Rethinking Democracy, Part One

March 29, 2018

A warning, this post might be deemed a bit controversial, but what the heck — let’s stir the pot, shall we?

Democracy — this word has been on my mind for a while now. I won’t bore you with a recap about what democracy is and when it started — you all know that. Instead, I want to shed some light into the current state of affairs and a critique of the status quo.

As I have written in past Peepshow posts, I was born and raised in Costa Rica, the most stable democracy in Latin America — or so we like to think. We are in the middle of an electoral year, just a couple of days before the second round of presidential elections. Neither of the candidates got the 40 percent mandated votes to claim the win in the first round, and our second election unfortunately falls on Easter Sunday, a national holiday when half of the population will be vacationing at the beach. Not to mention that this has been a very atypical year which has brought into question some of the same accomplishments that we so proudly boast about.

Long story short:

By tradition, Costa Rica has been a bipartisan country throughout all of its history. In the past couple of years, corruption scandals, red tape, an ever-growing government state and plummeting socioeconomic indicators have weakened these traditional affiliations, yielding in a number of independent parties with tendencies all over the political spectrum. And people are not having it anymore.

The first round of presidential elections this year presented two traditional candidates, “Republicans” (center right) and “Democrats” (conservative left — Costa Rica has very strong socialist roots). But two new ones took their chunk of the voters and successfully moved to second round: extreme left, a party which some consider almost communists and extreme right, a party which dismisses basic human rights, questions the validity of international institutions and agreements, and is heavily rooted in the Christian faith. And don’t even get me started on the “charisma” of the candidates (read in sarcastic tone) — quite the conundrum.

What does this mean?

First off, the mere fact that these two parties took at least 20 percent of the votes means that there are some underlying truths in our Costa Rican society that we have suppressed. It means that tolerance and respect are not as important to our idiosyncrasy as we make the rest of the world believe. It means that our country’s backbone, our hard-working middle class, is slimming by the minute and the social gap is literally widening from under our feet. It means that our country is more fragmented than ever and that the existing electoral model is in crisis. Any of this starting to sound familiar? This means that neither of the two current candidates represents popular opinion, but because of vote fragmentation, we are now forced to choose the lesser of two evils rather than our potential savior. We will be voting against something/someone, rather than for something/someone — what a waste.

As you can imagine, the country’s general sentiment is somber, and the outlook is grim. What now?

In my next Peepshow, I will present some potential alternatives to the obsolete machine that is democracy… stay tuned.