For these countries, it was a case of ‘redemocratisation’ in the 1970s and the 1980s. Then, countries such as Mexico, Haiti and those in Central America have in fact experienced a slow and incremental ‘democratisation’ after living for most of their political history under one or the other kind of authoritarian rule.
2. The manner in which transitions took place is also important. Brazil and Chile had transition pacts; while Argentina had had a ‘chaotic’ transition. Mexico’s took a very long path towards a slow and incremental democratisation under the supervision of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, while in Peru; transition began with the military getting unnerved over the economy begun unravelling.
3. In the developments leading to the transition, practically in all the countries the most noticeable feature was the search for compromise and consensus among various civilian elements political parties, church, trade unions and other groups as to the nature and shape of the post-military elected governments.
Since the transition was taking place in the backdrop of severe economic crisis and opening of the economy, the influence and role of private business had been felt overwhelmingly practically in all the cases of transition.
Of these, significant was the 1985 Pact for Democracy in Bolivia, which united the government and the leading opposition behind a programme for some harsh economic policies.
The consensus on a programme for economic liberalisation including privatisation of state-owned enterprises continued even after the elections of 1989 when the right-wing Accion Democratica Nacionalista (ADN-National Democratic Action) agreed to form a government of national unity.
When the military government in Chile decided, as per the military constitution of 1980, to hold a referendum in 1988 to the continuation of General Augusto Pinochet, a sixteen party coalition, representing the entire political spectrum, united behind the one-liner ‘Campaign for No’ to Pinochet.
The same ‘rainbow’ coalition won the congressional and presidential elections held in 1989 with Patricio Ay 1 win becoming the first elected president since the overthrow of democracy in 1973.
A somewhat similar development was witnessed in Nicaragua. Supported and funded by the US administration and Nicaraguan business sector, the anti-Sandinista forces regrouped in a concertacion leading to the surprise Victory of Violeta Chamorro in the general elections held in 1989. In Argentina, the Radical and the Peronist parties buried their age-old animosities and agreed to a series of constitutional amendments.
Given the severity of external debt obligations and the economic downturn in the early 1980s, the two parties forgetting their middle class and labour supporters and agendas of social justice, etc. agreed on the need to introduce some very unpopular antipeople economic austerity measures.
In Uruguay, the Coincidencia Nacional formally included the opposition parties and groups into a coalition government in 1990.
In Colombia, several leftist insurgent groups agreed to join the electoral political mainstream; besides, the two main political parties viz., the Liberal and the Conservative agreed to end their thirty year old monopoly over power and worked together in drafting a new democratic constitution in 1991.
After the 1982 elections in Brazil, the opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) heading the pro-democracy coalition of myriad civilian parties and groups negotiated with the military regime for the further liberalisation of the political process including an indirect election for a civilian president in 1985.
The 1988 presidential election in Mexico was one of the most hotly contested elections in the history of Mexico. The ruling Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) which had won every election since 1929 stood split for the first time in the 1988 election, with the splinter group becoming the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).
In the aftermath of the electionsm which were once again rigged in favour of the PRI-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari nevertheless sought to build a partisan consensus on the pace of political and electoral reforms and on the need to liberalise the Mexican economy.
Thus, nearly everywhere, civilian political forces were looking for compromises and consensus.
Many had shed their ideological rigidities and were looking at the, prospects of democracy with pragmatism. Many, who had survived the long and repressive rule of the armed forces, for instance in Chile, had interest in holding onto the ‘limited political opening’ the military regime was offering.
In Brazil, such actions in the realm of civil society had culminated in the popular demand and mobilisation for diretas ja, that is, the demand for a direct presidential election in 1982. Such grass roots activism upset the military’s own time table for indirect presidential elections that could be held finally only in 1984.
At the same time, it is important to know that such popular pressures and expectations in most of the countries made the political parties and civilian leadership sit up and acknowledge that a mere change to a civilian rule will not be enough and that elected governments will have to pay serious attention to the question of participation and representation and problems of inequalities, unemployment, etc.
In other words, mere ‘electoralism’ or political liberalisation in the name of democracy will not do. Social movements made a brave effort to convert political liberalisation into democratisation everywhere.
4. Similarly, compromises and pacts were attempted between the departing military regimes and future civilian leadership as to the mode and time-table for a peaceful transition as well as for the nature and domain of the post-transition governments.