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3505 - The recall of local governments in Latin America

Initially, most Latin American states opted for a strictly representative political system in which 'the people do only deliberate or govern via their representatives' (as mentioned in the Constitutions of Argentina and Bolivia, among others). During the 1990s various countries have started to modify representative democracies by introducing mechanisms of direct democracy. Except for the controversial and well known experiences in Venezuela (with the recall vote on President Hugo Chávez in 2004) and Bolivia (recall vote on President Evo Morales and eight prefects in 2008) recall as a direct democratic mechanism received relatively little attention. Looking further on to the local level, recall procedures can be initiated in Colombia, Perú, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia, as well as in some Argentinian municipalities. Without Bolivia where no votes had taken place so far because recall was introduced but recently the frequency of recall votes varies from very few in Ecuador (2010) to thousands in Perú (1997-2009). The observed spread of the recall on the local level leads to questions pointing to key elements in order to contribute to a further understanding of Latin American democracies: How and with which consequences has recall been extended? Is there a tension between representational functions and an imperative political mandate of elected office holders? How is the expansion of recall related to processes of decentralization and greater local autonomy? Is recall a democratic mechanism in the hands of citizens or a rather representing a new instrument of elites?

Keywords: recall, direct democracy, local level, participation, quality of democracy, election.

Author: Yanina, Welp (Centre for Research on Direct Democracy, Switzerland / Schweiz)

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