Saturday, November 28, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
By Michael Fox
In modern day, democracy is more than the norm, it’s the rule. Elections are the thermometer of legitimacy. But this weekend, this adage is being put to the test.
This Sunday, citizens from a pair of tiny Latin American countries hit the polls. But the results are set to have two completely different outcomes, regardless of the electoral winner.
A Mujica win would mean another five years at the helm for the Frente Amplio coalition. Few in
Because of Mujica’s radical past—as a Tupamaro guerilla and a political prisoner—and extravagant persona (people either love him or hate him), it appears that Sunday’s elections will be a close race. Despite the potential outcome, few electoral surprises are expected. There is no fear of fraud. As usual, Uruguayans will calmly head to the polls; their thermoses and mates (South American green tea) in hand, and this tiny country between
Hondurans take to the polls on Sunday beneath a curtain of fear and a shadow of doubt. Underlining everything is the coup d’etat that knocked President Manuel Zelaya from power in late June, and the continued national and international condemnation of the illegal de facto government of Roberto Micheletti. Zelaya has now been holed up in the Brazilian embassy in
The Micheletti government has declared a state of emergency prior to the elections, emitting decrees restricting the freedom of press, deploying the armed forces to support the national police in guarding the poling places, and replacing the pseudo-independent Supreme Electoral Tribunal with the de facto Secretary of State to oversee all November 29th electoral activities.
Honduran social movements have vowed to boycott the elections. Progressive electoral candidates have pulled themselves from the rosters in protest the de facto government’s stubborn refusal to heed international law and step down.
"A coup is not acceptable as a means for political change," said Amorim.
"On November 29, Honduran democracy will not be strengthened. On the contrary, it will be weakened because the elections will consolidate a new version of coup d'etats, one where the use of force coupled with weak institutions threaten the rule of law," said Viviana Kristicevic, executive director of the Center for Justice and International Rights (CEJIL) on Tuesday.
The elections threaten to set a dangerous precedent in a region of left-wing leaders, progressive policies and conservative oppositions with powerful ties (many to the
The international community has unanimously condemned the June 28th coup against Manuel Zelaya, but the
For centuries, criminal regimes have attempted to legitimize themselves in the face of both national and international public opinion, carrying out pseudo-elections, but holding on either by force, or fear or corruption.
Elections are the international rule, but that doesn’t mean they can be used to legitimize an illegal regime. It is important to remember why Micheletti and his cohorts awoke President Manuel Zelaya by gunpoint in the early morning of June 28th, and threw him on a plane to
"Today's proposed referendum was non-binding and merely consultative. Thus no one could argue that allowing it to go forward could cause irreparable harm," said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research on the day of the coup. "There was no excuse for the Honduran military to intervene, regardless of the constitutional issues at stake."
Supporters of the coup said that Zelaya was attempting to change the constitution to eliminate term limits (unconstitutional in
Democracy is complex. It is a work in progress. It is an ongoing process. Elections are one form of democracy. The constituent assembly is a legitimate recourse that multiple Latin American countries (
Numerous experiences of local participatory democracy have sprouted up out of the new constitutions. Participatory Budgeting (PB) was implemented in
In these countries, the constituent assembly was a means of breaking with a hierarchical, neo-liberal, or dictatorial past, where the citizenry had little active participation over their lives. It was a means of spreading the responsibility, a means of letting the people decide. Increasingly the conservative opposition has fought against the constituent assemblies, as they have seen their passage potentially affect their traditional interests. There is little doubt that this was at the heart of the June 28th coup d’etat against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
Elections work when they are built on participation, process and confidence in the independent systems, to ensure transparency and accountability. Electoral participation was a central component of the peace accords in
On the other side of
Regardless of this weekend’s winners in both
Elections will never legitimize the illegitimate.
Michael Fox is a journalist, a reporter, and a documentary filmmaker based in South America. He is codirector of the 2008 documentary Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas and coauthor of the upcoming book, Venezuela Speaks!: Voices from the Grassroot.