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Latin America offers ample examples of regime transitions to mull over how democratic transitions could be possible in unfavorable contexts. The talk focuses on Chile and Mexico in order to examine how pro-democracy and counter-democracy forces evolved and shifted positions over time. In Chile, old enemies coalesced to remove old authoritarian friends in the 1988 plebiscite following 17 years of the Pinochet dictatorship and the extreme ideological polarization of Salvador Allende’s democratic socialist experiment. In Mexico, the single party regime moved fitfully toward institutionalized electoral contestation after the establishment of the National Electoral Institute (IFE) in 1994. How did pro-democracy forces capitalize on regimes initial crises to dislodge old regime incumbents? and how did oppositional forces overcome the coordination dilemmas in competing against the old regime defenders? To answer these questions, Hatab reflects on players’ strategies, payoffs, and incentive structures that made transition to democracy possible in the two countries. In Mexico, the creation of the IFE reshaped actors’ orientation toward each other to put an end to a seven-decade rule of the single party. In Chile, the 1988 plebiscite changed the political calculus and strategies for a wide range of actors to cohere around the “No” choice to dislodge Augusto Pinochet. The historical tracing of transition processes in the two cases will show how the balance of power between oppositional forces would create demands for democracy and affect possibilities for coordination and successful transition. On the contrary, the presence of a state actor as a political player would change actors’ orientation toward the democratic process and create a permanent possibility of military intervention and authoritarian reinstatement.
Shimaa Hatab is a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Abbasi Program. Her research ranges across different perspectives of political sociology and comparative politics. She explores issues in social transformation and the political development of countries in the Middle East and Latin America.