoliberal policies, have had minority governments and have been involved in some kind of
scandal involving corruption. From these challenged presidents, those who failed experienced
high levels of social protest.
The question remaining therefore is, why is this happening? What factors intervene for a
legitimately elected president to finish his presidency prematurely? The literature has been
keen on confronting these inquiries and therefore advancing some theoretical propositions.
This article aims at empirically testing one of these propositions: High levels of social protest
greatly contribute to the pressures a president feels to finish his term ahead of schedule. To
achieve this, I intend to compare, using the most different system design logic, all Bolivian
2


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