Democratic Consolidation in El Salvador: Interrelations between Civil Society and the Parliamentary Elite
At the beginning of the nineties, Central America had to face two fundamental changes : on the one hand, the implementation of the neo-liberal reform and on the other, the adoption of political pacts which set up peace and launched transitions towards democracy. This significant mutations have defined a new type of interaction between State, political parties and civil society, that is at the heart of the research presented here.
The subject of this dissertation is to study the representation of social actors in the political sphere, based on the example of the Salvadorian democratic regime in its phase of consolidation. The period analysed starts with the 1994 general elections, the first in which the ex-guerrilla "Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional" transformed in a party, takes part. From this moment on, the principal political tendencies have been represented at the Legislative Assembly.
The research general objective is to identify actors and patterns of interactions existing between civil society and political parties, concentrating on civil associations active in 6 sectors, on the one hand, and on the parliamentary elite, on the other. In particular, we examine whether the Legislative Assembly deputies assume their function of representing the social whole and of transmitting the citizen requests at political level.
This dissertation is based on a six-month field research undertaken in 1998. It is an investigation conducted on two levels:
- a qualitative and prospective inquiry on civil society organisations in 6 sectors: women organisations, environmental associations, trade unions, traders-businessmen industrialists groups, farmers associations, and human rights groups. 25 interviews of associations leaders and directors have been conducted.
- an opinion poll on 58 out of the 84 Legislative Assembly deputies elected for the period 1997-2000.
This dissertation represents the first attempt to define, on a national scale, the interrelations and channels of influence between civil society organisations and the Legislative Assembly deputies in El Salvador.
- The investigation conducted gives a comprehensive panorama of the Salvadorian civil society, as well as detailed analyses on each of the six sectors mentioned above, with special attention on : the nature of the associations, the dialogue and consensus between them, their capacity of formulating constructive proposals, the means of pressure preferred and the nature of their relations with political parties.
- The data of the opinion poll conducted among the Legislative Assembly deputies have been processed and analysed through SPSS (Statistical Programme for Social Sciences). The results give, first, information about the socio-demographic profile of the Salvadorian deputies. They also shed light on the links existing between certain political parties and civil associations. They finally inform on deputies perceptions of the different sectors of civil society: the kind of associations they most trust and sectors they are most inclined to support.
In El Salvador, most of the institutional reforms implemented as a consequence of the peace agreement, have reached their aim, concluding thus the transition phase. However, the persistency of an extremely polarised political culture, six years after the end of the armed conflict, makes it still difficult to establish a political and social dialogue. According to the investigation made, this polarisation has two consequences: on the one hand, the civil society remains fragmented and disintegrated with little influence on public policies and, on the other, political parties are conducted most of the time by considerations related to partisan politics and power struggle. As a result, Salvadorian parties assume only occasionally their role of both intermediaries between the civil society and the state, and transmitters of civil society demands. Consequently, it can be affirmed that El Salvador has a system of parties which have set up a Parliament characterised as a decisional institution, rather than as a representative instrument.
After the transition phase which has permitted the abandon of an hegemonic and excluding pattern for a participatory and pluralist one, the challenge of the democratic consolidation phase lies in the implementation of a really representative and inclusive political pattern. This requires profound changes among civil society and within the political parties. Some are suggested at the end of this dissertation, as well as recommendations for the international cooperation agencies on the lead that they could give in this matter.
Anna Ifkovits, rue du pré-fleuri 31, 1963 Vétroz, Suisse
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