Sunday, March 23, 2014

Long-Term Political Foundations in ALBA Countries

At the AULA Blog, Eric Hershberg writes about how ALBA countries have so many leaders who are seeking constant re-election rather than constructing effective structures to groom new leaders.

Analytically, it is much more useful to strip this of the typical "they are just power grabbing" angle and focus more on the self-defeating nature of the current strategy of re-election.

But if a transformative, historic project fails to develop leaders and launch them into positions of growing responsibility and power, it is unlikely that it will succeed over the long run. Lula could transfer power to Dilma, Lagos could do so with Bachelet, Tabare to José Mujica, and so on. This is what made possible the conversion of eight-year projects into 16‑year projects, and so on. The PRI, in Mexico, managed successions for seven decades, and presumably is poised to continue along that road now that it has regained the presidency. Yet for some reason the ALBA governments have not taken this step. Their leaders have angled toward caudillismos that have a medium-term appeal, but that almost certainly cannot be the foundation of a decades-long project for changing societies in need of transformations that they themselves articulate.

This is a great point. If you support the political projects being undertaken in ALBA countries, then you should oppose re-election because that contains the seeds for future political implosion. The PT in Brazil is the opposite--Lula did not see himself as indispensable and thereby guaranteed the long-term continuation of the projects he got underway.

As far as I know, no one has really investigated why it happens in some countries and not in others. My first thought is that it is related to the strength of the existing party system. Chile and Uruguay have strong and lasting parties, and in Brazil the PT is strong even if others are not. Meanwhile, the party system in Venezuela was blamed for the crisis. But more systematic work would be interesting.

h/t Mike Allison on Twitter


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