2015 is a year of elections. The Argentines vote to choose the destiny of our country and of other forty million people.
These elections are the expression of a democratic system, the election of the governors by the governed, as it happens with many other countries in the occidental world and some other countries outside of it.
What is considered as democracy?
Is the term that gave its origin equally applicable to the system we know today?
We can start by saying that partly it is not. The Greek democracy, or the government of the people, did not correspond to the current definition of popular government. For example, in ancient Hellas not every inhabitant were considered citizens (with political rights) and most of the population was slave. On the other hand, those who had political rights should assume them as their duty in the agora or in the political arena.
Today, according to the theory of the American political scientist Robert Dahl, we must say that what we call democracy represents an open, inclusive and competitive political system. This system is based on citizen participation and the control of the citizens over the government.
But, beyond the dogmas and without wanting to hurt susceptibilities, we will analyze if the current Argentine system correspond completely or partially to a modern democracy.
How democratic is Argentina today?
- Free, periodic and competitive elections.
We can’t doubt that at a national level we live in a country where, since the return to democracy, a system exists in which the officers are elected by vote in clean elections that are carried out regularly and in which coaction is rare and alternatives from the current government can compete freely. It is a different story at a province level in which periodicity is not affected, but competitiveness is partially affected.
- Inclusive vote.
Practically every adult can periodically participate in the elections. There are no privileges or qualified votes, nor the exclusion of certain groups or sectors.
- Right to hold public office.
In theory, any Argentine citizen can run for office representing a political party. In practice, it is not as easy for an “outsider” of the traditional political circle to access it, but it is not restricted by any anti-competitive requisite.
- Freedom of speech.
It may be one of the most controversial characteristics of the Argentina of today.
The citizens have the right to express themselves, without putting themselves in danger of receiving severe punishments, about political issues included criticizing public officers, the government, the regime, the socio-economic system or the prevalent ideology, among others.
There is no doubt that in Argentina we currently live fully the “freedom of speech”. However, this doesn’t omit the attacks from the party currently in government to certain media and journalists, creating and adverse environment but without affecting the democratic principle.
We must take into account that every media responds to particular interests that can crush with those of the government of the time. The serious thing would be that for the communication channel to be silenced. In Argentina, apart from the adverse environment and certain critics there is no evidence of the violation of this principle. In case of any violation by the media, it is the responsibility of justice and not of the government to judge it.
- Variety of information sources
Citizens have the right to use different sources of information which do not only exist but are also protected by law.
Even though it’s true that the new media law encourages this variety of sources, it doesn’t differentiate between those close to the government or not. Anyway, we must say that in Argentina there is currently a broad variety of sources of information.
- Associative autonomy
The citizens, to ensure the defense of their rights and interests, can build organizations and associations relatively independent, including political parties and interest groups.
Thus, we can say that in Argentina we currently live in a full democratic system. However, this doesn’t mean that certain characteristics, as freedom of speech, are more likely to be damaged than other. But nobody can doubt that from a formal point of view we live as a country under a full democratic system.
Maybe going deeper of the formal content of democracy, we may ask ourselves what have we accomplished as a society and how much is missing.
There is no doubt that to leave in a full and healthy democracy we must heal the social debt. That one that leaves millions of Argentines out of the system and makes us vulnerable regarding the democratic quality and its future.
It’s us, the citizens, the responsibles for strengthening democracy and for including everybody and assuring its benefits for the whole population.
Let’s celebrate democracy, but we know it is not enough. The challenge is the inclusion.