Alissandra Stoyan, Ph.D.
Texas Tech University
Alissandra T. Stoyan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kansas State University. Her research centers on democracy, institutional change, executive-legislative relations and female executives. She teaches courses in Comparative and Latin American politics. Recently, she has published research in Studies in Comparative International Development, International Studies Quarterly, Governance, Electoral Studies, Political Research Quarterly, and other journals. Stoyan is also currently working on a book manuscript. It analyzes how Latin American presidents with ambitious reform agendas implement them through a Constituent Assembly with supreme power to change the political system. For this research, she has conducted extensive fieldwork in Bolivia and Ecuador. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish from Union College in Schenectady, NY.
Comparative Political Institutions
Gender and Politics
Latin American And Caribbean Politics
Women Presidential Candidates
Countries of Interest
Since 1998, several Latin American presidents have attempted to create constituent assemblies, rewrite constitutions, and fundamentally shift power relations with varying levels of success. I argue that two variables have determined executive success. These are mobilizational leverage, or the ability to rally popular support behind the reform agenda, and institutional leverage, or the ability to convince the Judiciary or Electoral Council to allow a referendum to form a Constituent Assembly and sanction its supreme power. I examine this argument through process tracing cases of success (Chávez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, and Correa in Ecuador) and a case of failure (Zelaya in Honduras), drawing on data from 118 elite interviews in Bolivia and Ecuador. This article contributes to the literature on executive-legislative relations and presidential power, explaining a process that allows presidents to navigate the institutions of democracy and enact ambitious reform.
Since the 1950s, U.S. military personnel have taken on an increasingly diverse set of responsibilities, including less traditional roles delivering disaster aid and engaging in public diplomacy. Focusing on a particular subset of deployments—humanitarian and civic-assistance deployments to Latin America—we examine the effect that a U.S. military presence can have on public opinion in the host country. We focus on the micro-foundations of popular support and use survey data and newly collected sub-national data on deployments to examine the effect of these deployments on mass attitudes towards the U.S. military and government in Peru. We find that these deployments do improve perceptions of the U.S. military and government, and also correlate with more positive assessments of U.S. influence. Our findings bolster the conclusions of previous research that shows how aid can improve public attitudes towards the donor country and address the foreign aid attribution problem.
Do female executives exercise the authority of their office distinctly from their male counterparts? Anecdotal evidence suggests women legislators are likely to govern in a more consensual manner than men. Yet there has been little systematic research extending such claims to women in executive office. Using an original data set, we evaluate one aspect of policy agenda setting—rates of executive decree issuance—among four male–female pairs of Latin American presidents between 2000 and 2014. Female presidents are generally less prone to rule by decree, but this relationship is conditioned by presidential popularity. Female executives with high presidential approval ratings are less likely to rule via unilateral action than similarly popular male executives, but the gendered differences in decree issuance disappear when executives possess low approval ratings. Our findings have implications for understanding the potential benefits of feminine leadership styles for executive–legislative relations and good governance.
Previous literature on the consequences of decentralization has demonstrated a positive effect on voter participation in subnational elections. However, does this positive effect also extend to national level elections? This paper evaluates the consequences of decentralization-level political participation. Our approach innovates by disaggregating decentralization to uncover the specific dimensions that matter for voting participation. We argue that self-rule (or the authority that subnational units exercise in their own territory) is closely associated with vertical accountability and positively affects voting participation. Moreover, we find that political dimensions of self-rule matter more than fiscal dimensions. Shared-rule (or the authority that subnational units exercise in the country as a whole) has no significant effect on participation since it is more closely related to horizontal accountability. We test our theory in 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries using a hierarchical model with 2010 data at the national and individual-level.
What explains the failure of legislatures with strong constitutionally endowed powers to exert themselves over the executive in practice? We examine the role of legislator professionalization in strengthening the legislature's ability to constrain executive action, conceptualizing legislator professionalization as prior legislative experience and prior professional work experience. We argue that more professionalized legislators, through the skill and knowledge they bring to the policymaking process from prior experience, will be better equipped to challenge executive authority. In a sample of four Latin American countries from 1990 through 2010, we find that legislatures are more likely to curb executive decree issuance when individual legislators are strongly professionalized, controlling for constitutional powers and several other partisan and political factors. Our findings suggest that legislatures composed of more professionalized legislators can constrain executive action, especially in the context of a unified political opposition in the legislature.
This article analyzes theories of institutional trust in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two developing countries that have shared some historical legacies but currently manifest divergent economic and political trajectories. The evidence confirms that conventional theories emphasizing participation and government performance help us understand institutional trust in both countries. In addition, the analysis emphasizes the analytical leverage gained by exploring the extent to which different facets of engagement have divergent effects on institutional trust. The findings build upon previous research to underscore the importance of considering how context shapes the precise ways in which performance and engagement influence institutional trust, particularly when analyzing the developing world.
Constitutions have been an important part of Latin America’s history since independence. While exhibiting frequent change, there have been continuities primarily regarding their republican form and presidentialism. Extensive scholarship exists on the origins of constitutions, their evolving design, and their effects concerning democratic stability and rights, particularly with regard to trends and patterns since the third wave of democratization in the late 1970s. Large-scale “refounding” constitutional reforms have gained traction with citizens and civil society groups, and populist leaders have promoted them as a solution for socioeconomic and political exclusion. Politicians have also favored both large- and small-scale changes as ways to continue in office, concentrate power, gain or maintain support, or defuse crises. With frequent changes and longer and more complex texts, sharp distinctions between constitutional moments defining the rules and ordinary politics occurring within the rules have blurred. The research on these issues regarding constitutions confronts challenges common to the analysis of weak institutions in general, including particularly endogeneity to existing power distributions in society and thus seeking to understand when and why key actors respect constitutional rules of the game. Some scholarship advances actor-centered linkage arguments connecting the origin, design, and effects of constitutions in a causal progression, on topics such as presidential powers, unequal democracies emerging from authoritarian regimes, or judicial independence. These arguments differ regarding the direct impact they ascribe to constitutions compared to other factors, particularly with more extended time horizons. They typically examine the narrow strategic interests of the key players while also considering when they may contemplate broader goals, especially when no one player is dominant. Though diffusion has played a role in constitutional process and design in the region, most scholars downplay its relative importance. Since the 1990s, there has been a significant expansion in a unidirectional, path-dependent fashion in the incorporation of social, economic, and cultural rights, as well as decentralization and participatory mechanisms. Unlike presidential re-election and presidential powers, which have seen more frequent and sometimes mixed evolution, once these rights and mechanisms are granted they are not formally reversed in subsequent reforms. Yet, their effective realization has been partial and uneven, typically requiring some combination of societal mobilization and institutional activation. Thus, other endogenous or exogenous factors are typically incorporated into explanations regarding their possible effects. Future research in many areas of constitutionalism could be enhanced by a more systematic cross-national multidimensional data collection effort, facilitating further quantitative and multi-methods empirical work. This will assist scholars in addressing the theoretical and methodological challenges in this field common to institutional research generally. At the same time, it is critical not to lose sight of the normative dimension of constitutionalism, given its symbolic and aspirational value as well as practical importance for democracy.
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