Democratic roots of Argentina
Argentina today has in my opinion a very volatile democracy history; they are a federal constitutional republic with a representative democracy. Argentina has been a democracy since 1983, when they finally held elections amid more and more calls for them during the period of harsh military dictatorship from 1976-1983. Argentina was a troubled democracy under a constitution from 1853, still in effect today (with changes), for decades prior to the military dictatorship. Since the military launched its first coup ever in 1930, only one democratically elected government has completed its term, and that one was led by Latin America’s most successful demagogue, Juan Domingo Perón. The country has since floundered between rule by the mob and rule by the military.
Timeline and international context
Since the start of the 21st century, there have been several instances of backsliding, but so there is more up to date information I will be looking at those instances between 2010 and 2019. In those years, democratic backsliding started up in 2010, from 2013-2014, from 2016-2017, and 2018-2019, according to the liberal democracy index chart on the V-Dem database up above. Over the course of the 21st century, Argentina’s overall measure of liberal democracy from V-Dem has been even somewhat, with small ups and downs resulting in a level measure on the graph. The decreases that do occur in the span of this last decade seem to be concentrated in specific years, where it will then increase slightly once again.
Precursors of erosion in Argentina
These numbers and statistics are not just found from nothing, the decreases in Argentina’s liberal democracy rating in those select years coincide with specific actions taken by the government and economic shocks to the country. With looking specifically at 2010-2019, and there are several, more time-limited precursors that can explain these sudden and short-lived decreases. Although there surely are a few long-term problems that have been plaguing Argentina, we can discuss them first, as I feel the more time-limited events have had a greater impact on the actual measures of Argentina’s democracy, especially in this last decade we are observing.
The movement established under Peron would be something to define Argentine politics for generations to come, all the way to today. Politics consists of Peronists versus non-Peronists. The opposition seems to be defined by them simply not being Peronist. Within the Peronist party however, there are many different ideologies and divides. From more economically liberal policies closer to Peron’s early years, to more conservative policies such as that of President Menem, who was president throughout the 90s.
The reason I bring all of this up is to paint the picture of Argentine politics as a struggle, with it usually always coming down to Peronists versus non-Peronists. Democratic erosion occurs when the winners, in this case Peronists, are in power so much that it allows some to take advantage of corrupt connections and deals to accomplish their goals. Justicialismo (Peron’s party) candidates win in almost all the elections they run in, with great divides within the party itself. Although I would not describe political polarization as on the level of the United States, it certainly exists just in the very nature of their politics ever since Juan Peron came into the picture in the 40s. Today, the division can be seen not just between opposition parties, but the more conservative Peronist wings, such as those like Menem before he split off, and the evolution of Peronism in the ideology of Kirchnerism seen from later president Néstor Kirchner and his wife who became president after him, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Symptoms of erosion in Argentina
One of the biggest and most obvious symptoms of democratic erosion is what you see when you look at the thoughts and actions of the citizens living within a country. According to research from Daniel Hellinger, democracy in Argentina is somewhat supported, but satisfaction with their democracy is low. In 2013, 73% of Argentine’s supported democracy, but only 51% expressed satisfaction with it. This is apparent when looking at the reactions people have had to to way their government is run. The protests mentioned before in 2018 exemplify this.
The worst economic crisis in years hits Argentina and the people would take to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with not only the Macri government, but the overall functioning of their democracy. As of 2018, 32% of the population lived at or below the poverty line. The unstable economy and corrupt government practices have disheartened many Argentines to the whole political process. For many, the way their democracy works now just does not work for them, and the levels of overall satisfaction show that. Protests are the most obvious symptom of democratic erosion. When people see corruption among other precursors like the ones mentioned above, they feel like the government does not work for them, and that the system of government known as democracy had promised so much but ends up giving so little much too slowly.
In 2019, Argentine people also protested in the streets of Buenos Aires because of their frustration over the economic crisis compounding into a widespread food shortage. The situation created a huge divide in the country, the protests came on top of many of the other grievances the people have had over Macri’s presidency over the course of his time in office. This growing economic crisis surely contributed to his loss in the 2019 elections, making him a one term president. This protest was not a sign of democratic erosion, but rather a sign of continued unrest and dissatisfaction of the people with the long-standing precursors that have plagued Argentina for decades.
Protest over one of Macri’s policies in Argentina turned violent in 2017 when congress passed pension reforms that upset many citizens and the labor unions. This cause many citizens to rebel due to unfair treatment against, Macri claimed to be helping retirees and workers, but the labor unions and demonstrators thought otherwise. Demonstrations turned to rock throwing and violence quickly in 2017, causing police to respond with tear gas, riot gear, and rubber bullets. This was a clear understanding of level of democratic erosion given that this strangely violent response to these protests is uncharacteristic of Argentina’s democratic era.
Argentina’s Resistance to erosion
In Argentina, speaking only on the 21 century in historical terms, with the so-called crisis of 2001. The mechanism of the crisis leading to the collapse of the neoliberal hegemony cannot be reduced to only its economic components; the impossibility of paying back a growing external debt, the multi-faceted resistance to adjustment plans and their social consequences must also be considered. It is particularly important to note that the social composition of this resistance, as it is usually the case in processes of resistance to neoliberalism, was multiple and varied. There were strikes, mobilizations and a growing wave of looting in shops, these protests were a rebellion of the people to and the protest reached its highest point on December 19 and 20. The President declared a state of siege on the night of the 19 of December to try and contain collective action.
Subjective ranking of Argentina
If I were to give a
prediction on the country’s movement beyond my target years, the 21st century
has a seen Argentina’s economy in wild swing, but even though the movement has
fluctuated its democracy has remained stable for the past 20 years. They have
several problems plaguing and in jeopardy of destroying their democratic
process and institutions, but I do honestly believe these are problems that can
be overcome and improved in the future. I am giving them a 3 overall. The
reason for my rating is because due to the experience weak democratic erosion
of some of their institutions, such as in the judiciary and executive, but
their democracy continues to stay stable. They are stable and not in any
sloping trend, so the threat of major backsliding in the foreseeable future is
low in my opinion from my analysis they should be a continuous democracy.
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“Argentina.” Freedom House, Freedom House, 2020, freedomhouse.org/country/argentina/freedom-world/2020.
“Argentina .” Data, The World Bank, data.worldbank.org/country/argentina.
Bronstein, Hugh. “Ex-Argentine Leader Fernandez Indicted, Tied to Nuns and Guns Scandal.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 28 Dec. 2016, www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-fernandez/ex-argentine-leader-fernandez-indicted-tied-to-nuns-and-guns-scandal-idUSKBN14G1QG.
Cohen, Luc. “Argentina Congress Passes Pension Reform after Protests, Clashes.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 19 Dec. 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-pensions/argentina-congress-passes-pension-reform-after-protests-clashes-idUSKBN1ED18S.
Democratic Erosion. “About.” Democratic Erosion, 2020 Democratic Erosion, 2020, www.democratic-erosion.com/event-dataset/.
Hellinger, Daniel. Comparative Politics of Latin America: Democracy at Last? Routledge, 2015.
“IAPA Respects Decision of Argentine Supreme Court, While Disagreeing with Its Harmful Impact on Press Freedom.” Sipconnect, SIP, 30 Oct. 2013, www.sipiapa.org/notas/1152635-iapa-respects-decision-of-argentine-supreme-court-while-disagreeing-with-its-harmful-impact-on-press-freedom.
Malamud, Andres. “Argentina Is Polarized. Or Is It?” Americas Quarterly, Americas Quarterly, 26 June 2019, www.americasquarterly.org/content/argentina-polarized-or-is-it.