The unintended [or intended?] political consequences of electoral systems: The case of Bolivia

Betilde V Munoz, Florida International University


The present study was concerned with evaluating one basic institution in Bolivian democracy: its electoral system. The study evaluates the impact of electoral systems on the interaction between presidents and assemblies. It sought to determine whether it is possible to have electoral systems that favor multipartism but can also moderate the likelihood of executive-legislative confrontation by producing the necessary conditions for coalition building. This dissertation utilized the case study method as a methodology. Using the case of Bolivia, the research project studied the variations in executive-legislative relations and political outcomes from 1985 to the present through a model of executive-legislative relations that provided a typology of presidents and assemblies based on the strategies available to them to bargain with each other for support. A complementary model that evaluated the state of their inter-institutional interaction was also employed. Results indicated that executive-legislative relations are profoundly influenced by the choice of the electoral system. Similarly, the project showed that although the Bolivian mixed system for legislative elections, and executive formula favor multipartism, these electoral systems do not necessarily engender executive-legislative confrontation in Bolivia. This was mainly due to the congressional election of the president, and the formulas utilized to translate the popular vote into legislative seats. However, the study found that the electoral system has also allowed for anti-systemic forces to emerge and gain political space both within and outside of political institutions. The study found that government coalitions in Bolivia that are promoted by the system of congressional election of the president and the D'Hondt system to allocate legislative seats have helped ameliorate one of the typical problems of presidential systems in Latin America: the presence of a minority government that is blocked in its capacity to govern. This study was limited to evaluating the impact of the electoral system, as the independent variable, on executive-legislative interaction. However, the project revealed a need for more theoretical and empirical work on executive-legislative bargaining models in order to understand how institutional reforms can have an impact on the incentives of presidents and legislators to form coherent coalitions.

Subject Area

Political science

Recommended Citation

Munoz, Betilde V, "The unintended [or intended?] political consequences of electoral systems: The case of Bolivia" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3190958.