ELE 2009

Conference Encuentro Latino Europeo 2009, May 2009

Democracy and politics

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Democracy is now well established in the Latin American continent. At the same time, there is a surprising variety between countries with regard to forms and involved actors. There are several experiments with direct or participatory democracy, as well as with communitarian and corporatist democratic mechanisms, next to classical indirect representative democracy.

It is crucial to have a fresh and non partisan look at this variety. Will new mediations between society and state contribute to foster the growth of individual capabilities and to societal viability? The question is highly relevant also to Europe. It might well be that democracy in Latin America is in its spring, while in Europe we are entering its winter.

And we better face the sticky dilemmas involved. May we dispute the democratic qualities of a government, while it is electorally legitimized and while it is clear that this is what the vast majority of poor people want: a profound societal change, and hope for a better life?

Democracy and Development

In all Latin American countries, the relative roles of market and state in the organization of economic life are subject to constant adjustment. The various countries are trailing widely divergent paths when it comes to liberalization/privatization, export orientation and regional associations. How successful will the different models be in combining growth and redistribution?

Special attention is drawn to the role of the parliament, as the backbone of democratic politics. Parliamentarians are to combine short- and long term perspectives,  group- and collective interests; they are to foster growth and redistribution at the same time; and they are to both represent and educate their constituencies.

And what about the claim that international development cooperation largely passes by and undermines parliamentary control and democratic procedures?