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mandate met with popular support mocracy, always a fluid measure of vided important opportunities for
at first: in 1990, he easily won an ab- democratic stability, appears to be the opposition in the general elec-solute majority of the vote. His shut- enhanced in democracies where a tions. the legacy of “no re-election,”
down of congress in 1992 met with transition from one party to another one important check on the other-even higher public approval ratings. has taken place. wise unrivaled power of these po-Yet, as the shine on his important vic- of course, term limits alone will litical parties, contributed in some
tories against terrorism and inflation not guarantee a flourishing multi- small measure to the eventual peace-faded, so did the patience of his elec- party democracy. despite its prom- ful transitions of power.
torate. By 2000, despite significant ise of “universal Suffrage and no it is telling that when the issue
oppositiontohisadministration, fu- re-election,” the mexican revolu- of re-election was broached by sit-jimori was able to win a third term tion did not usher in a meaningful ting presidents in mexico and par-using a pernicious mix of aguay, party lead-bribery, intimidationand ers and the public
state largesse. Had fuji- roundly rejected
mori abided by the exist- the idea. today, the
ing term limits, his legacy electorate in Latin
might have been a differ- a merica remains
ent one. as it was, the tran- h ighly ambivalent
sition of power in 2001 about lifting one of
shook peruvian democ- the few checks on
racy to its core, its former their executive. in
hero turned villain. 2007, Venezuelans
With term limits, tran- rejected unlimited
sitions take place as a re-election of the
natural course of events executive. the mea-in the democratic sys- sure was eventu-tem. politics ceases to ally passed in a “
do-be viewed as a zero-sum over” vote fourteen
game. ruling parties are months later; even
abletocultivatenewlead- in defeat, though,
ership which can carry on more than five mil-the successful policies of lion people voiced
their former leaders, but their preference for
also correct for past mis- term limits. as pres-steps. they can remake ident Álvaro uribe
themselves in the public contemplates an un-
eye and adapt to the dy- precedented third
namic challenges of the world around multi-party democracy until seventy term, public opinion in colombia
them. Suchhas been thecaseofchile, years later. to avoid another dicta- has voiced significant skepticism.
where the Concertación has governed torship, paraguayans carefully in- efforts to extend term limits be-for four consecutive terms with four cluded a no re-election clause in its yond two terms are not driven by
presidents representing three differ- constitution, yet the reign of the col- ideology. their impetus comes from
ent political parties. orado party remained unbroken for governments whose power is unri-
Likewise, the opposition is more nineteen more years until the elec- valed and popularity unprecedented.
likely to remain a loyal opposition, tion of fernando Lugo last year. in in politics, though, both power and
rather than try to upset the system, both countries, however, presiden- popularity are ephemeral. in a democ-since it can envision taking power tial succession bet ween individuals, racy, the electorate should maintain
one day via a free and fair election. even of the same party, paralleled a its prerogative to change its mind, and
peaceful transitions in Brazil, uru- gradual change in political reform. politicians should have the opportu-guay and el Salvador have helped moreover, the vigorous, even acri- nity to encourage it to do so.
political parties maintain relevance monious, debate within the ruling
even when they are not in power. parties demonstrated the vulnera- Steve Griner is an associate at the
indeed, public perception of de- bilities of the ruling party and pro- Inter-American Dialogue.
americas quarterly 21