Argentina today has quite the roller-coaster experience with democracy. The government of Argentina, viewed through the framework of a federal system, is a presidential representative democratic republic. Following a transition that began in 1983, a full-scale democracy in Argentina was reestablished. This was after the 1976 Argentine coup d’état in Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires, which resulted in the overthrow of Isabel Martínez de Perón (McGuire 1997). After that, Raul Alfonsin became the President of Argentina. In 1983, they held elections as a democratic government. Following the military coup that removed Peron from the presidency, the newly established military regime undertook a campaign of relentless repression against every political opponent, alleged terrorists, and sympathizers. This was known as “El Proceso” or “Dirty War.” (Lewis 2002)
This dirty war brought about the disappearance of an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 people throughout 1986-1983 (Lewis 2002). Though initially at the brunt of the oppression, trade and labor unions began reclaiming their voice in the political realm. A movement of protests was also sparked throughout the ’70s and early ’80s. After their military defeat in the 1982 Falk Lands War, support for Argentina’s armed forces began to wither and opened a window of opportunity for civic activism and larger-scale protests. 1982 was the year of a reemergence of strong trade unions, active civil rights groups, more vocal businesses, and a much larger platform of protests. One of the largest protests and most critical turning points was held in December 1982, which led to setting a date for new elections. The revival of elections and electoral politics led to the election of Alfonsin as president in December 1983 and the re-establishment of democratic institutions.
Argentina, in its establishment under a constitution in 1853, began as a troubled democracy. That same constitution is still in effect today, though it now includes a fair number of changes. Only one democratically elected government of Argentina has completed its full term, led by Juan Domingo Perón (Turner 1983). The country has since waffled between mob rule and military rule. Since their re-establishment of democracy, Argentina has fluctuated between periods of crisis and moments of political and economic stability and growth (Poneman 1987). The strain continues to exist between the military and civilian governments over the human rights abuses during the military dirty war era. However, no military intervention has occurred. Though their democratic institutions remain limited, a backslide to military rule appears incredibly unlikely.
The Argentinian constitution stipulates that a president is to be elected for a four-year term. At the end of the term, it provides the president with the option of reelection for only one additional term. In order to avoid a runoff in an election, the presidential candidates must win 45 percent of the vote (Gibson 1990). The National Congress consists of a 257-member Chamber of Deputies, whose representatives are directly elected for four-year terms with half of the seats up for election every two years. In addition, there is a 72-member Senate, whose representatives are directly elected for six-year terms, with one-third of the seats for election every two years. Legislators are elected through a proportional representation system with closed party lists. As of the most recent elections, in 2019, legislative elections and the presidential vote have proven relatively free and fair (National Polls). Legislative elections, including the most recent ones held in October 2019, together with the presidential vote, are generally free and fair.
EROSION IN ARGENTINIAN DEMOCRACY
A significant factor of democratic erosion is the examination of civilian thoughts and feelings towards the government. Research studies have found that the public relatively supports democracy in Argentina, but public satisfaction with the current system is relatively low (Gibson 1990). Another factor of democratic erosion is its ties to economic success. After the worst economic crisis, Argentina had seen in many years; the public took to the streets to protest and express their pessimistic views of the Macri government and the democratic system. As of 2018, 32% of the Argentinian population lived at or below the poverty line. (Agencia EFE Argentina) In concurrence with their seemingly corrupt government practices, their unstable economy repulsed many citizens away from the political. In the eyes of much of the Argentinian population, democracy was in place; it just was not working for them.
Circling back to the beginning of this section, protests are one of the most apparent precursors of democratic erosion (Gibson 1990). In 2019, the Argentine people also protested in the streets of Buenos Aires because of their frustration over the economic crisis that shifted into a dire food shortage. Without a doubt, Argentina’s growing economic crisis contributed to Macri’s loss in the 2019 elections. Protest over Macri’s policies was not unfounded, and in 2017, it turned violent when congress passed pension reforms that worked against many citizens and the labor unions (Peralta Ramos 1987). While Macri claimed to be helping workers, the reverse was evident in the policies his government passed. This was a clear indicator of democratic backsliding, given the public mistrust in government married with their lack of a voice in the political realm.
CONCLUSION OF ARGENTINIAN BACKSLIDING
Is Argentina a state facing democratic erosion? Well, though there has been a whiplash feeling in the economic sector, their democracy has seemingly stayed relatively stable throughout the past 20 years. While definite anti-democratic factors and issues are plaguing their democratic process and institutions, these are problems that can be overcome and improved in the future through a continuation of their democratic processes (McSherry 1997). Moreover, the threat of significant backsliding in the near future appears to be highly unlikely, meaning their democracy will, at least for now, seem to persist.
Gibson, Edward L. “Democracy and the new electoral right in Argentina.” Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 32.3 (1990): 177-228.
Lewis, Paul H. Guerrillas and generals: the” Dirty War” in Argentina. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.
McGuire, James W. Peronism Without Perón: Unions, Parties, and Democracy in Argentina. Stanford University Press, 1997.
McSherry, J. Patrice. Incomplete Transition: Military Power and Democracy in Argentina. 1st ed., St. Martin’s Press, 1997.
Peralta Ramos, Mónica., and Carlos H. Waisman. From Military Rule to Liberal Democracy in Argentina. Westview Press, 1987.
Poneman, Daniel. Argentina: Democracy on Trial. Paragon House, 1987
|Turner, Frederick, and José Enrique Miguens, eds. Juan Perón and the reshaping of Argentina. University of Pittsburgh Pre, 1983.|