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Succession Dilemmas in Latin America

One of the main problems faced by leftists in power face in Latin America is to build lasting hegemonies within constitutional frameworks that limit, to varying degrees, presidential reelection. This conflict is mirrored in the uncertainty or unpredictability that is experienced prior to the designation or, in the best cases, the internal election of the candidate for succession.

In Mexico there is an exemplary tradition of political thought on presidential succession in the 20th century, from Francisco I. Madero to Daniel Cosio Villegas, which helps to understand the importance of the unpredictability or uncertainty in democratic processes with a minimum of political competition.

In 1975, Cosio Villegas questioned mechanisms such as the unveiling and anointment of the “Dolphin,” by the Mexican president of PRI, but recognized that some of that democratic uncertainty was staged in the previous moment, when the presidential hopefuls came out on stage.

There are Latin American leftist governments, such as those of Gabriel Boric, Gustavo Petro and Lula da Silva, who are just starting, in which the anxiety of presidential succession is not felt yet. But others, such as the Argentinian Alberto Fernandez, the Bolivian Luis Arce and the Mexican Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, are already in full succession dynamics, although at different levels.

In Argentina it is difficult to say, a few months before the primary elections, who will be the candidate of the hegemonic left: perhaps President Fernandez will seek re-election or maybe Minister Sergio Massa, Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner or, according to press reports, her son Maximo Kirchner will try to succeed him. These imponderable or unpredictable scenarios are constitutive elements of a democracy.

The same could be said of Bolivia, although in a more limited or riskier conflict. Former president Evo Morales and President Luis Arce want to be reelected. The Argentinian scholar Pablo Stefanoni has analyzed in detail this discord within the hegemonic Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement to Socialism—MAS), which is gradually shaping an expanding split of this party in society, the plurinational Legislative Assembly and the Bolivian public sphere. These tensions and, eventually, fractures, are also part of a democratic political process.

A similar uncertainty is being experienced in Mexico, prior to the official nomination, according to some, decided by the current president, as in the PRI era; according to others, as a result of an internal MORENA survey of the candidate to succeed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

There are still a few months of “half-naked and covert” candidates, as Cosio Villegas used to say, of “novelty and uncertainty,” to which will be added the sound lack of certainty if, from the opposition or the hegemonic bloc itself, other competitive candidacies emerge.

In the three cases, Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia, the opposition also have possibilities of reaching the presidency. With more solvency in Argentina, less in Mexico and, particularly in Bolivia, the probabilities of an interruption or alternation of the government project are open.

This threshold of change is inherent to democracy, no matter how much the official discourse in the three countries establishes a synonymy between right-wing and authoritarianism.

Where does any deviation from the official script seem to be discarded? Once again, in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. In a week, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was designated as successor in 2018 by Raul Castro and the leadership of the Communist Party, will be reelected by the National Assembly without any opposition representation.

In one year, if the electoral process scheduled for 2024 is not moved forward, we will see Nicolas Maduro reelected in Venezuela. And in 2026, Daniel Ortega will try the same, for the fifth time, in Nicaragua.

Source: Rafael Rojas for La Razón

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