For my comparative hypothesis I will be using the two states, Canada and Venezuela, as evidence to support Levitsky’s “educated guess” about the supposed factors that supports or undermines stable democracies. Which is if a state adheres and/or abandons norms and/or guard-rails of toleration and forbearance it cause democracies to thrive or die.
Thus the evidence will support the claim that democracies are dying due to underlying factors in the states governments’ structures, “This is how democracies now die. Blatant dictatorship- in the form of fascism, communism, or military rule- has disappeared across much of the world…Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves.(5) Two major causes for a stable democracy, is the result of the practice of unwritten norms and legitimacy of authority.
Two damaging causes of an unstable democracy is the encouragement and tolerance of violence in the state and opponents being denied as legitimate in elections. In the cases studied, Venezuela and Canada, my hypothesis is that Venezuela is an unstable democracy, while Canada will be considered a stable democracy and this will be proven through data I collected to support this claim.
I expect to find overwhelming support and evidence to sustain the author’s argument that the adherence or absence of the norms/guard-rails of toleration and forbearance cause democracies to thrive or die. I expect to find that the absence of norms and/or the guard-rails of toleration and forbearance to be the cause of the downfall of democracy as seen with Venezuela. As well I expect to find that if a state adheres to the norms and/or the guard-rails of toleration and forbearance their democracy will thrive and I will use the case, Canada, to prove this.
How does a state go from being once considered a rich democracy to collapsing into a dictatorship? The case study, Venezuela, will prove that despite if a state is powerful and prosperous democracy if it abandons toleration and forbearance that democracy will die. Venezuela’s current government type is a federal presidential constitutional republic and it is in the state where the country is experiencing a political and economic crisis. Venezuela has a background history political instability from its government going back and forth as being democratically led or military ruled, “Democratic Action led the government during Venezuela’s first democratic period (1945-1948). After an intervening decade of dictatorship (1948-1958) and the fall of dictator Marcos Peres Jimenez…four Venezuelan presidents came from Democratic Action from the 1960s 59 the 1990s. This period, known as the “Fourth Republic”, is marked by the development of the 1958 Punto Fijo Pact between the major parties…”(Wikipedia politics of Venezuela)
It was in the year, 1958, Venezuela had began a period in which they experienced the most democratic stability in their political history as a result of the launch of the Punto Fijo Pact. The Punto Fijo Pact, was an agreement created and signed between the three major political parties in Venezuela; Acción Democratica, C.O.P.E.I or also known as the Social Christian Party, Unión Repunlicana Democrática in an effort to formally agree to have a democratic regime of sharing power in order to prevent the rise of a single party hegemony and/or dictatorship and holding elections. As well it was the result of the tensions that brewed over between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, when there was a fight to keep communism at bay and to take over resources and power. The United States at the time was worried that Venezuela would fall to communist Soviet Union, especially since they were the largest oil producer in the world and was led by a repressive dictator, General Marcos Pérez Jiménez. Fearful of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez’s regime becoming more repressive and violent towards civilian, the resistance against his dictatorship was done in secret with the pact and publicly in street protesting. The agreement and the resistance led to Venezuela being able to overthrow General Jiménez from power in January 23,1958 and hold their first ever democratic polls in December 7, 1958 and resulting in the legitimate presidential victory of Rómulo Betancourt representing the Acción Democratica party.
Nearly forty years later, a political outsider,Hugo Chavez, was opposed to the Punto Fijo Pact and the establish democratic political system of the time claiming it was a form of dictatorship, “…railed against what he cast as a corrupt governing elite, promising to build a more “authentic” democracy that used the country’s vast oil wealth to improve the lives of the poor.”(3)
It was evident that Venezuela’s democracy was stable and it was prospering in wealth from their oil supply, however, during the 1980’s to the late 1990’s, the country fell in economic issues because of their the dependency on their oil supply and the severe inequality as seen with the wealth gap between those in poverty and the elitists. Hugo Chavez attempted two unsuccessful coup attack against the current president of the time, Carlos Andres Perez, believing he was corrupted and was jailed for two years, prior to his rise to power. After, President Perez was impeached on the charges of corruption during his presidency.
Hugo Chavez rallied enough supporters to align with his Marxist ideology and creating public distrust in the government, by using his platform that the two dominant party system, Acción Democratica and the C.O.P.E.I, is not a reflection of the citizens, especially of the poor, who felt oppressed and ignore under the political system. In 1998, Hugo Chavez, was elected into presidency and considered by his supporters the liberator of elitist dictatorship, the Punto Fijo Pact, “Democracy is infected. And Chávez is the only antibiotic we have.”(4) Even Hugo Chavez believed that he was the solution to the economic issues in Venezuela and he declared that to be true, “The last dictatorship of the Punto Fijo, and it collapsed on December 6,1998, when the majority of the people elected this soldier as president.”(Chavez)
President Chavez began his political “revolution”, by launching a new system, “Bolivarian Revolution/Socialism”, with the intention of having it improve political sovereignty and the standard of living of the citizens under a new constitution in which the economy is one that is socialist and populist, bringing in funded by high oil prices socialist policies, and publicly denouncing anti-United States foreign policy. Bolivarian socialism was considered to be unsuccessful
Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with strong democratic norms. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index, Canada is classified as being a full democracy meaning that the state respects and reinforces the political culture of civil liberties and basic political freedoms based on democratic principles, it has a valid government system of checks and balances, the media is not controlled and diverse in opinions, the judiciary is not controlled and their decisions are enforced, and the state had very little problems in running the democracy.
In the Economist Intelligence Unit 2017 Democracy Index indicates that Canada has the 6th most stable democracy out of the ranking of 167 countries based on how functional their political system is. According to these reports less than 5% of the world’s population actually lives in a full democracy. In Canada their electoral process and pluralism is ranked as a 9.58, the functioning of their government system is at a 9.64, political participation a 7.78, political culture an 8.75, and civil liberties at a 10.00.
The political culture of Canada has a standing tradition of it being aligned with a centrist and moderately liberal political ideology and being a prevalent force in their society. Just as the United States have goals in the system to ensure every citizen is protected with their unalienable rights under the government, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”, Canada’s governmental goals for its citizens are, “Peace, order, and good government.” As well as emphasizing that social justice is a key component to the political culture on Canada in order to align with their tradition of being a state that emphasizes on the inclusion and equality for all of their citizens.