On October 26, important elections were held in four young democracies around the world, including Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Brazil. It would also seem that Samuel Huntington’s “third wave” of democracy is still spreading and increasingly winning new fans of this type of political regime. The Chinese government, for example, has dealt with a series of demonstrations in recent weeks, led by youth Hong Kong activists demanding long-promised political reforms like the direct election of their Chief Executive and universal suffrage of the type typically seen in democratic regimes around the world.
Both of these political achievements have already been consolidated in Brazil, which just recorded one of the most hotly contested elections in its democratic history. On one side this looks like progress in terms of democratic choice, but on the other it actually represents a small step back in terms of representation; more specifically, in women’s political positions in government. While Latin American countries account for an ever-increasing share of women in leading political positions– such as Bolivia, which currently has 48% of its parliament seats occupied by women representatives – female participation remained lower in Brazil’s recent election, though female candidates did win positions in the legislative and executive branches. In the case of the federal government, the situation is even more pronounced given the fact that there was only one woman elected governor in the whole country.
Uruguay, meanwhile, is also looking back on the various progressive policies implemented during the government of José Mujica (2010-2014). The two main candidates chosen by the people to compete in the second round of elections, respectively, the government candidate, José Tabaré Vazquez, from Frente Amplio (FA) and Luis Lacalle Pou, from the Partido Nacional (National Party), have been very restrained when asked about measures adopted by the outgoing president, such as the recent decriminalization of abortion and the legalizing measures on marijuana cultivation and selling. The former president, however, will not leave the government completely, because he was elected to one of the Senate’s chairs, showing the population’s compliance with measures adopted during his five years at the executive headquarters in Montevideo, the Estévez Palace. The popularity of his government will be proven during the second round of voting if Vasquez wins.
The same cannot be said in the case of Ukraine, due to the fact that these parliamentary elections represent what seems to be a national consensus on a lasting break with Moscow and greater integration with the European Union (EU). The Ukrainian Communist Party (UCP), the largest remnant of the Soviet past of the country, did not even win one seat in parliament.
The youngest of all democracies is Tunisia. After approving a new constitution in January 2014, officials called for new elections. Parliamentary elections were polarized by the dispute between the former modernist prime minister (February-December 2011) Beji Caid el Sebsi’s Call of Tunisia Party and the Islamist Ennahda Party. One troubling aspect of these elections was the extremely low turnout from youth voters.
So, in recent days we have witnessed a series of elections in different parts of the globe. The first, in Tunisia, can be considered a legacy of past springs. Then there are Brazil and Uruguay, at their consolidation phase, if we evoke Huntington’s thought, and finally, Ukraine, at the edge of Eastern Europe, a region that inspired many of the regime transitions after the end of the Cold War.