Ban re-election

chavezporsiempreAs we enter the end of the commodities super-cycle, Latin America seems set to return to its regular trend – low growth mixed in with high social conflict. Venezuela, with its latest mayhem, may be at the spearhead of this. So now is the time to review the traditional views about what makes Latin America so … Latin American!

One of the arguments that keeps popping up is the issue of re-election. Practically all Latin American countries have re-election in one shape or another, but can we say that’s a good thing? This recent text by Daniel Zovatto of Brookings argues that, no, that the trend is worrisome.

The money quote:

“Historically in Latin America, the discussion about presidential reelection centered around the concept of no reelection, but in recent years it is focused more on indefinite reelection. Advocates argue that as long as their own parties reaffirm their leadership positions and citizens vote for them one election after the next, indefinite reelection of the same person is not anti-democratic.

In my opinion, this is true in a parliamentary system, but not in a presidential one, since in the latter indefinite reelection reinforces the trend towards the personal and hegemonic leadership inherent to presidentialism and exposes the political system to the risk of a ‘democratic dictatorship’ or to a plain authoritarian system. This was made evident by the disastrous reelection experiences of Porfirio Diaz in Mexico (who was reelected seven times and ruled for 27 years) and by those of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, and Joaquin Balaguer in the Dominican Republic, among others.

Also, indefinite reelection usually infringes upon the principles of equality, equity, and integrity of the electoral contest since it provides the incumbent with an unfair advantage over other candidates. The electoral campaign in Venezuela in October 2012, in which Chavez was reelected, is a clear example of this occurring.”

(HT: Lucía)