Saturday, January 24, 2009

Former presidents in Latin America

Via The Mexico Institute: the PRI is trying to get former president Carlos Salinas to run for governor of Nuevo León. I wasn't even aware that he lived in Mexico--he had moved to Britain after his presidency and he is not a popular figure.

This highlights the fact that former presidents in Latin America commonly run for other offices. For example, former Chilean president Eduardo Frei is a senator (and wants to be president again). Carlos Menem (Argentina) is also a senator, as is Fernando Collor de Mello (Brazil). There are others. In some cases, they hope to get back to the presidency. Or perhaps to enjoy the legal immunity (and fringe benefits) that elected office provides. Or maybe just to stay in the game in some manner. This wasn't the case in Mexico, however, as PRI presidents followed a tactit rule of staying out of the public eye (though they could wield significant influence behind the scenes). Democracy seems to be changing that.

12 comments:

Steven Taylor 2:59 PM  

This is very interesting for the precise reason you identify: the "rules" have been for Mexican presidents to leave the public scene, especially electoral politics, altogether. Of course, times change.

The most amusing example of a president running for office, but that really doesn't fit what you are talking about, is Fujimori's run at the Japanese Senate.

I was thinking in terms of Colombia, all I can think of is that Misael Pastrana (1970-1974) ran for, and won, a seat in the National Constituent Assembly (election in 1990, service in 1991) that wrote the current constitution, but that is a fair more unique role than simply running for the Senate or somesuch.

The closest parallel is that several presidents have gone on to be given ambassadorial position. Turbay (1978-1982) was ambassador to Italy after he was president, as we Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) to the US after he was in office.

boz 3:22 PM  

On a similar topic, Vicente Fox is in the process of creating a think tank/public policy institute. Slightly different form of activism, but still relevant.

Greg Weeks 8:38 AM  

It would be interesting to study under what circumstances presidents either stay active or recede.

boz 11:01 AM  

What's funny is that the one variable that appears to NOT be the determining factor is the success or popularity during presidency. Active post-presidencies are all over the board in terms of how well the president did during his or her term.

Randinho 2:39 PM  

Collor's family essentially owns Alagoas, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he's been elected again, but it's still depressing.

Justin Delacour 5:23 PM  

It would be interesting to study under what circumstances presidents either stay active or recede.

Ah, yes, that would be ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING.

Perhaps we could bring even more excitement to the discipline by studying what kinds of charities the former first ladies partake in.

MSS 9:34 PM  

What I find especially interesting is the contrast here with parliamentary systems. A significant percentage (somewhere I probably have an actual figure) of ex-PMs remain in the national legislature, some for many terms.

But presidents just don't stick around in elective office. There probably are very few in recent decades beyond the ones already mentioned.

boz 5:38 AM  

But presidents just don't stick around in elective office.

I think that's a good point and goes to the hyper-presidentialism we see in many systems (the US included). There is a view that anything else is a "step down." It would be nice if running for Congress or Governor after the presidency was seen as a step sideways.

Greg Weeks 11:22 AM  

I accept that logic, but then I also think of Arturo Alessandri in Chile, who actually oversaw a reassertion of presidential power in the 1930s, but later became senator (and even president of the senate).

boz 12:41 PM  

Another exception would be León Febres Cordero of Ecuador, who went on to be mayor of Guayaquil and a member of Congress following his presidency. There are certainly exceptions, but I think MSS's point remains the general trend.

Justin Delacour 10:53 PM  

But presidents just don't stick around in elective office. There probably are very few in recent decades beyond the ones already mentioned.

Okay.

So what exactly is the broader relevance, MSS? Is this just blind empiricism for the sake of blind empiricism, or can we extrapolate something further from this that would actually interest people on a normative level?

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