Explaining congressional reform: electoral laws, congressional organization, and the balance of power between party leaders and backbenchers in Latin American national legislatures



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This research addresses the question under what conditions will rank and file legislators favor or oppose changes in a legislature?s internal rules of order. The study deviates from previous approaches to the study of legislatures in four primary ways: 1) the study moves from advanced democratized cases of the U.S. Congress and British House of Commons to cases of neo-democracies; 2) the study considers the interaction between the design of the electoral system and its impact on legislature organization; 3) in addition to chamber level factors, party and individual level factors are considered; and 4) the theory considers when legislators will rebel against attempts by party leadership to alter the internal rules of order. The central question focused on is what factors influence legislators? willingness to speak out or vote against changes in the internal rules of order following a change in the electoral system design. The theory proposed that when it comes to changing the internal rules of order of a legislative chamber, the effective number of parties in the chamber, the effect of proposed changes in the rules of order on legislator behavior, party discipline, and the nature of legislator ambition affect the probability that change occurs. Experimental and statistical methodologies are used to test the hypotheses derived from the theory. Original data were collected from experiments conducted on undergraduate pupils at Texas A&M University. For the statistical analyses, a data set of proposed changes in the rules of order were compiled using archived data from the Colombian Senate and Peruvian Congress. This multi-method approach was used because of the nature of the question under examination and to minimize limitations of the individual methodologies. The experimental analyses demonstrate that the operations of the theory are supported in the controlled environment of the experiment. The results from the statistical analyses were, within the restrictions imposed by the data, consistent with both theoretical expectations and the experimental findings. The most consistent factor influencing change in the rules of order is the effect of the proposal followed by party discipline.