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Lines Between Unelected and Elected Democracy: Mexico, Paraguay, and Egypt Compared

Lines Between Unelected and Elected Democracy: Mexico, Paraguay, and Egypt Compared

Enrique Pena Nieto (left) leads his rivals Josefina Vazquez Mota and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Reuters

The end of the Arab Spring has likely come about in two different ways. The official election of President Morsi in Egypt can be seen as the end of protests against the military government and the beginning of the first democratically elected leader in Egypt’s history, or it can become the beginning of a one party state that claims authority democratically and under the nation’s faith. A possible suppression of democratic development could come about as it did in Iran, where while protests do exist in Iran’s major cities, they are met with violence and an absence of basic fundamental rights. A worse case scenario would be another Syria, but for the moment it is doubtful that this would occur as a slow progression to democracy is preferred by all, and a slow progression to a one party state is preferred by those who may want to cease power in Egypt’s government or keep power apart from the new democratic leadership.

Coups do not always take the form of violence or suppression, and while Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood went from being locked up in Egypt’s prisons to claiming the seat of the Presidency, Paraguay has offended most of its neighbours with its own coup. This “administrative” coup had Paraguay’s Senate oust its left-leaning President Lugo for his mishandling of a peasant issues in Paraguay the week before and replacing him with liberal Mr.Franco to hold power until August 2013. Oddly enough, President Lugo only had nine months left before the next election, but with the claims by the Senate and opposition in Paraguay that the ousting of the president was legal, Lugo’s struggle to regain his elected position of power has gathered support from its neighbors all across Latin America. Finessing administrative coups often start with claiming legitimacy in its legal form even if equity and democracy are ignored in the process. While the new Paraguayan government hoped that a legal justification and a lack of attention on the country as a whole would enable a smooth transition, the strong response from its Mercosur neighbours has put Paraguay in the eyes of the world community. Currently Mercosur are in talks to sanction Paraguay economically until democratic order is restored.

Lines Between Unelected and Elected Democracy: Mexico, Paraguay, and Egypt ComparedIt can be argued that a return to one party rule cannot re-occur in Latin America by the response given to the current situation in Paraguay and a definitive move away from a dark past of one party and military rule for many states in the region. There is one exception, however, coming from the clear masters of one party rule. Mexico’s PRI party will likely have an opportunity to return to power after this Sunday’s Presidential election. According to recent polls and even arrogantly confirmed in their own campaign commercials, the PRI are leading the polls in Mexico’s election after a series of colourful commercials and shallow policy announcements by PRI candidate Pena Nieto. The governing PAN party candidate, Madam Vazquez Mota, has done little to tarnish the PRI’s lead as attacks on PRI’s historic one party rule, and corruption has done little to gain favor for her PAN party despite the country’s stable financial state and positive view of current President Calderon. Most likely, the real or imagined change of the PRI into a real democratic political party and the lack of positive campaign ads promoting the PAN led to swing areas going for the PRI. A recent boost by the left-leaning PRD under candidate Lopez Obrador took the second place away from the PAN; they are currently racing for second place. This fight for second led to campaigning by the governing PANistas against the PRD directly, but with a likely win by the PRI coming this Sunday, it is surprising that a government with a good economic record like the PAN will lose to a more democratic PRI. Adding to a loss to the PRI, the PAN may even lose its second place standing to a PRD that is gaining support from anti-PRI and younger voters who are focused on attacking Pena Nieto’s campaign as many see it as anti-democratic. See #yosoy132 here.

Egypt’s new President may become the first of many in mapping a future to become a reflection of the old PRI, and the new PRI itself may even return to entrench its power in traditional ways. With Latin America and the international community as a whole focusing on countries like Syria, and even countries like Paraguay, it will be harder for one party rulers to come into power with legitimacy without a strong military to soften criticisms from the international community. The PRI will not be able to operate exclusively in Mexico, and that is the legacy of the PAN party, even if they cannot hold power in Sunday’s election. In reality, Mexico’s recent economic fortunes have yet to eliminate political apathy among the majority of the public and the PRI was quicker to win support from many undecided voters who did not respond to the PAN’s negative ads against their rivals. In the end a PRI 2.0, one with democratic restrictions, will not be able to operate Mexico as it did in the past and still stay on the road to become the next BRICS nation. If the old PRI returns, it may signal the last apathetic election in Mexico’s modern history.



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