During the last decade many Latin American countries have changed their constitutions to allow presidential reelection. This is a significant shift from the previous standard surrounding constitutional design, prevalent in the 1980s, which favored limiting consecutive reelection. This paper explores whether this new trend towards presidential reelection is undermining the quality of democracy by expanding incumbency advantage, or is instead improving the accountability of presidents seeking reelection. To assess this debate, we first examine the evolution of the different rules governing presidential reelection in Latin America and look at the frequency and manner in which incumbent presidents in the region have tried to change these rules. Next, using our own database of 125 presidential elections in eighteen countries between 1953 and 2012, we analyze election outcomes. We find that the right to reelection increases the electoral advantage of incumbents to the detriment of accountability. We conclude by offering some possible institutional responses that might help ameliorate the incumbent’s advantage.

Issue Date: 
October 2014
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