Gabriel L. Negretto

89 Texas L. Rev. 1777

PDF Document

Professor Negretto seeks to explain seemingly contradictory trends in constitutional design in Latin America.  Professor Negretto argues that these trends reflect diverse governance problems and the varying interests of those who influence institutional selection.  Professor Negretto identifies several reforms “intended to diffuse power and place limits on the partisan or government powers of presidents,” and these are contrasted with other reforms.

Part I begins by reviewing recent constitutional transformations in Latin America.  Although Professor Negretto emphasizes that there is substantial variation in these reforms, he identifies several trends in their orientation.  In the sphere of election rules, Professor Negretto identifies trends such as pluralistic rules for the election of deputies and presidents, personalized voting systems, and more permissive rules of presidential reelection.  In the sphere of decision-making rules, the trends include greater restrictions on the government powers of presidents and stronger legislative powers for presidents.

In attempting to explain the contradictory nature of these trends, in Part II, Professor Negretto proposes a two-level theory of constitutional choice.  This theory is an attempt to integrate cooperative theories and distributional models.  Neither theory, according to Professor Negretto, sufficiently explains the constitutional choices seen in Latin America.  According to his theory, “constitutional choice is endogenous to the performance of preexisting constitutional structures and to the partisan interests and relative power of reformers.”

Finally, in Part III, Professor Negretto applies his theory.  He argues that “in the presence of distributive outcomes, strategic political actors always tend to propose or support alternatives of reform that, within the menu of options, are closer to their partisan interests.”  He proposes that different results will occur depending on whether unilateral or multilateral assemblies are involved in the process.  Additionally, reforms supported by different parties will be affected by their expectations for electoral power in the near future.  It is Professor Negretto’s opinion that the study of reform coalitions needs to be complemented “with a process-tracing analysis of the sequence of events that cause constitutional reform and of the patterns of partisan competition that shape the expectations of the actors about their future positions.”