Insurgent Successor Parties in El Salvador and Colombia: Explaining Diverging Outcomes in Party-building

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Insurgent successor parties in El Salvador and Colombia: explaining diverging outcomes in party-building

-Research Design Proposal-

1. Introduction: A puzzling question


What explains why some rebel groups build successful parties after negotiated conflict terminations whereas others fail to do so? Although over the last three decades there has been a significant interest in the transformation of rebel groups into political parties, this branch of research in political science is still young, thematically ambiguous[1] and geographically over-represented[2] by transformations that followed a rebel victory (Mampilly 2011).

A different approach to rebel-to-party transformation -beyond the scope of military victory- has focused primarily on whether, in the context of peace negotiations, former rebels decide to adapt to the electoral democratic game, evade it, or just exit the political arena (Lyons 2005). However, this approach focuses on the dynamics of party-formation and largely ignores party-building; why and how some new parties establish themselves as enduring contenders while others soon vanish. Thus, most theories either offer non-exhaustive large-N accounts of the features of the party system and their impact on insurgent successor parties (Manning 1998; Weinstein 2007; Boas and Dunn 2007; Kumer and De Zeeuw 2008; Weinberg and Pedahzur 2003) or evaluate the eventual benefits for durable peace of rebel involvement in politics after conflict (Lyons 2005).

Nonetheless, as John Ishiyama points out (2016), insurgent successor parties are yet not well understood and most importantly, there are significant lacunae on how these groups develop and function in politics. Furthermore, the available studies on party-building have been conducted on eastern-European cases and the United States[3]. The scarce research conducted within the Latin American region tends to concentrate only on the case of El Salvador as a paradigm of successful political transformation, and ignore the fate and nature of other insurgent successor parties.

Certainly, the FMLN, a leftist party founded by guerrillas in 1994, was able, following a civil conflict that killed 75.000 people, to turn from the very beginning into the main national opposition party and to continue competing as such in the current democratic regime. However, there is little comparative research involving other cases that could explain why such political parties such as the FMLN, took root while others just collapsed. For example, the M-19 guerrilla in Colombia, was actually one of the first guerrillas in the continent to discuss its subsequent transformation into a political party -AD M-19-. Yet, after its party formation and achieving a brief electoral success that made it possible for the party to be a main actor of the constitutional reform in 1991[4]; it vanished as a political contender.

The contrast between these parties suggests that there is a significant variation in the viability of insurgent successor parties after their formation. The study of this variation is needed to understand post-conflict party-building processes and to identify why out of the 127 militant groups operating in Latin America between 1980 and 2010, fifteen attempted to form political parties but only two of them –FMLN in El Salvador and FSLN in Nicaragua- succeeded in becoming consolidated as enduring contenders (Metanock 2014; Holland 2016).

Accordingly, this research aims to contribute to the current understanding of this issue by posing the following research question: what explains variation in party-building outcomes of insurgent successor parties -M-19 and FMLN- after negotiated conflict termination in Colombia and El Salvador?

In terms of the relevance of the topic, examining the outcomes of insurgent successor parties in Latin American post-conflict scenarios is important for theory building on political parties and also on processes of war termination and democratization. With regard to the stability and quality of democracy, political parties are basic lenses through which it is possible to assess democratic performance. In fact, as Levitsky, Loxton and Van Dyck stress, where parties are weak democratic regimes are more likely to face problems of governability and institutional crisis, whereas systems with strong parties tend to show a higher stability (2016, 2).

Interestingly, it is paradoxical that since the onset of the third wave of democratization, political parties remain weak in Latin America and most of the new parties, such as AD M-19, have collapsed after a short-term electoral success. According to Levitsky et al, only eleven (4%) of the 307 new parties that emerged in Latin America between January of 1978 and December of 2005, were successful and able to survive in the long-term (2016: 6-7;24)[5]. Research into the causal factors of variation in party-building outcomes is, therefore, vital for an understanding of democracy and party system in Latin America.

In addition, a growing body of literature that seeks to assess the relationship between democracy, party-building and violence has recently noted that party-building in Latin America is strongly affected by whether new parties emerge from contexts of conflict or not.

Some argue that extraordinary contexts of conflict or of strong opposition to authoritarian rule could also be understood as a permissive condition of successful party-building in Latin America (Levitsky et al 2016, 20). Certainly, in many countries around the world party-formation and elections have been designated by peace accords as the mechanism for facilitating the transition to democracy, on the assumption that this inclusion is vital for both democratization and peace. Conversely, the functioning of parties in Latin America shows them as still profoundly affected by the period of civil war. The war-time origins of the FMLN in El Salvador and the M-19 in Colombia, for example, left a deep imprint on their organizational structure and style of leadership, just as war-time political exclusion set the tone for party competition after the war.

2. Literature and hypotheses

Among the few hypotheses that somehow analyze party-building[6] of insurgent successor parties, we can distinguish seven main strains. As some of these hypotheses apply to any kind of new political party, it is important to distinguish them from those only valid for insurgent successor parties and in some cases, to establish how scholars have used them without distinction to study also insurgent successor parties.

In terms of the party-building variables that apply for any new political party some scholars emphasize the ex ante institutional features of the electoral systems. For them, it is crucial to know whether there was enough previous flexibility in a country’s electoral system to provide political space and incentives for electoral competition. This explanation relies on the fact that the type of electoral system, whether closed- or open-list proportional representation; with alternative vote or another form; shapes the options and limitations that new parties encounter in acceding to electoral politics. Allegedly, the more flexible and open an electoral design is, the higher the likelihood of new parties consolidating as strong political contenders over time.

In line with this hypothesis, some scholars have applied this explanation to insurgent successor parties from the perspective of peace-building processes (Duverger 1954; Lijphart 1994; Donovan 1995; Norris 1997; Ishiyama 2011). They argue that ex-combatant political groups are more likely to develop and sustain their activities successfully in time if, during peace negotiations, involved actors were able to include legal and constitutional provisions to make the electoral system more flexible (Reilly 2006). In fact, this view assumes the end of hostilities as a result of a negotiated peace that relies on institutional reforms – such as reserved seats at the legislative or executive power – to allow for and favour new parties entering into the electoral game after conflict termination (Manning 2004; De Zeeuw 2008).

For some authors this could be seen as a very important background condition for the cases of FMLN and AD M-19. In fact, in El Salvador in 1994, ARENA was the only right-wing party in the electoral sphere and there was no legal left-party competing for elections. Therefore, from an institutional perspective, there was space available for the emergence of a new party such as the FMNL and incentives to join it and to oppose ARENA as the hegemonic political force. In Colombia, on the other hand, the predominance of the two traditional parties – liberal and conservative – was uncontested for more than 100 years and therefore, the space available for new parties to emerge was extremely limited. In fact, the constitutional reform of 1991, that made the electoral system more flexible, has not necessarily changed the political spectrum of the parties. Most of the new parties in Colombia emerge as factions of the two traditional parties.

Nevertheless, an immediate criticism of this hypothesis is that although it provides useful insights into how parties organize and how politicians operate in relation to post-conflict political reforms, it does not explain what enables political parties to take root or collapse. In fact, electoral rules may shape incentives for rebel-to-party transformation, but they do not drive partisan attachments or activist networks that are vital for party-building processes (Levitsky et al 2016; 9-10).

From another perspective, some scholars have studied the process by which any political party decides who will be on the ballot paper as its representative. They have also analyzed the challenges to party systems in terms of the selection of candidates as being a crucial process for good electoral performance and party consolidation. Any new political party must have as a paramount goal in selecting a candidate that appeals to electoral majorities making it possible for constituencies to identify themselves with the party. This implies not only that systemic factors such as social cleavages and patronage should be taken into account, but also that any potential conflict between members of a party for the nomination have to be resolved within the party and cannot be settled during the electoral competition (Ranney 1981; Gallagner and Marsh 1988; Evans and Whitefield 1993; Dutta et al 2001).

In this light, some authors have applied the candidate selection criteria to insurgent successor parties. For them, the ability to choose fresh candidates as well as implementing new relationships between guerrilla’s leaders and political representatives drives good electoral results. A fresh candidate, without any connection with the armed struggle, might show readiness and adaptation to compete in the electoral arena. By choosing this type of candidate, rebels are able to present a new image of the movement and motivate new relations with civil society. In doing so, they could increase the likelihood of successful electoral mobilization (De Zeeuw 2008; 2009; Dudouet 2008; 2012; Lyons 2016).

For others, however, this explanation ignores that among insurgent successor parties, to choose a fresh candidate without any relationship with the conflict could also be detrimental. In doing so, insurgent successor parties risk internal fragmentation as fighters could interpret the selection of an outsider as an act of treason against the original cause of war and cohesion (Ishiyama and Smith 2016)[7].

Other authors have argued that in general, new political parties with various sources of campaign funding do better than those with scarce financial resources. In this view, parties with either strong public resources to distribute among constituencies or robust social support translated into free donations, are better equipped to compete electorally and to capture mass media attention. Applying this to insurgent successor parties, some argue that rebel groups whose leaders are able to negotiate strong financial support from members of the regime during the first years of campaigning are faster in organizing the basic structures for political competition and therefore, in gathering popular support. However, others react against this argument indicating that larger rebel groups, which lacked strong financial support often compensate for economic disadvantage by using voluntary staff and sympathizers in the campaigning (Randell 1988; Salih 2003; De Zeeuw 2008).

Focusing only on insurgent successor parties, some scholars have measured the influence of exogenous actors on party-building processes. From this perspective, a new political party with a rebel past is more likely to consolidate in time if it is provided with sustained international support for political capacity building is provided (Dudouet 2008). This support might include financial backup and training programs for its members to be reintegrated into civil society, as well as technical support to transform the movement into a political party (Söderberg 2008).

Others have rejected this thesis, pointing out that such an approach assumes a linear and teleological path of rebel-to-party transformation. External-based explanations ignore the impact on party-building of the rebels’ motivation and origins. They underestimate the historical context of the conflict and the effects on party’s leaders choices of internal demands from local partisans as well as the nature of the electoral system (De Zeew 2008).

From a perspective valid particularly for insurgent successor parties, some authors indicate that new parties are more likely to succeed if members had previous political capital namely experience on electoral competition. According to this view, accumulated capital translates into serious political agendas and defined platforms that help members of emerging parties to gather popular support in elections (De Zeeuw 2009; Manning 2008; 2013). This thesis overlooks, however, intra-party differences that undermine the potential benefits of political capital on party-building of insurgent successor parties. Some of them, for example, were narrowly based and others broad fronts; some of them were heavily centralized and institutionalized while others were not and most importantly, some of them used violence as supplementary strategy while some did not (Manning and Smith 2016).

Applied only to party-building processes of rebel movements, some contributions take into account that in post-conflict societies the security conditions and the rule of law remain precarious affecting the possibilities of reaching all regions in campaigning. Thus, countries were security conditions are less affected after conflict termination improve the chances of campaigning to new parties and therefore, of good electoral performance (Allison 2010).  This hypothesis underestimates, nevertheless, the electoral value of big cities where security conditions tend to be better. The explanation assumes that most guerrillas are rural-based when, in fact, there are empirical cases of rebel groups in Latin America whose action and support is mainly urban-based (Wickham-Crowley 1992; Davis 2010).

Finally, focusing on the interaction between peace-building and party-building, some scholars highlight that new political parties emerging from rebel groups need to overcome the social fragmentation and dislocation caused by years of violence. Consequently, new political parties whose wartime strategies were less virulent against civilians, are more likely to win social acceptance and therefore, of gathering electoral support (Allison 2010). While this can be true for certain rebellions, it is not the case for many Latin American guerrillas fighting against regimes with high levels of corruption, injustice and social inequality. On the other hand, explanations based on the level of violence against civilians make it difficult to measure reconciliation processes as a variable and its eventual interaction with the electoral game.

In sum, the difficulty with existing explanations is that they show which variables of the party system –background conditions- are more likely to facilitate party-building outcomes, but they do not indicate the causal chain that leads to the outcome of interest. In fact, those variables describe structural features of the party system regardless the particular nature and own characteristics of an emerging party. As long as they keep ignoring intra-party features such as the nature and size of the guerrillas, the internal decision-making processes and the feeling of agency or abandonment among former members, those system-centered explanations cannot account for variation in party-building.

Furthermore, the application of such variables in the study of insurgent successor parties presents a major problem. In many cases, even though all the permissive party-system conditions for success are present, new insurgent successor parties do not consolidate at all and therefore, variations in party-building outcomes after conflict termination remains unsatisfactorily explained.

Moreover, while previous research does provide information about the impact of internal and external actors on rebel-to-party transformations, it tend to focus too much on the dynamics of peace negotiation and overlooks both the structure, identity and history of the armed groups and also the legacies of wartime actors, networks and actions. Clearly, this party-system-based approach, the lack of comparative studies, and the disproportionate attention given to peace-building processes, contribute to the current unsatisfactory theoretical landscape regarding the fate of insurgent successor parties.

In light of this and through a theory-building process tracing[8], I advance an alternative explanation that combines together insights from the forgoing literature and emphasizes four variables: party’s organizational level, party’s inclusionary strategies of former soldiers, party’s social penetration in former areas of control as well as coalition with other groups or political parties. As it can be seen, of these four variables, three have to do with intra-party factors and one of them is related to intra-systemic factors –features of the party system-. Thus, the main assumption of this research is that a theory based only on intra-party factors is unsatisfactory as it leaves out the many implications of the party system and conversely, a theory based only on systemic factors leads to a flat prediction in which any new political party would behave in the same way and determined by the system.  A strong theory of insurgent successor parties needs therefore, to be sensitive not only to the institutional features and structural requirements of the party system, but also to the particular nature and internal process of the party.

Accordingly, the proposed explanation develops a model in which there are four phases sequentially and temporally connected. It states that the use of democratic mechanisms to resolve intraparty tensions leads to the implementation of an overwhelming set of inclusionary strategies of former soldiers. Both stages are particularly important during the first ten years of electoral campaigning[9] as they protect the party from diluting its identity and organization. Once a strong political block – whose members consider themselves to have agency and decision capacity – has been created, a third stage of successful party-building involves party leaders offering incentives to local brokers and activists. These functional relationships make it possible a fourth stage of transformation of former social penetration into electoral support. 


Phase 1: Internal democracy in the movement resolves intraparty tensions

Phase 2: Inclusionary strategies of former soldiers prevent internal fragmentation

Phase 3: An inclusionary political party guarantee functional relationships between local brokers and party’s representatives.

Phase 4: Agents of the party lead transformation of former social penetration into vote preference.

It is important to note that instead of aiming for statistical inference, the main contribution of this explanation consists in developing an alternative theory that relates intra-party and intra-systemic factors. In fact, this project is a hypothesis generating paired comparison in which, given the amount of cases, the results could not be expected to be valid from an inferential point of view. By doing this paired comparison, however, it allows us to explore the effect on party-building outcomes of certain variables separately and in combination as well as looking particularly at the causal value of these variables for variation in outcomes of insurgent successor parties.

3. Background concepts and variables

It is very important to consider that this research on insurgent successor parties is focused not on party formation, but on party-building processes. By party formation we refer mainly to whether a rebel movement turns into a political party or not (Lyons 2016; Levitsky 2016). As a matter of fact, previous research reveals that it is becoming increasingly common for a rebel movement to turn into a political party. However, the data indicates that it is very unlikely that these political parties can achieve any success after their formation. Accordingly, this research keeps a clear distance from party formation as its focus of interest and pays attention instead to what happens after party formation or in other words, to party-building processes.

Thus, in terms of the operationalized variables this research will take variation in party-building outcomes after conflict termination to be the main dependent variable. This is understood as the electoral performance of a party emerged from rebel groups or, in other words, whether new parties become electorally significant and enduring political actors (De Zeeuw 2008). To provide measurement conditions for such a variable, this research follows Levitsky’s definition of party-building and applies it in particular to insurgent successor parties; this makes the variable operational, having both temporal and electoral dimensions. A variation in party-building outcomes is therefore considered as positive if a new party emerged from rebel movements achieves a minimum share of 10% of the vote in five or more consecutive legislative elections (2016, 4). This operationalization enables the inclusion of all parties competing for office regardless if their having won presidential elections or not. That is the case for many opposition parties that have not achieved power in presidential office, but make up the main political opposition force (as in the case of FMLN in El Salvador).

As has been suggested, it is important to notice that the variation in party-building outcomes for insurgent successors parties are non-linear and many contingent factors may influence the uneven development from armed groups to unarmed political parties (De Zeeuw 2008). Nevertheless, I argue that, beyond the many permissive or background conditions it is possible to identify a plausible intervening causal process – a causal chain and mechanism – made up of three factors internal to the party and one factor that is internal to the system; these sufficiently account for the variation in party-building outcomes of both FMLN and AD M-19.

Reference to parties’ organizational level indicates the rules by which power and resources are allocated within the party. This influences the way new parties invest in the formal branches at the national and/or regional level; also how they define the role of members and how they design strategies to campaign as one single block. In the case of insurgent successor parties, this variable depends on internal adjustments of former rebel groups to the structural demands of a party system. Logically, the post-conflict competitive environment and the incentives generated by the electoral system require a considerable internal transformation of movements designed for military operations (Ishiyama and Batta 2011). Insurgent successor parties hold an important organizational advantage in the form of pre-existing territorial branches, which make it possible to overcome the difficult work of building an organization from the scratch (Holland 2016).

This research refers parties’ inclusionary strategies of former soldiers as the set of internal policies implemented to keep former fighters’ partisanship attachments after conflict termination. It accounts for social, academic, political, economic and ideological support to those who having disarmed face questions about what to do after conflict termination and how to rebuild their civilian lives. Although wartime bonds, symbols and history might represent and advantage for party-building, insurgent successor parties cannot become enduring political contenders unless they of develop mechanisms to prolong members support and commitment to the cause. These mechanisms are particularly important in helping fighters to achieve economic stability or if the rebel movement was previously integrated by a coalition of different ideologies.

As an independent variable, parties’ social penetration in former areas of controlrefers to whether the new political party is rooted in the civilian population through social movements, free association, informal patronage or direct occupation, particularly in those areas once controlled by rebels (Stokes et al 2013; Samuels and Zucco 2014). This causal factor is crucial as it refers to the capacity of a new party to form, keep and increase connections with constituencies.

Following Sartori’s concept of a “relevant party” as related to the system (1976), this research defines the coalitional level of a new party emerged from a rebel movement as the ability to establish intra-system political alliances with other parties and/or leaders of other rebel movements. Seeking to create strategic conditions, a new political party tries to anticipate electoral outcomes by associating with other forces that could add popular support and deny votes to another party that will not join a coalition with it (Hart and Kurz 1983; Shugart 1992, 122). This element accounts for all political decisions and organizational policies that affect directly the structure and platform of the party as a by-product of the association of different movements or ideologies under the same banner.

4. Case selection and data gathering

This research will look at one case where rebel groups succeeded in becoming strong and enduring electoral contenders -since the onset of the third wave of democratization- and one case where they failed to do so. This allows an ideal control in which it is possible to look for variables that were present in the successful case and/or absent in the failure case and vice versa. Furthermore, both cases fit perfectly into Sartori’s minimalist definition of a political party – that is, ‘any political group that presents at elections, and is capable of placing through elections, candidates for public office’ (1976, 64) –This makes it possible to compare FMLN and AD M-19 – as units – even though they were present in different contexts.

However, aware that context matters when it comes to analyzing party development, the case selection takes into account recent investigations into party development in Africa, Asia and Latin America, highlighting colonial administration, periods of military rule and civil war as important factors shaping parties and party competition. Thus, the case selection has also taken into account similarities in terms of colonial past and similar language. Additionally, in both cases there was a particularly intense and long-lasting war from which the political parties emerged as a result of a negotiated end to the conflict. This allows us to appreciate more clearly the influence of war-related factors than would be the case where wars were less intense and shorter in duration.

A useful model for a qualitative research through process tracing requires small-N selection with the most similar temporal and geographical conditions in order to focus on the within-case causal inference. This enables the researcher to offer plausible explanations of the causal mechanism that connects independent variables and outcome. Although, the number of cases is (only two) is too small to allow us to generalize the results to the level of a theory, this particular design does make it possible to identify the intervening factors –causal chain and causal mechanisms- that account for outcomes and variation in the specific cases. As causal mechanisms can be later tested beyond the scope of the initial cases, they offer at least a plausible explanation for a more general approach (George and Bennett 2005).

A paired comparison (rather than a large-N research) has been selected because it allows for an understanding in detail of complex units, not just the mere correlation of variables. It enables the researcher to identify potential causal factors and common mechanisms that could explain the particular outcome of interest. Although in this research the case selection responds to an effort of finding the “most similar contexts” related to the outcome of interest, paired comparison’s explanatory power goes beyond the scope of similar cases. In fact, paired comparison has become increasingly important to finding causal chains even in the analysis of ‘most-different’ countries and historical periods. In such cases, the method is also applied ‘not to maximize resemblance or even to pinpoint differences among whole countries, but to discover whether similar mechanisms and processes drive changes in divergent periods, places and regimes’ (McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly 2001, 82).

The selection of FMLN in El Salvador and AD M-19 in Colombia is useful for this purpose. These insurgent successor parties come from extremely different types of guerrillas in terms of ideological origin, internal structure and composition, preferred geographical base for operation (urban/rural), size of army and agenda. They are, nonetheless, also similar in many aspects. Both were left-wing parties included in the electoral contest after processes of institutional reform that enabled them to compete for power. Both of them had to confront well-established political machines – traditional right-leaning parties – and conditions of continuing violence, in the form of death squads and crime in El Salvador and paramilitarism and drug cartels in Colombia (Holland 2016). In both cases, these parties emerged in countries with certainly high levels of corruption, injustice and social exclusion.

In addition, both parties emerged with a surprisingly massive electoral support during the first two elections. In fact, it is clear that until now the FMLN continues to be the most significant opposition force in El Salvador, and in Colombia, despite its ulterior disappearance, ‘‘…for a brief but exceptional moment lasting approximately three years, the M-19 emerged as the most significant third force in the nation’s history outside the two traditional parties” (Chernick 1999).

Finally, although in terms of organization these cases had a different size, both of them were remarkably small -between 2,000 and 8,000 members- in comparison with other guerrillas in the continent. This fact offers an interesting chance to trace the effect of a movement’s size on political consolidation and electoral mobilization, as well as on the type of relationship established between leaders and former soldiers.

Regarding data collection, the arguments presented in this study will be based on the analysis of previous literature and on findings using semi-structured interviews with members of the former guerrilla organizations, UN staff members, military officers, experts and third-party actors involved in the respective party transformation and party-building processes.

I will first conduct fieldwork in both Colombia and in El Salvador, exploring the party-building processes and the electoral strategies of M-19 and FMLN as well as the impact of these two dynamics on former fighters opinion about the new party and its electoral performance. I will examine the groups’ wartime behavior, the transitional phase, the main drivers of rebel leaders’ decisions, branding process and how successor parties evolved specially during the first ten years.

At the individual level, I will document the political trajectories of local individuals (both fighters and civilians) after party formation. For the interviews, the subjects will be selected by using a snow-ball process, and probabilistic sampling procedure. Since some reinserts may want to keep their former identity secret, the snow-ball procedure will be an excellent way to contact them. However, it will also include a selection bias in favor of subjects who maintained at least one informal contact with another former comrade. In this way, a probabilistic sample procedure could help to avoid the effects of such a bias.

To measure the degree to which FMLN and AD M-19 depended on their social penetration and patronage resources, this research will rely on information obtained from elite interviews and archival material. It will also include a review of constitutional and electoral rules that might have weakened or improved national politicians’ capacity to distribute patronage resources.

To assess the coalitional level, the research will use historical accounts about the amount and type of support that insurgent successor parties built during both conflict and peace periods as well as during electoral competition. It will access archive material, news reports and public statements to weigh the nature of alliances that they forged with other existing political parties and how effective they resulted in terms of popular backing in different geographical areas and electoral performance.

As any research using process tracing, data will have to be permanently assessed in terms of reliability and accuracy to ensure that any causal mechanisms are operating on strong factual foundations. Additionally, future tests should not only follow the logic of necessity and sufficiency for one stage, but also aim to defy in most detailed way alternative explanations before concluding that my theory and causal mechanism is a more plausible one.

Furthermore, to test the proposed explanation, this research will need to go beyond the mere correlation level and account for a system of interlocking parts that shows why and how an event leads to another. The explanation should, therefore, constantly make clear how each part of the mechanism – each of the five factors – transmit causal forces between the initial condition (X) and the outcome (Y). In fact, the analysis of the trajectories of change and causation of party building will fail if the phenomena observed at each step are not adequately described (Collier, 2011). Thus, the selected research method offers a strong evaluation and eventual validation or rejection of the proposed hypothesis and causal mechanism.

However, as it was mentioned before, this small-N study has limitations as it only looks at two cases -one of success and one of failure-. Clearly there is presence of some contextual variation that might explain some of the outcomes. Nonetheless, this design allows exploring a wider range of variation on the independent variables, which are intraparty and systemic related. In fact, while the selection of two cases provides variation in systemic factors, the selection of two parties makes it possible to have variation on intra-party factors. Both variations are crucial for the alternative explanation that this research suggests.


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[1] This new venue emerges from the intersection of the literature on post-conflict transitions and democratic governance. A significant problem in this interdisciplinary approach is that there is no consensus about the actual effects of enabling rebel groups to turn into political parties.  Thus, while for some scholars and from the “liberal” paradigm perspective, rebels are seem as potential spoilers of peace and hostile to democratization (Wantchenkon, 2004; Jarstad, 2008; Kovacs, 2008; Kurtenbahc and Mehler 2013), for the literature of rebel group-to-party transformation the inclusion of warring parties in peace processes is absolutely crucial. A main assumption of this literature is that former combatants are “change drivers” and that successful transformation of rebel organizations into political parties is critical to successful peace-building and democratization processes (Lyon 2005; Mansfield and Snyder 2005). This poses a puzzle also in terms of empirical research because authors examine cases in which they can observe both types of outcomes.

Söderberg Kovacs and Hatz (2016), for example, highlight that of the 196 agreements included in the UCDP in the Post Cold War period between 1991 and 2011, a total of 104 were signed in Africa (60,5%). The numbers also reveal that 24 of those cases (23,1%) show rebel-to-party normative provisions, while in the Americas only three out of 27cases included such provisions.

[3] See Söderberg Kovacs and Hatz (2016)

[4] In the presidential elections of May 1990, AD M-19 obtained 12.5% of the vote and in December of the same year a 27,3% of the vote for the National Constitutional Assembly that created the Political Constitution of 1991, still active.

[5] As a methodological tool for case selection, Levitsky et al, include all parties that received at least 1% of the vote, by themselves or in coalition and in at least one national legislative election. Additionally, although they include parties created via schisms from pre-existing parties and parties emerged from the fusion of two or more pre-existing parties, they exclude pre-existing parties that changed their name or split into factions but reunited between 1978 and 2005.

[6] It must be said, however, that most of these approaches do not differentiate between party formation and party-building. This absence implies that the authors to both processes apply the alleged hypotheses without distinction, which ends up misleading considerations about causal factors.

[7] It must be noted that in the case of El Salvador the FMLN did indeed select Mauricio Funes – a journalist without ties to the guerrilla – as candidate for the presidential election in 2009. However, as Levitsky points out, this decision supposed an important risk of party fractionalization. In fact, the nomination of Funes was only possible thanks to a subnational electoral strategy by which negotiation between orthodox and reformist party leaders could guarantee mutual benefits. Thus, negotiation paired Funes with Salvador Sánchez Cerén – the leader of the orthodox faction – as vice-presidential formula, aiming to win the presidency with an outsider in 2009 and then to reverse the formula in 2014.

[8] This research assumes the value and types of “Process Tracing” as considered by Beach (2017) and Brady and Collier (2010).

[9] This temporal criterion responds to the maximal estimated in which wars might recur and insurgent successor parties might replace the electoral game by violent action. While some scholars have argued that more than 50% of the cases of negotiated war terminations recur within five years after the end of hostilities (King 1997), others claim that the median duration of peace before war recurrence occurred between 1945 and 1996 was teen years.

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