”We are equal, we are different”: A social movements’ approach to the emergence of indigenous parties in Bolivia and Peru
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This thesis discusses the emergence of ethnic, or indigenous, parties in Bolivia and Peru. More specifically, it seeks to explain why Bolivia has seen the emergence of indigenous-based political parties at the national level, while similar parties have so far only been successful at the local and regional levels in neighbouring Peru. The two cases share a number of attributes – most notably, both countries are Andean and they have large indigenous populations – but, significantly, differ on the dependent variable, emergence of indigenous parties. Using social movement theory and theory linking parties and social movements, this thesis tries to unite three differing focuses, or approaches, to explain the variation on the dependent variable. First, the “framing processes” approach focuses on the symbolic aspects of collective action, and development of indigenous-based discourses and their relations with other discourses, most relevantly here, the anti-neoliberal discourse. Second, the “mobilising structures” approach focuses more specifically on the organisational infrastructure of indigenous movements, while third, the “political opportunity” approach focuses on how political and institutional factors external to the social movements may encourage, or hinder, the development of indigenous parties. With this theoretical starting point, the thesis develops a model adapted to the Latin American context to explain the emergence of indigenous parties. The main variables that best explain the different development in the two cases are the following: First, in Bolivia, the ethnic discourse has prevailed within the indigenous movement, while, in Peru, the class-based discourse has been dominant. Second, the connection between indigenous and anti-neoliberal discourse has been highly successful in Bolivia implying the broadening of affiliates of the indigenous organisations as well as the broadening of the electorate for indigenous parties. Third, the higher territorial concentration of indigenous peoples in Bolivia, the fostering of a strong indigenous identity, and the ability of Bolivian indigenous movements to create alliances both with other indigenous organisations as well as with urban movements meant that it was easier for indigenous-based parties to succeed in Bolivia. In Peru, the large distances, the weakening of indigenous identities due to migration and assimilation, and the Peruvian movements’ failure to create lasting alliances, meant that it was less likely to see the development of indigenous parties. Fourth, organising and mobilising was made much more difficult in the Peruvian case due to the combined pressures of the Shining Path guerrilla movement and subsequent repression from the state’s military apparatus. Additionally, the softer party registration requirements in Bolivia as well as a successful and a significant decentralisation reform were important for the possibilities of new parties to emerge, making the formation and success of indigenous parties more likely.
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