Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Political Party Fragmentation: A Pejorative Term?

By Ludovico Feoli

At a recent workshop a group of scholars analyzing the post-electoral state of a particular party system expressed concern about utilizing the term â’‘¬Å“party fragmentation.â’‘¬Â Typically employed to describe an increase in the effective number of political parties represented in a legislature, it conveys, according to these scholars, a negative connotationâ’‘¬‘€a partition into â’‘¬Å“fragmentsâ’‘¬Â, a certain brittleness. This claim holds that the term stems from a traditional preference for majoritarian institutions, which are more decisive, over more plural ones. Instead, these critics assert, plural representation is the very basis of democracy and an increase in the number of parties reflects the direct inclusion of more social sectors. To them, this does not represent “fragmentation” but a move towards a better form of democracy, a â’‘¬Å“consensual democracyâ’‘¬Â.

How valid are these claims? Can greater pluralismâ’‘¬‘€expressed in a greater number of partiesâ’‘¬‘€be equated with greater democratic quality?

If we value â’‘¬Å“survivabilityâ’‘¬Â of the regime we must ponder the effect that the number of parties has on political stability. For if the proliferation of parties affects regime stability, opening the possibility of its degeneration into a non-democratic state, or a state of anarchy, what does this tell us about the virtues of increasing the number of parties? Would it not be right to consider this a â’‘¬Å“fragmentationâ’‘¬Â?

Linz reminds us that, in presidential regimes, extreme multiparty systems exacerbate conflict between the executive and the legislature, which in the absence of an institutional â’‘¬Å“escape valveâ’‘¬Â can lead to a breakdown, given the fixed nature of presidential terms. Extreme multiparty systems can also worsen polarization, diminishing the effectiveness of democratic government and leading to an opposition that encourages â’‘¬Å“irresponsibility and the politics of outbidding, culminating in the collapse of the center of the political spectrumâ’‘¬Â (Coppedge 2012, 96). Fixing the point of inflection at which the number of parties becomes â’‘¬Å“extremeâ’‘¬Â is difficult, and there are other factors that interact to determine the fate of a regime. But these are tendencies that can be plausibly posited to be likely as the number of parties increases.

From Arrowâ’‘¬’“¢s theorem we know that there is a tradeoff between social rationalityâ’‘¬‘€understood as the ability to reach collective decisions that are coherentâ’‘¬‘€and the concentration of power. When actors are many and their preferences heterogeneous, the probability of reaching collective decisions diminishes. Institutional rules that foster the aggregation of interests have the virtue of working against this tendency. They are not counter to pluralism, understood as diversity, as all groups can be represented. As Pitkin holds, representing means acting in the interest of the represented, in a manner responsive to them, and democratic mechanisms enable that this happens accountably. On the other hand, institutional rules that foster the disaggregation of interests must account for the difficulties they entail in terms of collective action.

To the degree that an increase in â’‘¬Å“veto pointsâ’‘¬Â favors gridlock, the resulting stasis has implications for the quality of democracy. The inability of a regime to adequately respond to and satisfy the needs of its constituents erodes its legitimacy and, ultimately, its popular support. The resulting sense of malaise can lead to perceptions of government unfairness and erode the public trust. Under these circumstances, citizens may be more willing to dispense with democratic institutions when a messianic savior, or the military, offer deliverance through direct intercession.

So, while the notion of increased pluralism and government by consensus are intuitively appealing, they do harbor dangers for democracy. These dangers, as we have seen, relate to the stability and quality of democratic regimes. But, more fundamentally, the notion of consensus is dangerous in itself because it is indeterminate. What exactly do we mean by consensus? How is it reached?

Conceptually, these dangers increase with the number of political parties, which is why an increase in their number is not necessarily an unqualified good, and it is proper to refer to the phenomenon as fragmentation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ludovico Feoli

    Permanent Researcher and CEO, CIAPA, Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University

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Teach Central America: Exploring Garifuna Culture

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Sign up by Friday, September 24 to get a copy of the up and coming book Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed which explores the Latinx diaspora.

In honor of Teach Central America Week (October 4 – 10, 2021), Tulane University presents in collaboration with Vanderbilt University and the University of Georgia an educator workshop exploring the diversity of Central America. Over the course of three years, we have produced annual summer teacher institutes to enhance the teaching of Central America at the K-16 level. We are excited to continue the professional development series by providing this online panel open to K-16 educators of any subject area.

There are currently over 600,000 Garifuna around the world. Central America has the highest population; 100,000 in Honduras and 8,000 in Nicaragua, which was one of the last settlements in 1912. Guatemala has a small, isolated population which has retained much of the original culture. The United States has the second highest population, with about 100,000 residing in New York City. There are also populations in Chicago, Louisiana, and California. The number in the US increases every year as more people leave Central America. The Carib populations in Central America have almost entirely vanished, so the Garifuna are now considered the last descendants of the Amer-Indian tribes in South America.

Join us Thursday, October 7th for a discussion with three Garifuna writers/artists leading a discussion on Garifuna culture and identity through performance, writing, food and more. Join the conversation to explore new resources and perspectives to incorporate into your teaching on Central America. Participants in this program will explore Garifuna identity through the work of the three writers and cultural scholars. Janel Martinez, Saraciea Fennell and Isha Sumner. Participants will receive a copy of the up and coming WILD TONGUES CAN’T BE TAMED on a first come, first serve basis. Sign up by Friday, September 24 to guarantee your copy. REGISTER HERE

Janel Martinez is a writer and the founder of the award-winning blog, Ain’t I Latina? an online destination celebrating Afro-Latinx womanhood. The Bronx, NY native is a frequent public speaker discussing media, culture and identity, as well as diversity at conferences and events for Bloomberg, NBCU, SXSW, Harvard University and more. She’s appeared as a featured guest on national shows and outlets, such as BuzzFeed, ESSENCE, NPR and Sirius XM, and her work has appeared in Adweek, Univision Communications, Oprah Magazine, Remezcla and The New York Times. The Honduran-American has been nominated for the 20th Annual Rosoff Award in the 20-Something Category and won the Afro-Latino Festival of New York’s Digital Empowerment Award and, in 2018, was recognized at City Hall by the New York City Council, the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and the Bronx Delegation to the NYC Council for her contributions as a woman of Garifuna descent. Her work will be included in the forthcoming YA anthology, WILD TONGUES CAN’T BE TAMED, which will be published in November 2021 by Flatiron Books.

Isha Sumner immigrated to the US at the age of 15, the foundation of her Garifuna ethnicity and culture remains central to her identity and sharing that has been a major part of her life for the past 25 years. As a professional Garifuna dancer, Isha was a member of the International Folkloric Garifuna Ballet of Honduras, which toured throughout Honduras & Europe in the early 1990s. From 1995-2000, she was a member of Wanichagu, a Garifuna dance company based in NYC, and performed at the likes of Lincoln Center and Harvard University. Isha’s passion to perform onstage transitioned to more formal acting and included a featured appearance speaking Garifuna in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit in 2007. In 2016 she completed her Associate‘€™s Degree in acting at William Esper School in Manhattan. With a continued passion to share and preserve her own Garifuna culture, Isha has dedicated much of the past 5 years to documenting Garifuna cuisine in Weiga, Let’s Eat.

Saraceia Fennell is a Brooklyn born Black, Honduran writer from the Bronx and the founder of The Bronx is Reading, and Honduran Garifuna Writers and Friends. She is also a publicist who has worked with many award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors. Fennell is board chair of Latinx in Publishing, and on the Advisory Board for People of Color in Publishing. Her forthcoming anthology WILD TONGUES CAN’T BE TAMED will be published by Flatiron Books in November 2021. For more information visit SaracieaFennell.com and follow her on social @sj_fennell.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latinx Studies at Vanderbilt University.

Sign up by Friday, September 24 to get a copy of their latest book Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed.

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Kaqchikel Language Table

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Join Kaqchikel learners and speakers at all levels to practice your language skills at this bi-monthly conversation table. Hosted by expert instructor Mtro. Gonzalo Ticun (aka Sotz Aq’ab’al), the Oct. 8 session will focus on the creatures that share our homes and lives. Bring your favorite animal friend to join the discussion.

Link to join: https://tulane.zoom.us/j/93988469399?pwd=bkk3eDIzOEhQVjVEV1ZxTHFDTnJvQT09

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kansas.

Americas Award 2021 Online Celebration

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CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinx in the United States, and to provide teachers with recommendations for classroom use. CLASP offers up to two annual book awards, together with a commended list of titles.

Américas Award 2021 Fall Program:
Celebration of Children’s and YA Latin American and Latinx Literature with the Library of Congress
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Monday, October 11, 2021
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Join the Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress and the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) in a virtual celebration of children’s and YA Latin American and Latinx literature. Hear from authors and illustrators amplifying stories and voices from across Latin American and Latinx communities. We invite families, educators, and students to take part in this unique celebration during Hispanic Heritage Month.

This live virtual program will feature award-winning authors Angela Burke Kunkel (Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built), Aida Salazar (Land of the Cranes), and Yamile Saied Méndez (Furia).

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Kaqchikel Language Table

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Join Kaqchikel learners and speakers at all levels to practice your language skills at this bi-monthly conversation table. Participants in the Oct. 28 session will get the chance to read the short story “Ri töp chuqa’ ri kär”/“The Crab and the Fish” alongside its author, Mtra. Magda Sotz (aka Ixkamey).

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Kaqchikel Language Table

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Join Kaqchikel learners and speakers at all levels to practice your language skills at this bi-monthly conversation table. Nov. 12 is game day with Mtro. Edy Rene Guaján (aka Lajuj B’atz’)! Come prepared to play along and laugh.

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Kaqchikel Language Table

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Join Kaqchikel learners and speakers at all levels to practice your language skills at this bi-monthly conversation table. It’s the holiday season on Dec. 2. Join Mtro. Marco Antonio Guaján (aka Mokchewan) to compare your favorite holiday celebrations.

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This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kansas.