30 October 2008

25 years of democracy

Today it's been 25 years since the formal return of democracy in Argentina. On October 20, 1983 a democratically elected president, Raúl Alfonsín, took office after more than seven years of dictatorship and over half a century of erratic shifts between legal presidents and military usurpers.

My personal reckoning is that, although I was born exactly six months after the coup d'état, I have so far spent four fifths of my life under democratic rule. During that time I've voted quite a few times: three times for president (1999, 2003, 2007), four for governor (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007) and many more, at least once every two years to elect national and provincial legislators, and once every four years to elect city mayors and councilmembers, plus a couple of primaries. My generation is possibly the one that has voted the most times during the entire history of this country.

On the national level I've always either voted for the loser... or later regretted not voting for him. During all this time, this thing that gets called "the democratic process" hasn't offered me much satisfaction. But I don't want to despair. Never has Argentina experienced so many years (a quarter of a century!) of uninterrupted free elections on all the levels of government. We move on and crises hit us and sometimes we'd rather have everything blow apart, but in our heart of hearts we know and wish it will go on no matter what.

I have my reservations and my protests in store and readily available, but today I want to end this on a positive note. For 25 years now we've refused, as a people, to be deprived of our right to choose, and even when all our options look bad, we always have one more chance ahead of us. And that counts.

(El texto original de este post, en castellano, está disponible en Sin calma: 25 años de democracia.)


  1. Winston Churchill's speech,although given more than 60 years ago, still resonates:

    We accept in the fullest sense of the word the settled and persistent will of the people. All this idea of a group of supermen and super-planners, such as we see before us, “playing the angel,” as the French call it, and making the masses of the people do what they think is good for them, without any check or correction, is a violation of democracy. Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.

  2. Anonymous15:53

    I have never seen a country that refuses to be denied their voice like Argentina.

    I witnessed a protest with 2700 people in Canada last week, it was the largest in Victoria, British Columbia's history. Victoria is the capital of a natural resource rich province that has seen many changes in management/beliefs/abuse of those resources. And still 2700 peaceful people were brought together for the first time.

    Argentina is a democracy and the people refuse to be ignored. That is kind of refreshing.


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