PhD Title

Latin Americas Left: El factor Indígena. Examining the relationship between Indigenous Social Movements and the electoral success of extreme leftist parties in Latin America


In Latin America, research has shown that indigenous people often vote left. In some cases, when given the choice they are likely to vote for the more extreme left. This research hypothesises that given the distrust, disillusionment and disengagement amongst indigenous people towards institutionalised politics, it is difficult to accept that this is a two player game (the voter and the institutionalised party). Rather, a third player, a broker or an intermediary is required to establish a relationship between the voter and the party. This third player is the non-institutional social movement. Specifically, an indigenous social movement is hypothesised to act as the intermediary between the extreme leftist party and indigenous voter. In this case, the movement legitimises the party to the voter by working alongside it in a series of political alliances which include non-institutional such as protest activity, candidate endorsements and social awareness activities as well as more institutional alliances such as party composition. It is a contention of this research however, that informal and non-institutional alliances are more prevalent. It is also the contention of this research that the parties with whom these movements work are most likely to be more extreme leftist parties. The reasoning here is that these parties are more ideologically congruent with indigenous social movements and their political goals such as land reform, redistribution of wealth, bi-lingual education and plurinational constitutions. The more centrist varieties of the left often do not focus as intensively on these issues. Moreover, the centre left is likely to be more concerned with centrist issues and policies in order to obtain a more catch-all vote. Essentially, the centre left is not concerned with the indigenous vote or indigenous issues, and their policies reflect this, thus they are less appealing to the indigenous voter. This leads to the centre hypothesis of this research, that the indigenous social movements played a role in the electoral success of the extreme left. In this case the electoral success of the extreme left is conceptualised as success at the sub-national and national level. Consequently, this research can situate itself into the field of sub-national politics, a burgeoning field in Latin American politics. Ultimately, the goal of the research is to illustrate that movements matter. In particular, indigenous social movements mattered in the electoral success of extreme leftists parties at the turn of the century in Latin America.

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