Elections and Democracy in Central America - Vol. 8

By John A. Booth; Mitchell A. Seligson | Go to book overview
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2 Can Democracy Survive the Democrats? From Transition to Consolidation in Honduras

Mark B. Rosenberg

M uch of the recent research on the return to democracy in Latin America has focused on the transition from authoritarian to democratic governments ( Malloy and Seligson, 1987; Baloyra, 1987; Drake and Silva, 1986). Less attention has been given to an equally important process: the consolidation of new democracies.

Examining the process of consolidation directs our attention to important questions about the democratic uses and abuses of power. Greater attention to the formal, institutional qualities of political organization will help us to understand how the political process itself works and why ( Valenzuela, 1985). The establishment and consolidation of working democratic procedures and institutions is a formidable task, as Booth suggests in his opening analysis. Indeed, the process of democratization only begins when two conditions are met: (1) civilian groups can establish and maintain a working consensus on how their disagreements will be resolved, and (2) they can provide operationally for mechanisms to manage their differences. Ultimately, the content of democracy in the sense of how things get done is just as important as the form of governance. Being democratic involves adhering to democratic principles, even if they undermine the basis for personal rule.

This chapter focuses on the difficulties of consolidating democracy in Honduras, where orderly governance, whether by civilians or the military, has been rare during the past three decades. Since 1954 the country has had nine heads of state. Only three have left office following elections, and two of these made serious and disruptive efforts to prolong their rule. One of them, a civilian, Roberto Suazo Córdoba, almost succeeded. Suggesting that civilians have been as apt to ignore and mutilate constitutional pretense and democratic aspirations as have military officers, this study focuses on the efforts to consolidate democracy during President Suazo's four-year term ( 1982-86).

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