Party Government in Presidential Democracies: Extending Cartel Theory Beyond the U.S. Congress


  • Research for this article was supported by the National Science Foundation (SBR 9709695), the Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Institucional (CEDI), and the Political Institutions and Public Choice (PIPC) Program at Michigan State University. We thank Eduardo Alemán, Rubén Bambaci, Nora Barraza, Paloma Bauer de la Isla, John Carey, Jamie Carson, Matthew Cleary, Brian Crisp, Silvina Danesi, Scott Desposato, Marcela Durrieu, Charles Finocchiaro, Alberto Föhrig, Ariel Godoy, Jim Granato, Simon Jackman, Eric Magar, Scott Mainwaring, Bryan Marshall, Sergio Massa, William Reed, Baldomero Rodríguez, David Rohde, Sebastian Saiegh, Matthew Shugart, and Rossana Surballe for answering questions and providing helpful assistance, suggestions, and comments.

Mark P. Jones is Associate Professor of Political Science, Rice University, Houston, TX 77251-1892 ( Wonjae Hwang is Post-Doctoral Fellow of political science, Rice University, Houston, TX 77251-1892 (


Cartel Theory (and partisan theory more generally) expertly explains the functioning of the U.S. Congress. However, as a theory originally developed to study a single legislature where the institutional context differs greatly from that found in other presidential democracies, its applicability to these democracies has been questioned. Between one extreme represented by the United States (where legislators control their own political future) and the other represented by centralized party systems (where the national party leadership controls legislators' future) exists an intermediate group of democracies where subparty bosses are the key actors, controlling the future of subsets of a party's legislative delegation. We analyze one of these intermediate democracies, Argentina, and demonstrate the general applicability of Cartel Theory to an institutional context that differs notably from that found in the United States. We highlight how the theory can be adapted to a political system where subparty bosses, not individual legislators, are the most relevant political actors.