Veto Players, Fickle Institutions and Low-Quality Policies: The Policymaking Process in Ecuador

May 2006
This paper seeks to understand why political actors, institutions and legal reforms have systematically failed to produce cooperation in the Ecuadorian policymaking process. From a comparative and historical standpoint, Ecuador has been trapped in a cycle of low-quality public policies that fail to adjust to environmental conditions, that fluctuate according to political whims and that tend to favor well-organized lobbies rather than pursuing optimal social outcomes. The paper identifies two alternative policymaking paths leading to poor policy outcomes. In the first one, the executive agenda is eclipsed by the short-term clientelistic demands of multiple veto players in the legislature, thus contributing to policy deadlock or rigidity. In the second, executive power is delegated to a decisive, often technical bureaucracy isolated from political pressures, but the lack of institutional stability of such bodies leads to a pattern of policy volatility. Lastly, the paper discusses the formal and informal roles of "last-ditch" veto players to stall or revert unwanted policies.