#2 Democracy Index 2016: High quality republican goverments remain marginal in the World – The Case of Argentina



The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index (2016) suggests that democratic regimes around the globe are losing ground to populist, anti-system political parties and candidates.

The main example of that year was the victory of the Independent-Turned-Republican Candidate Donald Trump in the year’s presidential run. The Brexit also was pointed out as an example of the “revenge of the deplorables” or people with little education and living below the poverty line or within the lower middle class, a class that feels perennially excluded from the plans of the ruling class. These classes went out of their way to vote in order to “punish” the ruling class for ignoring them.

The apendix of the report says that “there’s no consensus on how to measure democracy” and clarifies the methodology of the index. Participation is mainly reduced to how many people participate in elections provided it is not mandatory to do so.

Income inequality is regarded as an issue but not included in the methodology of how to measure democracy. High quality republican goverments would necessarily include a fair income equality or at the very least having a majoritarily prosperous society.

There’s no mention either to resistance movements in all cases. In other words if an authoritarian/hybrid/flawed/democratic(republican) regime has no significant resistance we can safely assume that while some people objects goverments and their policies there’s no general or real opossition to the status quo. In other words an authoritarian/hybrid/flawed/democratic regime can score low in many areas and still enjoy general social acceptance from the public within that country.

Nothing is said about Trump’s election being decided by electoral vote. In a very real way, Trump lost the election by no less than 2 million votes after joining the ranks of the Republican Party. As an independent candidate Trump’s election would have been good but not a victory. As this article is written Trump faces resistance from his own party as he tries to push a bill to replace Obamacare.

On the other side of the ocean Britain is regarded as a democracy while the british parliament continues to have members that are there due to nobility titles that are hereditary in nature, not to mention that Britain is a kingdom with a ruling queen.

There’s no mention to referendums in the methodology of this study, referendums being the main instrument behind truly democratic goverments. The only referendum that is discussed is the act of electing representatives, that is, the indirect way of republican goverment that is widespread around the globe.

South America & Argentina

The region is rightly characterized as one with flawed democracies with authoritarian tendencies. The case of Venezuela in particular is no longer the case of a democracy or republican goverment since the elected assembly’s initiatives, with 2/3 of their members being in the opposition of the goverment, are systematically blocked by the nearly two decades old regime. The president has announced in TV he won’t leave power regardless of the results of the election and went as far as saying that a civic-military goverment was going to be established if they lost, an openly illegal act. The dissolution of the Congress didn’t happen, it seems, because the ranks in the military are divided and a military coup could end in a civil war. So the agony of the bolivarian regime continues.

Temer became president in Brazil after the removal of the recently re-elected Rousseff over corruption charges. As Rousseff’s vice-president he intends to end his mandate while pushing reforms.

The authoritarian/populist experiments in the region, while losing ground, still enjoy a considerable amount of support from the general population. Argentina’s election in 2015 was close and while the opposition won in some of the main districts the Justicialist Party (PJ), the Front for Victory (FPV) and United for a New Alternative (UNA), three expressions of the peronist movement, remain a majority in Congress, though the factions are not working in unison at this point. Local analysts suggest that a united peronist presidential candidate will happen for the 2019 election and the main candidates will be decided after the legislative elections this year. It is not certain however since there are at least two distinct factions that would lose votes if they went together and the peronist parties tend to solve their internal struggles in the general elections. A three main candidates (one of PRO/Cambiemos and two peronist alternatives) with a a second-round having a peronist and the candidate from the goverment seems feasable, though it is very early to tell. This years elections will condition all future arrangements.

As a rule of thumb the fate of the new goverments in the region depend heavily in their economic performances. Unfortunately for the goverments of the region the commodities boom is not what it used to be and with exceptions the region will be faced with reforms and some degree of austerity. And since austerity in general doesn’t win elections reforms will be limited and debt (both external and internal) will tend to rise.

Argentina, in any case, is a flawed republican regime struggling to come out of the “populist hangover” as the Democracy Index said. And electoral season has been so toxic over the years, with political struggles stopping policies from being enacted, that many local referents are suggesting going back to a system with longer terms and less elections, as if that could fix the vices of the local system.

Sources: Democracy Index 2016 – The Economist Intelligence Unit and news outlets. Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.