The establishment of power under democratic parameters in a number of countries, after what has become the third wave of democratization in the last quarter of the last century, is a well-known fact. Democracy was configured as a form of exercise of power in which elections played a crucial role, but which was accompanied by other institutional aspects related to the rule of law, states articulating coexistence and a certain level of socio-economic equality. Therefore, the relationship between elections and democracy is unambiguous. Democracy does not exist without elections, but elections alone do not bring democracy.
From political theory, this scenario has been envisioned over the past decade by analysts at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, under the aegis of the research project “Varieties of Democracy”. Their vision is relatively simple, they conceive of democracy as a polyhedron with five different faces of the general whole as five varieties: electoral, deliberative, egalitarian, liberal and participatory. Each of them is divided into different components which are measured with simple scales according to their level of compliance, generating an index which makes it possible to analyze their evolution over time and to compare one country to another.
With few exceptions, Latin American politics over the past three decades have revolved around the electoral dimension of democracy. This variety emphasizes freedom of association and expression, in proper elections, in the extension of suffrage and in the existence of elected public offices. The electoral situation was reasonably satisfactory in Latin America, with elections held periodically and with results recognized by the parties, producing the triumph of the opposition in almost half of the cases.
Data from the Swedish research project mentioned above validates this circumstance, placing electoral democracy rates over time above the other four. This is due, in large part, to a happy combination, in general terms, of institutions that have functioned well and citizens whose behavior has followed patterns of indisputable maturity.
However, in the complex arena of power relations, there are still tensions that clearly reveal confrontational positions. What happened in this regard in Brazil and Mexico last week is proof of this and, at the same time, proves the deterioration of the five varieties mentioned above, in the first since 2016 and in the second after 2018. In both cases, political struggles between state powers challenge the electoral processes themselves and even the state’s arbitration body.
On the one hand, the Supreme Court of Brazil decided on April 15, by 8 votes to 3, to uphold the decision which, last month, overturned the convictions of former President Lula for corruption in the Lava Jato case. The Court ratified that he should not have been tried in Curitiba, in the court then occupied by Judge Moro, later Minister of Justice under Jair Bolsonaro, so that the sentences handed down there were overturned and the cases will be judged in Brasilia.
So this does not mean that the ex-president has been acquitted, as the ruling is that he will be tried again for three corruption cases in which he is accused of taking advantage of companies in exchange for public contracts, but In the meantime, he is fully qualified for the 2022 electoral contest, which is a drastic change in expectations.
On the other hand, Arturo Zaldívar, president of the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico, saw how the Senate extended his mandate by two years, a decision denounced by the opposition as unconstitutional, which once again demonstrates the interference of the party. to power in the area of the judiciary. The Constitution establishes that the maximum term of office of the President of the Court is four years, without the possibility of immediate re-election.
The Federal Council of the Judiciary, which is the governing body of judges, insisted that it had neither developed nor requested the measure. Zaldívar has been an extremely important figure in the complex issue of energy reform, which is one of President López Obrador’s flagship projects. The Mexican president, who according to an April 16 Reforma poll has an approval rating of 63%, sent a letter to Zaldívar in March formally requesting an investigation from the judge who temporarily suspended the implementation of the new law.
In addition, two months before the elections, where more than 20,000 public posts will be at stake, the serious tension generated by the group in power in relation to the actions of the National Electoral Institute in the event of the exclusion of two candidates for governors and in the order for the president to withdraw the conference of the morning for non-compliance with the electoral ban. The rigorous work of the president of this institution, Lorenzo Cordova, is called into question and this endangers the entire electoral process by promoting the discrediting of the mechanisms that regulate it, as well as of the employees themselves.
The dimensions of power under the aegis of democracy constitute an image of unstable equilibrium. The contempt for the rules of the game and for the bodies that imply a control and a balance around the powers of the State endangers the future of tired democracies, articulated in a scenario where the discomfort of citizenship and the crisis of political representation.
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