SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

This article examines the consequences of the decentralization process that is under way in Costa Rica and which may undermine, rather than bolster, democracy in that country. I first outline three key contextual variables relating to the reform process: existing sociopolitical realities (constructing local legitimacy), the dynamics of the reform process (bottom-up versus top-down), and the timing or sequencing of the proposed reforms (what is being decentralized and when). Though I focus here on Costa Rica, these three variables are generally applicable in any case of decentralization. After considering these contextual factors, I evaluate the likelihood of four negative side effects arising from the ongoing decentralization process: party-system fragmentation, reinforced or mutated clientelism, intermunicipal conflict and polarization, and local government instability. Early evidence suggests that some of these effects, particularly party-system fragmentation and municipal instability, have begun to manifest themselves.