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Winning an Election in the Americas: Apathy and Corruption Compete for the Best of the Worst

Student protests this year in the streets of Montreal over a relatively small tuition hike took the Quebec government by storm. In reality, it is likely more than just tuition that fuelled this year’s protests with the Liberal Party of Quebec facing allegations of corruption after nine long years in power. The Parti Quebecois, the last separatist party in Canada after the national party was practically eliminated from the political map, will likely win the election, not for their own policies, but because they are not the Liberals. Evidence of the not-a-Liberal movement shows clearly in the large number of votes that will likely come to the new Coalition Avenir Quebec party. As recent P.Q. support has come from apathy, the CAQ has been able to gain a sizeable section of the electorate in their favor, or at least gained as the alternative is clearly out of favor. Of a choice of the traditional parties, the Liberals and P.Q., it seems that the CAQ is the only voteable option for many in the election.

Being discontent with leadership does not always come from bad policies or corrupt practices. The trend has been that even when a government has been doing relatively well, apathy has determined the outcome of an election. In Mexico’s presidential election, the party that has unseated the PRI after over 75 years in power, the PAN party of Mexico, were relegated to third place after creating one of the largest periods of economic stability in Mexico’s history despite economic pressures from abroad. The PRI had come back into power with no real discussion of new policies or a push from the candidates to discuss any important issues. The election seemed to flow on who looked more like a President rather than what policies would keep Mexico on the current path or change Mexico for new and innovative ideas. Discussion in the electorate was extremely apathetic with no strong support coming from people on the street coming to any party except for the left PRD. Protests and votes for the PRD pushed the PANistas further down, and in the end the PRI, or new PRI as is claimed, won the election with a lack of policies and a presidential looking candidate in Pena Nieto.

While it is certain that the nomination of Romney and Ryan this past week in Tampa was not influenced by apathy in Canada or Mexico, the American trend of apathy might help the Republicans return the U.S. to the pre-Obama era, the one that created the global economic crisis that Obama has been trying to fight during his four years in office. Romney’s policies to this point have been based around those people who dislike Obama, as most of his major policy announcements have been against Obamacare and other initiatives put in by the current President. The Republicans under the Bush Administration cultivated economic policy that has mired the U.S. in joblessness and debt. Because of Bush’s economic record the apathetic Republicans may not give Romney their vote, but neither will they give it to President Obama. Romney has no real option but to energize the Tea Party base by using a smaller, younger Tea Party version of himself in Ryan. The “I am not Obama” campaign will solidify Republican votes in their base as former supporters of Obama stay home and claim apathy as the only way to protest government as a whole. Romney can only rely on not being Obama as him and Ryan, his younger twin, continue as a pair of presidential looking partners in the next election, trying to look picture perfect for the upcoming job interview in November.

One place where apathy has taken a back seat is in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is seeking a third six-year term in office, battling his personal illnesses and strong opposition from the MUD party and opposition leader Henrique Capriles. Chavez in the last few weeks has likely realized his re-election may not be as easy as once thought. He often gained from winning small majorities in elections and referendums, but with technical glitches showing a lack of support from unions and workers for the president, and areas formerly seen as supporting Chavez now seeing some open opposition, Mr. Chavez may have a real fight on his hands for the next election, one that did not come from apathy. The latest blow to the government came in an explosion in one of Venezuela’s oil refineries, killing 42 people and injuring over 100, hitting the country as a whole and putting a price on placing political supporters in charge of national industries. The explosion created a big political debate among the parties, with claims ranging from lack of union support to sabotage by the opposition, looking more like a political debate in Syria rather than Venezuela. While it was likely an accident or due to negligence despite government claims against the contrary, it is clear that Venezuela’s chavistas and opposition supporters are anything but apathetic. Venezuelans have likely realized that they must take a serious approach to their future government and the future of their country.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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