Unilateral, against all odds: Portfolio allocation in Ecuador (1979–2015)

Santiago Basabe Serrano, John Polga-Hecimovich, Andres Mejia Acosta

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


For nearly four decades of democratic existence, Ecuador has consistently displayed some of the highest cabinet turnover rates in Latin America. However, cabinet instability defies the proposed portfolio allocation and design (PAD) approach in two important ways. First, cabinet instability is—predictably—observed under conditions of high legislative fragmentation (such as during the 1979–2007 period) but also appears in governments that enjoy single-party majorities or near majorities in the legislature (namely the Correa administrations between 2007 and 2017). Second, chief executives since the return to democracy have almost exclusively adopted unilateral strategies to manage their cabinets, making ministerial appointments largely from within the president’s own party or close affiliates. Contrary to theoretical expectations, presidents pursued unilateral strategies—and did not seek to recruit ministers from other parties—even when they lacked partisan support in the legislature, confronted political crises, or had low approval ratings. Part of the explanation lies with the peculiar nature of Ecuador’s coalitional presidentialism, which undermines the value of cabinet positions as preferred currencies for securing legislative support and privileges short-term, particularistic, and clandestine agreements instead. We show that cabinet instability during single-party government takes the form of cabinet rotation and reflects the president’s continuous need to advance his own agenda while maintaining the loyal support of competing factions. This chapter suggests the need to further explore the link between PAD and policymaking in presidential regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGovernment Formation and Minister Turnover in Presidential Cabinets
Subtitle of host publicationComparative Analysis in the Americas
EditorsMarcelo Camerlo, Cecilia Martinez-Gallardo
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781315466491
ISBN (Print)9781138205604
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

Publication series

NameRoutledge Research on Social and Political Elites
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group


  • Cabinets
  • Latin America
  • Policy Making
  • Ecuador
  • Politics and government
  • Political elites
  • Political instability
  • Presidential government


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