Documents on Democracy

Issue Date April 2016
Volume 27
Issue 2
Page Numbers 181-84
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project Muse
external View Citation

Argentina

In the November 22 presidential runoff, former Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri, a candidate backed by a coalition of non-Peronist opposition parties, won by a narrow margin. His victory put an end to the “Kirchnerismo” era, a period of twelve years during which the presidency was held by the late Néstor Kirchner and then by his wife and successor in office, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Below are excerpts from Macri’s December 10 inaugural address:

The country has sectors that think in different ways, but it is not divided. Citizens voted as they wanted to. Some supported our vision and others supported other candidates. That makes us happy because they could choose in freedom. But the elections have passed. The moment has arrived in which we should all unite to grow and improve so that our country advances.

The majority of Argentines who voted for our program did so based on three central ideas. They are: zero poverty, defeat drug trafficking, and unite Argentineans. . . .

We may think differently but the law must be respected. It is one thing to have different visions, ideas, and programs; it is another to overwhelm institutions with personalistic projects or to use power for one’s own personal gain. Here there is no question of diverse views: it is a question of the transgression of the law. Authoritarianism is not a distinct idea; it is the attempt to limit the freedom of ideas and of people.

My government will know how to defend that freedom which is essential for democracy. We aspire to a healthier nationalism, one that is not achieved on the basis of rancor, enmity, permanent struggle, or demonization of the other. True love of country is before all else love and respect for its people, all of its people. The homeland is more than its symbols. It is the people who live in it, the ones who must be cared for, helped, and developed.

I would like to place special emphasis on another basic goal of the [End Page 181] period that begins today. This government will fight corruption. Public goods belong to all citizens, and it is unacceptable for officials to appropriate them for their own personal benefit. I will be uncompromising with those of any political party or political affiliation, be it my own or another, who fail to comply with the law. There will be no tolerance for such abusive practices. There is no ideological principle that can justify them. The goods of Argentina are for all Argentineans and not for misuse by officials. . . .

I would like to take an opportunity during this inaugural message to also express my full support for the independent judiciary. In recent years it was a bastion of democracy and prevented the country from falling into an irreversible authoritarianism. In our government there will be no “Macrista” judges. There is no justice or democracy without independent justice, but justice must be accompanied by a process that is cleansed of political vices. There cannot be militant justices of any political party. To those who want to be such, we clearly say: They are not welcome even if they want to serve as our own instruments. Justice exists to help people resolve their conflicts with the proper application of the law, and it must do so quickly. Justice delayed is no justice. We will have to give the task of justice sufficient resources so that its processes come up to the level of the reality that we live, and of the new demands of an Argentina that is taking off.

Taiwan

In the January 16 presidential election, opposition candidate Tsai Ing-Wen of the Democratic Progressive Party won a landmark victory over Eric Chu, the ruling Nationalist Party candidate, becoming Taiwan’s first female president. Tsai’s campaign emphasized issues of relations with the People’s Republic of China, the economic slowdown, government accountability, and social justice. Excerpts from Tsai’s remarks to the media following the announcement of the official election results appear below:

Today, the Taiwanese people have used their ballots to make history. We have now experienced the third transition of political power. For the first time, there has also been a transition of Taiwan’s legislative majority. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the people that went to the ballot box today and cast their sacred vote. Regardless of how you voted, the exercise of democratic expression was the most important meaning of this election.

In 2016, through our democratic elections, we have yet again showed the world the pride of being a democratic country and how proud we are as Taiwanese. Our message to the international community is that democracy, as a value, is deeply engrained in the Taiwanese people. [End Page 182] Our democratic way of life is forever the resolve of Taiwan’s 23 million people.

I would also like to thank my two admirable opponents: Chairman Eric Chu from the KMT and Chairman James Soong from the PFP. I want to thank them for showcasing the spirit of our democracy and letting this election run smoothly. Although we have battled each other during this election, their critique and suggestions will now serve as motivation for me to work harder and be better. . . .

For me, this is not just about an election victory. The results today tell me that the people want to see a government more willing to listen to the people, a government that is more transparent and accountable, and a government that is more capable of leading us past our current challenges and taking care of those in need. They tell me that the people expect a government that can lead this country into a new generation and a government that is steadfast in protecting this country’s sovereignty. . . .

Following the will and consensus of the Taiwanese people, we will work to maintain the status quo for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, in order to bring the greatest benefits and well-being to the Taiwanese people.

I also want to emphasize that both sides of the strait have a responsibility to find mutually acceptable means of interaction that are based on dignity and reciprocity. We must ensure that no provocations or accidents take place. The results of today’s election showcase the will of the Taiwanese people. It is the shared resolve of Taiwan’s 23 million people that the Republic of China is a democratic country. Our democratic system, national identity, and international space must be respected. Any forms of suppression will harm the stability of cross-strait relations.

Finally, I want to emphasize that I have an important responsibility and that is to strengthen the unity of this country. . . .

Taiwan has many challenges ahead, both from outside and inside the country. This election is now over and that brings to an end the conflicts and friction of the election campaign. I will march forward together with the 23 million people of Taiwan. Together, we will overcome the challenges that this country faces. We will not be divided by an election. Instead, we will become even more united because of our democracy.

Latin America

On February 25–26, several former Latin American heads of state and governance experts gathered for a meeting in San José, Costa Rica, organized by Forum 2000 (Prague) and the Arias Foundation. Discussions during the conference focused on the challenges to democracy throughout the region and identified solutions for strengthening Latin America’s democratic values and institutions. Excerpts from the meeting’s communiqué appear below: [End Page 183]

The nondemocratic nature and totalitarian drift of some governments in the region, among which those of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua stand out, is now evident to everybody and can no longer be ignored by the democratic governments of Latin America and the world.

Democratic transitions are facing grave political and institutional obstacles, as is happening in Venezuela, where the Presidency of the Republic, and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice it controls, blatantly disregard the unquestionable legitimacy of the new National Assembly.

. . . National and regional institutions established to protect human rights and democracy are fragile and have, on occasion, been kidnapped by nondemocratic forces, such as the governments of the three countries mentioned, as well as those of Bolivia and Ecuador. . . .

International institutions often do not discharge their mandates of promoting and protecting human rights and strengthening democratic governance in an adequate and timely manner.

The almost complete unwillingness to denounce, let alone condemn the unrelenting undermining of democratic values and institutions in the five ALBA countries is a cause of great concern, and we draw the attention of the democratic governments of the region to their duty of protecting their democracies by respecting and persuading and bringing pressure on others to respect and fully comply with the international treaties they have signed and ratified in the framework of the Organization of American States and of the United Nations. . . .

Regional solidarity in defense of democratic values and institutions, both by governments and by civil societies, is of the utmost importance in the task of protecting and strengthening democratic governance.

Venezuela is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, and its grave food and medicines crisis urgently requires a determined and effective response by the entire Venezuelan State, together with that of the international community. This joint effort, however, has been impeded by . . . the government’s nonrecognition of the new National Assembly’s legitimacy. It has now become urgent that the hemispheric community of nations unequivocally condemn this irresponsible policy by the government of President Maduro, in order to persuade him to allow that the assistance to the people of Venezuela provided by international solidarity effectively reaches the people, and that the looming humanitarian disaster is avoided.

It is necessary to reverse the authoritarianism imposed on the three countries mentioned by reestablishing the independence of the branches of government, relegitimizing democratic institutions, and strengthening them where they still exist. Only thus can the requisite checks and balances essential to democratic governance be reestablished.

There can be no democracy with political prisoners. It is indispensable that they are all set free, and that, to this end, all democratic governments in the region express their solidarity with their just cause and act on it in an active and effective manner. [End Page 184]