T his essay attempts to assess the significance of recent elections in Guatemala ( 1985) and Nicaragua ( 1984) and to interpret them in light of larger questions regarding democracy. In so doing, I hope to develop a cogent alternative to the model explicit and implicit in the Kirkpatrick -- Reagan administration view -- a model which is widely held even among critics of Reagan policy in Central America. My purpose here is not to present an empirical study of those elections but to use them to examine four broad arguments.
"Elections . . . are the central institution of democracy. . . . Democratic elections guarantee that laws will not be made simply in the name of a community but with the consent of the community. No substitutes are acceptable. . . . "--Jeane Kirkpatrick
|1.||Framework . The theoretical framework for interpreting democracy and elections should be broadened. If we are to address seriously the significance of elections, our starting point should not be (as in Kirkpatrick's view) their simple occurrence. Rather, elections should be interpreted and evaluated in relation to the broader question of what constitutes a genuine "transition to democracy" at the level of the state and civil society. Moreover, I share John Booth's view that the concepts commonly accepted in U.S. social science (which tend to overstress institutional, representational democracy) should be augmented by concepts of substantive, participatory democracy from other political traditions. Finally, I argue for a structural approach to political development.|
|2.||Guatemala . Reagan administration officials and supporters maintain that, having held nonfraudulent elections that returned the country to civilian rule in 1985, Guatemala under the presidency of Christian Democrat Vinicio Ce|