3039 - Career Paths, Incentive Structures, and Quality of Paraguayan Politicians

What accounts for the perceived “low quality” of democracy in many Latin American countries? Although elections are held usually on schedule and the quality of electoral procedures, while variable, are generally sound, the long-term commitment to democratic rules of the game seems in many cases conditional, the ability of government to address fundamental problems is limited, and access to the channels of influence are limited and/or the focus of intense and occasionally violent struggle.

Paraguay is a case in point. In spite of the maintenance of constitutional order since 1993, there is much evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with the current arrangement of formal institutional power. Public opinion data collected by the Latin American Public Opinion Project show that Paraguayans report among the lowest levels of satisfaction with and support for democracy in Latin America. Data collected by the Observatorio de Elites Parliamentarias de América Latina show Paraguayan legislators often share the dim perception of politics held by the population, but have a stronger commitment to democratic values. However, various actors both inside and outside of government are in position to block any reform effort. Thus Paraguay has an apparently stable political system that satisfies few and produces little positive policy output.

To what degree is Paraguay’s “low quality” democracy attributable to the “quality” of its political class? This paper addresses this question through the study of career paths based on a database I maintain tracking the political careers of Paraguayan politicians in municipal, departmental, and national elected positions. The database allows for empirical observations about the relationship between Paraguay’s political incentive structures, candidate recruitment patterns, and the degree of professionalization of the political class.

Keywords: Paraguay, career paths, public opinion, democracy

Author: Turner, Brian (Randolph-Macon College, Ud States of Am / USA)


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