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Palgrave Macmillan

Decentralization and Party Politics in the Dominican Republic

ISBN 9781137353115
Publication Date November 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Pivot

Why would a famously centralized Latin American state begin to re-distribute political power to cities and towns? In the Dominican Republic in the years between 1994 and 2008, a pro-municipal social alliance pressed for decentralization and politicians yielded, seeking power in three-party competition. Reformers utilized the central dynamics of a patrimonial system in order to reform it as rival parties and factions formed a series of shifting temporary alliances on municipal issues. Based on contemporary files and more than 60 interviews with participants, this study examines how electoral, financial, and administrative power has been dispersed. Non-concurrent local elections made municipal political leaders more autonomous; new laws multiplied central revenue-sharing twelve-fold; the centralist Ministry of Municipalities was greatly weakened; and participatory budgeting became mandatory nation-wide. The analysis also documents the continuing power of centralist political forces and suggests innovative strategies to maintain decentralizing momentum.

Christopher Mitchell is Professor Emeritus of Politics at New York University, USA, where he directed NYU's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He was an official observer for the Dominican elections of 1994, 1996, and 2000.

1. Introduction
2. Measures and Initiatives Favoring Decentralization, 1994-2008
3. The Deep Roots and Local Consequences of Dominican Centralism
4. A Decentralizing Coalition Finds Political Leverage
5. Party Alliances, the Municipios, and Decentralization
6. Dominican Decentralization Moves towards Maturity, 1996-2013
7. Pushback against Decentralization, and its Links with Influence over Nominations
8. Assessing Alternative Explanations of Dominican Decentralization
9. Pro-decentralization Strategies for the Future


"This is the first systematic study of political decentralization in the Dominican Republic, a country known for its entrenched centralism. To understand the roots and characteristics of this transformation, Christopher Mitchell carefully examines each of the factors that contributed to promote municipalismo, from changes in the Constitution to increasing demands for better public services. Mitchell's detailed analysis of the formation of a decentralization coalition is a major contribution to the study of democratization in Latin America. Unlike other countries in the region, Dominican decentralization was not a by-product of neoliberal reforms; it proceeded in the context of a clientelistic state." - Rosario Espinal, Professor of Sociology, Temple University, USA
"Chris Mitchell is skilfull in weaving a persuasive account of how a social movement and a party system combined to encourage an unlikely change - the decentralization of political power in the Dominican Republic. He provides an excellent example of scholarly insight into the politics of reform." - Merilee Grindle, Edward S. Mason Professor of International Development, Harvard Kennedy School, USA
"This concise book provides a compelling explanation for the mixed evolution of the politics of decentralization in the Dominican Republic from the 1990s to the present. Based on extensive research and interviews, it also contributes to theoretical debates about the roles of social movements and political parties and party systems in advancing decentralization reforms. I highly recommend this work to scholars and students alike." - Jonathan Hartlyn, Kenneth J. Reckford Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
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