How Populism Corrodes Latin American Parties

Issue Date October 2021
Volume 32
Issue 4
Page Numbers 42–55
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One of the main ways in which populism damages democracy is through the corrosion of political-party systems, a phenomenon that has been especially pronounced in contemporary Latin America. Populism’s core, namely charismatic leadership, is to blame: Overbearing personalistic leaders avoid hemming in their own autonomy and predominance by keeping their electoral movements organizationally fluid and weak. And because opposing populism entails confronting a charismatic leader rather than a clear programmatic project, the opposition itself remains diverse and heterogeneous and thus fails to unify and form a political party. Latin America’s fragmented social structure, high economic volatility, and frequent corruption scandals exacerbate these corrosive tendencies.

About the Author

Kurt Weyland is professor of government at the University of Texas–Austin. His most recent book is Assault on Democracy: Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism During the Interwar Years (2021).

View all work by Kurt Weyland