Thursday, December 26, 2013

Outlawing Parties and Blowback in Latin America and Egypt

Outlawing political parties you don't like has a long history in Latin America. So as Egypt declares the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization we can look at, among other things, the Communist Party in Latin America.

I thought immediately of the ironically named Law for the Permanent Defense of Democracy in Chile, which outlawed the Communist Party in 1948 and lasted for a decade. During that time, however, the party became even more popular than before and in a short time joined the coalition that brought Salvador Allende to the presidency. As in Egypt, outlawing the party was done in the name of national security but under it lay concern (or in the Egyptian case, knowledge) that the party could win elections. It needed to be proscribed so it could not have that chance.

Or you could look at the Guatemalan Labor Party, which was the Communist Party and had influence in Jacobo Arbenz's government when--like Mohamed Morsi--he was overthrown and the party was outlawed. The result was radicalization and decades of civil war.

The point here is not that these parties are somehow paragons of democracy, but rather you cannot successfully legislate them into oblivion. Even more importantly, there is a very high probability that in doing so you will make them more popular and powerful, and perhaps even more radical than they already are.

There almost certainly will be blowback, the suffering of unintended--but in this case entirely foreseeable--consequences. Back in July 2013 I made essentially the same point about supporting coups in Egypt vs. Latin America. I also wrote a piece for Foreign Policy on the problem of boycotting elections in Egypt vs. Latin America.


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