7777 - Presidential governments in contemporary Central America: a chance or a threat to democratic transition? A comparison of the political systems of Costa Rica and Guatemala.


A presidential government system is

a variation of democratic government with powerful prerogatives of the head of

the state. The governance patterns depend on various factors – culture

(especially political culture), history, tradition, internal and international

environments. In Central America almost all these circumstances favored the

existence of powerful presidential governments which led to military coups and

non-democratic authoritarian rule. The only exception in the region is Costa

Rica. How was it possible that Costa Rica managed to develop stable democratic

rules and all other countries in Central America did not? Could the process of

dissolving the army, realized in Costa Rica after the civil war (1948), explain

everything? Although it was a truly significant factor, there are others worth

of consideration. Costa Rica as a specific case in the

region constitutes a reference point in the analysis of the present positions

and the chances for democratization for the rest of Central American countries.

It gives the opportunity to observe the effects that democratic system brought

to the Costa Rican society.

Guatemala, on the other hand, is an example of the country with a strong

influence of external actors in its history, particularly the United States of

America. Together with the complicated history of military coups and

authoritarian rule, this is a painful history of ordinary people and their

difficult position in the present system, the lack of the respect of the human

rights, the social stratification and poverty.


The evaluation of the possibilities

of successful democratic transformation: the chances and the

threat to democracy in Central America. This is the most important part of the paper: an attempt of making

generalizations and prognosis concerning the functioning of stable democratic

systems in Central American area. It will be an effort to present some

practical solutions applicable in shaping a model of political system that

might foster the consolidation of democracy in the region.

Palavras-chaves: democratization, political system, America Central

Autores: Kowalczyk, Zuzanna (Department of Latin American Studies, Faculty of International and Political Studies, University of Lodz, Poland / Polen)


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