Political Parties and the City: mobilisation, participation and representation in Buenos Aires

Authors: Sam Halvorsen*, Queen Mary University of London
Topics: Political Geography, Latin America, Urban Geography
Keywords: Political parties, cities, Latin American, Buenos Aires, Argentina, elections, populism, representation, participation, mobilisation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The relationship between political parties and urban politics has long been neglected. Research on parties has concentrated on national party systems, more recently considering sub-national electoral scales, with the city rarely present, while research on urban politics prioritises informal practices of political activism with little attention to party organisations. Drawing on empirical work in Buenos Aires this paper proposes a research agenda for closing the gap between political parties and the city. It does so by focusing on the role of parties in the democratisation of and in the city. Specifically, it proposes three practices of democratisation as a means of analysing the party-city relationship, each of which are considered via the case study of two parties in Buenos Aires. First, parties are key actors in the mobilisation of city dwellers for the deepening of democracy at different scales, particularly the national. Parties utilise their linkages with urban civil society to leverage new demands on the government and extend national projects of democratisation. Second, parties create new informal and formal institutions for participation in urban governance. Parties can provide institutional access to grassroots sector and may promote new channels for participating in the governing of the city. Third, parties have a central role in institutionalising a new scale of democratic representation for urban citizens, particularly in the context of newly decentralised cities such as Buenos Aires. Parties may see new electoral opportunities in creating programmatic linkages at the urban scale and may strategically re-orient themselves towards the city.

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