This post has been updated on December 17, 2015.
What a difference a month can make! During Argentina’s first presidential candidate debate in October, Daniel Scioli, the Peronist government party candidate, appeared to be a shoo-in with voters. A month later at the November debate held at the University of Buenos Aires Law School the tables were completely turned. Mauricio Macri, representing the opposition voice of market friendly change had now become the favorite to win the election. What happened?
The role of the presidential debates—the first in Argentine history (see my previous post on the first debate which talks about this CIPE supported initiative)—is difficult to quantify. What we can see is that Scioli paid a heavy political price for not participating in October’s debate. The other candidates made constant references during the debate to the empty podium that referenced his absence. The press also excoriated Scioli’s last minute decision to not participate.
Mauricio Macri, nuevo presidente de Argentina (Foto EFE)
By Mario Felix Lleonart
Originally published on his blog Cubano Confesante.
I was brought by God’s winds to the epicenter of a democratic battle: the Argentina ballotage (runoff), the second round of an election for the presidency of the Republic between two candidates.
I landed on Sunday, November 15 in Buenos Aires, exactly at the moment of the first presidential debate in the history of Argentina. During an incredibly intense week, for the first time in my forty years I observed the effervescent passion of a nation that today can settle the future of their country through ballot boxes.
The 8th Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, in Seoul, Korea, focused on ways to renew democracy, prevent backsliding, and sustain democratic transitions. In line with this theme, CIPE organized a workshop for participants to share experiences in balancing economic and political reform priorities and engaging civil society to drive reforms.
The speakers focused on two of the four dimensions in the Steering Committee’s “Call for Democratic Renewal”: the need to prepare civil society to protect fragile new democracies and the need to restore the credibility of mature democracies. They also stressed the need for two-way international engagement.
Across the world, poor governance and an overbearing state have presented themselves in the form of land grabbing and weak property rights; the denial of opportunities to women, local communities, and small businesses; and the suppression of efforts to build civil society. Specific challenges cited include efforts to deprive women of their rights in Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Morocco; unbalanced economic reforms that neglected political reforms in the Middle East; and restrictions on independent civil society organizations including business associations in Vietnam and China.
On February 21, Bolivians will head to the polls to cast a yes or no vote on whether the constitutional two-term limit for presidents and vice presidents should be amended. The outcome will decide whether Bolivia’s current president Evo Morales will be permitted to run for office again if he so chooses.
Recent polling (10/26, 11/4) indicates that the vote will be close, with the intention to vote yes ranging from 46-49 percent and no from 39-45 percent, with 9-11 percent undecided. The current Bolivian constitution, approved in 2009 when Evo Morales was already president, establishes that presidents are limited to two terms (i.e. one reelection). President Morales was first elected in 2005. He was re-elected in 2009 and then was granted permission to run a third time in 2014 on the grounds that he had only served one term under the new constitution.
Why does it matter if citizens in Bolivia vote to approve a constitutional change that would pave the way for President Morales to run for a fourth term?
In an op-ed published in October 28, 2015 in Los Tiempos newspaper, Bolivian economist Roberto Laserna reminds his fellow citizens that the February 21, 2016 referendum only indirectly questions the permanency of president Morales. Ultimately, the vote will weaken legal certainty and stability of the rules of the game – i.e. democracy and rule of law. Read the translated text of the article below.
Brent Ruth is a Program Officer for Latin America & the Caribbean at CIPE.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of presenting at the 2015 Global Youth Economic Summit in Washington, DC, where over 450 leaders and practitioners from 50 countries came together. The theme of the overall summit was “Scale in Practice,” and it examined how best to design youth economic empowerment projects that maximize impact, scale, and sustainability.
My session was “The Voice of Youth in Economic Policymaking: How to Advocate for the Right Reforms” and I presented with Simon Van Melick from SPARK (a Dutch-NGO specializing in youth entrepreneurship in conflict affected societies) and Hania Bitar from Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALRA). Unlike the other presenters at the Summit, who focused on the initiatives like vocational programs, microfinance, and innovations in mobile-based educational games, my panel focused on how to engage and empower youth to be involved in political and economic reform of their local communities.
CIPE’s strategy for youth programming is to prepare young people to become self-dependent and take initiative. To empower and engage youth as leaders of tomorrow, CIPE takes four approaches: teach civic education, equip youth with leadership skills, empower civil society to be inclusive and engage youth in the policymaking process, and provide platforms for youth to share ideas on reform.
When I heard about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Tunisia, my first reaction was happiness – they deserve it. Not just the members of the Quartet who were the recipients, but every Tunisian participating in this grand democracy experiment.
I have worked in places that never got this far, despite the presence of amazing, intelligent, admirable people trying their best. Over time I have come to think that will is the true secret ingredient. Capacity can be built, but some kernel of shared will needs to be there from the start. You need the right people, with the right intentions, at the right time, and there is no substitute for it.
I think about this same thing every time I read writings from America’s Founding Fathers. From the distance of history, America’s birth looks like a process; a lot of people met repeatedly, argued a lot, reacted to foreign events, hammered things out, and a nation came to be.
But then read the letters between John and Abigail Adams, and you suddenly are plunged into the chaos, stress and daily-ness of it all. Abigail is alone running the farm and business, dealing with insecurity and tending sick children. John is riding back and forth to Philadelphia and beyond, complaining bitterly about recalcitrant short-sighted delegates. There is tedium, inching progress and failure along the way. John was exhausted and frustrated as much as he was inspired. Unlike us reading his letters, he didn’t know if they would succeed.
Candidates at the October 4 debate, with an empty podium for incumbent Daniel Scioli, who dropped out of the debate. (Photo: AP)
When the lights went down and the countdown to going live on the air began, everyone in the room knew they were witnessing history — the first ever debate among presidential candidates in Argentina.
It was a long, hard negotiation process that brought the candidates to the debate table. The debate was not without its flaws. The biggest of course was the decision of the leading candidate, Daniel Scioli, representing the current governing party (the Front for Victory), to not attend even after participating in all the negotiations leading up to the debate. Still, the room was electric and the audience complied with all the rules they were asked to abide by, including refraining from clapping or cheering for their favorite candidate.
The five candidates who did participate (Mauricio Macri, Sergio Massa, Margaret Stolbizer, Adolfo Rodriguez Saá and Nicolás del Caño) took advantage of the empty lectern representing the missing candidate, faulting him for disrespecting them and the people of Argentina by his failure to show up.