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Electoral Participation and Civic Education in Latin America Irma Méndez de Hoyos Irma Méndez de HoyosFLACSO-México.

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Presentation on theme: "Electoral Participation and Civic Education in Latin America Irma Méndez de Hoyos Irma Méndez de HoyosFLACSO-México."— Presentation transcript:

1 Electoral Participation and Civic Education in Latin America Irma Méndez de Hoyos Irma Méndez de HoyosFLACSO-México

2 Objectives To present the main trends for electoral participation in the world, and point out the axes of current debate. To present the main trends for electoral participation in the world, and point out the axes of current debate. To describe factors associated with the variation of electoral turnout. To describe fundamental elements of voter education and alternative activities to promote electoral participation. To describe the fundamental elements of civic education.

3 Content Democracy and elections: dilemmas in Latin America (LA) Evolution of voter turnout Factors associated with the variation of voter turnout Voter education and civic education Challenges for Latin America

4 Democracy and elections: dilemmas in Latin America Competitive elections: distinctive characteristic of democracy and source of legitimacy for the political system. The third wave of democratization in LA means competitive elections. Two decades of competitive elections in LA have not translated into more efficient, more responsible governments (governability and/or democratic governance).

5 Democracy and elections: dilemmas in Latin America Competitive elections is not equivalent to democratic governability / governance Could this weaken the role of elections? Support for democracy? Electoral participation?

6 Democracy and elections: dilemmas in Latin America Governance  A re-conceptualization of the relationship between government and society. The axis of this new relationship points out to the direct participation of citizens in solving public problems, and an exchange of resources between government, society and the market.

7 Democracy and elections: dilemmas in Latin America Some common governance elements (Stoker, 1998; Rhodes, 2000; Pierre, 2000; Porras, 2007): Blurred borders between the public and private spheres, Direct participation of citizens in resolving public problems, Fragmentation of power axes: multiplicity and competence of governance areas and agents.

8 Democracy and elections: dilemmas in Latin America Governance questions: a) the ability of government to solve public problems on its own b) centralized decision-making c) limited spaces for citizen participation d) role and importance of elections, parties and other representative institutions e) the monopoly of these institutions in the government process

9 Democracy and elections: dilemmas in Latin America Governance:  What used to be indisputable roles of government are considered now as common problems, which can be solved by other political institutions and other actors.  To what extent does this reduce the importance and meaning of elections?

10 Voter turnout In spite of their differences, all theories of democracy consider voter turnout as one of its main components. The vote: constitutes the most extended form of political participation, but it is just one dimension of political participation.

11 Voter turnout Growing concern for the decrease in electoral participation in the last 10 years in the world. It has been decreasing slowly but consistently in recent years. In : average 77.1%; %; : 69.7%; since 2006: less than 69%

12 Voter turnout

13  The decrease in voter turnout is also a trend in LA, but not a generalized pattern.  Participation has decreased in some countries –Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela- whereas it has increased in other countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, Dominican Republic.

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20 Voter turnout  Voter turnout is a unique source of legitimacy for the democratic system. Participating in elections: Is the primary basis for public influence in representative democracy, Constitutes a form of collective decision-making, Generates a link of responsibilities and accountability for elected politicians.

21 Voter turnout The decrease in voter turnout weakens the primary link between citizens and government, weakens the primary link between citizens and government, on a large scale, it can erode the legitimacy of the democratic system.

22 Voter turnout  In his book Voter Turnout. A Global Report Dieter Nohlen points out that:  The main problems are not national or regional differences in the percentages of voter turnout, but the political meaning of elections and the political participation of citizens in new democracies.

23 Voter turnout What is the political importance of elections and citizen participation in an era characterized by power fragmentation, multiplication of decision-making centers and a dynamic, complex and heterogeneous society?

24 Factors associated with voter turnout Multiple factors could explain changes in electoral turnout: Electoral system factors :  Type of electoral system  Type of electoral registry (individual or State responsibility)  Compulsory vote  Election Day: one or several days  Election Day: working or resting day  Availability of alternative procedures to vote  Access to polling stations  Use of technologies

25 Factors associated with voter turnout  Party system factors:  Party system structure (number of parties)  Party competition and competitivity  Institutionalization of party system  Legitimacy of party system  Legitimacy of elections

26 Factors associated with voter turnout  Social and economic aspects:  Age  Education  Income  Occupation

27 Factors associated with voter turnout  Attitude factors:  Political interest  Availability of information  Political efficacy  Social networks  Socialization

28 Factors associated with voter turnout  Contextual factors:  Perceptions of political contest effectiveness  Competitivity and importance of the electoral event  Nature of party system  Campaign spending  Voting traditions in different communities  Strategic vote  Time between elections  Weather  Nature of elections (concurrent or not)

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30 Facrtors associated with voter turnout Which factors are the most important?  There is no consensus on the most relevant factors. In European studies institutional factors are enhanced. In LA contextual and institutional factors prevail.  Some studies point out that the character of elections is the most important thing as a result of the combination of several elements in each election.  Others use analytical approaches to explain the vote:

31 Factors associated with voter turnout  As the expression of a group behavior influenced by the social, demographic, regional or economic characteristics shared by members of a given community,  As an eminently individual act, motivated by personal and subjective perceptions and orientations,  As an individual act responding to particular contextual situations, and in reaction to a certain trigger.  As an individual instrumental rather than a rational act: a retrospective vote issued in response to or according to government performance,  As an act expressing the voter’s concern about issues or themes placed at the center of the political debate in electoral circumstances: issue voting.

32 Factors associated with voter turnout Some available data on factors associated with the variation of electoral turnout in LA show the following:

33 Factors associated with voter turnout Factors ELECTORAL TURNOUT GENERAL N Contextual Contextual Civil Freedoms- FH.423(**) (*) Political Rights- FH.378(**) (*)54 Electoral Type of electoral system (*) Party system Competitivity Rate Number of parties Legitimacy of party system (*) Indispensable political parties (*) Trust in political parties Legitimacy of Elections Transparent elections The vote is a real choice (*) (*)52 Institutionalization rate of political party system *The correlation is significant on level 0,05 (bilateral). ** The correlation is significant on level 0,01 (bilateral).

34 ASPECTS VOTER TURNOUT GENERAL N Social and economic Education (Literacy) (**) Income Attitude Democracy is better.287(*) Satisfaction with democracy Trust in municipality0.066n/d Trust in government n/d Interest in politics Political situation (good) Self-identification left Self-identification center Self-identification right-.288(*) Party identification n/d-0.247n/d19 Voting- changes anything n/d.792(*) Voting-changes nothing n/d-.824(*) Talks about politics with friends n/d Turns to an authority0.416n/d0.428n/d Turns to a political party0.253n/d-0.867n/d Turns to a government officer0.263n/d-0.411n/d Turns to a Deputy0.431n/d-0.17n/d Turns to mass media0.322n/d-0.181n/d Turns to NGO0.432n/d0.421n/d *The correlation is significant on level 0,05 (bilateral). ** The correlation is significant on level 0,01 (bilateral).

35 Factors associated with voter turnout  For most people, explaining voter turnout is a riddle related to psychology.

36 Voter education and civic education Decrease in voter turnout: efforts to revert or at least stabilize this trend have multiplied. Players involved in tasks related with voter education are divided into traditional and non-traditional categories.

37 Voter education and civic education Traditional players: Governmental agencies, Electoral management bodies (EMBs), Political parties, NGOs, Community organizations, Schools, Promotion groups, Young political groups.

38 Voter education and civic education Non-traditional players: Corporations, Labor unions, Informal education centers, Non-profit community groups, Service organizations focusing on young people, Service organizations focusing on young people, Religious groups, Mass media organizations.

39 Voter education and civic education Political party participation: controversial. Consolidated democracies: single responsibility. Recent literature: voter education as non- partisan activity, preferring participation of non-neutral agents, especially in emerging or transition democracies.

40 Voter education and civic education Two considerations: Individuals and groups learn about elections and democracy through their interactions with government and political experiences. Parties can be an effective and low-cost route to offer information to voters. Parties, sympathizers and members are potential educators.

41 Voter education and civic education It is important to ensure that parties have precise information and therefore provide positive lessons to citizens. Citizens can support voter education by surveying the behavior of political parties.

42 Voter education and civic education Purpose of voter education : Support the electoral administration in its task to guarantee a free, fair, efficient, cost- effective and transparent election. Promote knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors stimulating and consolidating democracy.

43 Voter education and civic education During an election, voter education must ensure: Effective organization, Citizen participation to support parties or causes, Appropiate behaviors in peaceful elections, Acceptance of results, and Tolerance to competition and opposition.

44 Voter education and civic education Voter education: Voter education programs are very costly, therefore it is recommended to look for alliances with other players. 6 basic approaches group activities to promote voter turnout

45 Voter education and civic education 6 basic approaches: Information campaigns (how to vote) Advertising campaigns (what to vote for) Grassroots movements Mock elections in schools and other educational programs with special purposes Entertainment Induction mechanisms

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48 Voter education and civic education Comparative experiences: voter education and democracy-building activities require long-term efforts. This means: creating or improving local capacity and working for complementary efforts and regional support.

49 Voter education and civic education The success of civic education and voter education initiatives depend on the establishment of sustainable democratic institutions: Political parties, Legislative assemblies, Impartial electoral authorities able to conduct periodic elections, and An Effective State. In this environment, citizens are able to exercise their rights and can be educated about their roles and responsibilities, such as participating in elections.

50 Voter education and civic education The result of these activities has been difficult to assess. Good practices: Foster evaluation strategies that permit consideration of program effectiveness and impact. Foster the systematization of data that allows conducting studies on the factors affecting voter turnout.

51 Voter education and civic education Assess the balance between human and financial resources, and implement base and advertising campaigns. Foster the participation of schools in activities related to voting during election periods.

52 Voter education and civic education Voter education: only a limited component of civic education. Civic education: includes the task of educating citizens to be responsible for their duties in a democratic state, and to exercise their rights as free human beings. Characterized as a liberating and empowering process.

53 Voter education and civic education  Purpose:  Promote full participation of citizens in the political life of a community and a country committed to the fundamental values and principles of democracy.

54 Voter education and civic education  There is consensus on the content of civic education, which must comprise the following topics:  The meaning of democracy  The role, responsibility, and rights of citizens  Good governance  Democratic principles and procedures  Democratic institutions and laws

55 Voter education and civic education  LA: civic education became a way to revalue elections and to contribute to the democratic transition of the 80s.  For many years non-governmental organizations were the main promoters of civic education.

56 Voter education and civic education One of the trends is to equate citizenship with the right to vote, and therefore the objective of civic education is the participation of citizens in electoral processes.

57 Voter education and civic education However, according to evidence, voter turnout is influenced by multiple factors. Civic education and voter education constitute only one of them. Nohlen: The essential precondition to consolidate new democracies is to raise the level and quality of citizen participation and to make institutional reforms in order to improve their political efficiency.

58 Conclusions Governance is a reconsideration of relations between government (public bodies in general) and society (Kooiman, 1993; 2003; Rhodes, 2000; Aguilar, 2006). Society –non-governmental organizations and networks- will play a central role in the new paradigm of government.

59 Conclusions As a paradigm proposing the strategic collaboration of public bodies and private and social players in complex issues of public interest, governance can contribute to: Enlarging spaces for citizen participation Improving efficiency of some electoral tasks, such as voter education and civic education Strengthening trust and certainty in electoral management bodies.


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