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Bottom-Up Challenges to National Democracy: Mexico's (Legal) Subnational Authoritarian Enclaves

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How have Mexico's community-based democratic institutions, known as Usos y Costumbres (UyC) or Uses and Customs systems, affected local and national politics? Although informal UyC practices exist throughout Mexico, the state of Oaxaca formally changed its electoral codes in 1995 to legalize UyC. Statistical analysis of national election results shows that Oaxacan municipalities that formally adopted UyC systems thereafter experienced higher first-place party margins and higher levels of abstention compared to non-UyC systems. That these systems helped local leaders engineer election outcomes while reducing participation, even in national elections, undermines arguments about their democratic benefits. UyC rules appear to help preserve local authoritarian enclaves, with negative consequences for national democracy.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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