Latin American caudillos have inspired many memorable literary characters. However, political studies have relegated the analysis of leadership issues to a secondary theme. This panel aims to debate the democratic quality of our leaders and their impact on how well democracy works.
Latin American caudillos have inspired many memorable literary characters. However, political studies have relegated the analysis of leadership issues to a secondary theme. Indeed, since the return of democracy to the region, very little has been written regarding the impact of political leaders. Paradoxically, despite the fact that Latin America´s history is full of strongmen, strongwomen and caudillos, little attention has been paid to their impact on how well democracy works. Despite the prominent role that leaders play in the region, the subject has not been systematically addressed. Political scientists have preferred to focus on formal institutions. Many of the arguments about delegative democracy or populism that have shaped political debates are predicated upon the centrality of executive leadership. Similarly, many of the models of populism, such as radical democracy, presuppose a prominent presidential leadership. Following the conclusions of mainstream debates on political institutions and parties (Coppedge, 1998; Dix, 1992; Mainwairing and Scully, 2010; Ollier, 2008; Navia and Walker, 2010; and Fukuyama, 2008), we argue that in a context of low institutionalisation, the democratic quality demonstrated by political leaders becomes crucial. Thus, we would like to invite papers from academics and post graduate students to debate the impact that leaders can have on the quality of democracy. Likewise, papers that expand this issue, adding an analysis of political parties or citizens and their impact on the quality of democracy are welcomed.