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Electoral Integrity and Constitutional Democracy in Latin America
November 1-2, 2018
2101 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA
Constitutional democracy has as a necessary condition the periodic election of governments through competitive, legitimate and transparent elections. To guarantee these democratic elections, it is essential to have clear electoral rules and institutions that enforce these rules. Democratic elections under the Rule of Law are a guarantee of the exercise of political rights.
However, not every electoral system guarantees reliable and fair elections. For an electoral process to fulfill these conditions, it is essential to comply with a series of minimum standards that guarantees the exercise of the right to vote before, during and after the election, under criteria of electoral integrity and electoral accountability. Therefore, it is important to determine those minimum standards that an electoral process must observe in order to be effective and express faithfully the vote of the majority.
Experience has shown that the weaker the electoral system, the greater the lack of democracy and Rule of Law because there is no guarantee of a legitimate government elected under transparent conditions, stable and respectful of the law and the necessity for political rights to be exercised properly. Consequently, authoritarian regimes sometimes use the electoral process without fair conditions in order to seize or retain power in a non-democratic way. In such cases, electoral authoritarianism is a relevant risk for constitutional democracy.
Latin America is a developing region where it is necessary to study the relationship between its democratic standards, the Rule of Law and the electoral systems of its countries, in order to determine which electoral conditions should be improved and how to do that, to achieve better governance. Likewise, it is necessary to study the nature of electoral behavior in Latin America, from the legal perspective of the electoral process, the participation level of citizens and political parties, and the way that electoral conflicts are resolved.
Since 2017 and continuing through 2019 Latin America will have an “electoral marathon”: 11 countries will hold elections, most of them to run for President: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Venezuela, and Bolivia. This situation provides a great opportunity to analyze the current electoral integrity levels in Latin America, by examining the development of those recent elections, and their main strengths and especially their weaknesses. Such a review would do much to achieve more electoral competitiveness and integrity and in consequence, better constitutional democracy levels.