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Hugo Chavez: ‘Authoritarian, But Also Elected’

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia
January 16, 2013
National Post

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In theory, middle-class educated people in most developing nations possess strong commitments to democracy. But in many cases, besides managing the economy poorly, the first generation of elected leaders has not demonstrated much real commitment to democracy — a lack of commitment that has resonated with urban middle classes. Urban middle-class men and women who had spent years fighting an authoritarian regime simply assumed, perhaps naively, that when opposition leaders finally gained power, they would govern more inclusively than the deposed autocrats.

More often, however, the first generation of elected leaders only fuelled middle-class rage. From Venezuela to Bolivia to Kenya to Thailand to Taiwan, these leaders too often have turned into elected autocrats, dominating young democracies whose institutions are not strong enough to restrain a powerful leader uninterested in compromise, negotiation and tolerance of opposition.

Moreover, many members of the middle class have begun to grasp democracy's downside: If the franchise is extended to everyone, and if the poor, who comprise the majority of the population in most developing nations, band together behind one candidate, they could elect someone determined to reduce the economic, political and social privileges enjoyed by the middle class.

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