Are American democracies missing something?

The region's democracies have been shaken in the last years, it may be a sign to deeper problems.

The region is dominated by democracy, yet the system has suffered from authoritarian leaders, corruption, lack of historical memory and as well as violence that has damaged their democracies.

There are also international indicators that portray the situation of American democracies in a global environment, which compares the risks of flawed an failed elections, as well as their improvements.

2015, The Year in Elections report, is done by the Electoral Integrity Project. It measures in 100-point Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (PEI) how well 139 countries meet international standards.

The report gathers the assesment of more than 2,000 experts that evaluate the perceived integrity of parliamentary and presidential elections between July 1, 2012 to December 31, 2015.

Among its findings, Costa Rica was considered as the 6th best democracy among the tested countries. This is outstanding considering the country was managed by bipartidism until 2014, when Acción Ciudadana and Frente amplio won the presidential elections and the second largest number of deputees in the Legislative Assembly.

But other countries didn't have the same luck. Historical National Assembly elections last December in Venezuela, where the oppossition to Nicolas Maduro's government won the majority of the seats is being undermined.

Despite the separation between the branches of power, the National Assembly is being threatened by the President.

He's said he could reduce their mandate to 60 days, hasn't approve any of their decisions and Venezuela's Supreme Court struck down an amnesty law that would've help political prisoners like Leopoldo Lopez.

In Peru, presidential elections were held last weekend, and the country will have a run-off vote in June between Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Kuczynski. This is important because of the debate it brings on people's historical memory.

Ms Fujimori being the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori has raised concern over her possible election. Media have speculated on the risks the country would take after electing  the daughter of a person who's currently in prison for ordering death squads in the 1990's. 

But Keiko Fujimori's success in Peru's presidential elections first cannot be tainted because of her family. If elected, time will tell if she followed or not her father steps but until then it needs to be remembered her 39% support and considered as an independent individual  for the run-off.

Northern democracies were also on the table. Canada was considered as the 3rd best democracy in the region (18 global). But despite US belief, their democracy is badly ranked, reports the PEI index and analysis by Harvard Scholar Pippa Norris.

"Americans often express pride in their democracy, yet the results indicate that domestic and international experts rate the U.S. elections as the worst among all Western democracies," she says in an article for The Conversation.

She says the decentralization of power, the lack of a proportional electoral system, media coverage, and the role of money in politics can make this elections flawed compare to others around the world.

Finally another issue related to American democracies is the tendency for presidents to stay in power. Many of them have had second terms like Obama, Juan Manuel Santos, Michel Bachelet or Lula da Silva.

But in cases such as Evo Morales, who will be president until 2020 for a total of 14 years in power, proposing a referendum for a 4th mandate, which he lost, is a sign of a tendency for Latin American presidents to hold on to power.

This is dangerous considering the region has a history of dictatorial powers. 

LatinAmerican Post

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