The Company You Keep: Centrists, Party Alliances, and Democratic Breakdown in Latin America and Southern Europe
The book investigates patterns of alliance between political parties at the center and at the far-right of the ideological spectrum. In some instances these alliances have paved the way for far-right forces to take power, with detrimental consequences for democratic stability. When and why have centrist liberal parties allied with far-right forces in history? The book argues that what guides centrist parties’ decisions regarding political alliances is the concern with implementing an economic agenda that protects the interests of their core constituents, i.e. economic and business elites. When worsening economic conditions undercut centrist parties’ electoral appeal, the interests of economic and business elites come under threat as they lose representation in the political arena. Under these conditions, centrists are more likely to form an alliance with far-right forces – in the form of electoral, policymaking, and technical support – as a measure of last resort to protect the material interests of their core constituents. This “shift to the right” is more prominent, I argue, if an electorally viable left-wing bloc has formed, and thus the threat that centrist retrenchment poses to the material interests of economic elites is stronger. To test my argument, I conduct a comparative historical analysis of past and contemporary cases: 1920s Italy, 1970s Chile, and contemporary Brazil and Bolivia. The book seeks to contribute to enhancing our understanding of the political economy and party dynamics that lead to democratic breakdown.