Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Electoral politics

It should come as no surprise that electoral politics was not part of my original research plan. I'm not a political scientist, for one thing, although there are anthropologists who analyze this sort of thing, I'm sure.

However, I happened to arrive in Guatemala during an election year, and the electoral process has been one of the dominant aspects of the cultural and political landscape.  I wish I were a Molly Ivins, or a Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to do justice to some of the theater-of-the-absurd aspects of Guatemala's electoral politics.  It does seem to occupy a kind of alternate universe. For example, the wife of the current president, Sandra Torres Colom, is postulating as a presidential candidate. However, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal declared that she cannot be a candidate in this year's election but has to wait until 2015. Nonetheless, she continues to have campaign ads on national radio. So there seems to be a major disconnect between what the law says, and what people do. When I pointed this out to Doña Reina and Doña Anastasia this morning on our way in to a workshop about the electoral process, they laughed and said, "No one pays attention to the law. They just do what they want."

So this sense of lawlessness or impunity is pervasive.  The other day supporters of the Partido Patriota (far right) and the UNE (Union Nacional de la Esperanza -- a center/progressive party) in Zacualpa started throwing rocks and came to blows when they encountered each other on the street painting signs.

All of which is a long introduction to why I am live blogging (sort of) from a day long workshop on the electoral process.  

There is a profusion of political parties: hard to keep count. Somewhere in the 30s. New parties come into being and others die out pretty regularly.

We have now arrived at a few themes about the department of Quiché:

  • political violence (the above noted incident in Zacualpa; apparently there was an effort to get the two parties' leaders to talk but that didn't happen.
  • manipulation of basic needs of the population
  • militarism in the imaginary of the population
  • alliance between the UNE/GANA and FRG (FRG is the party of el genocidio Rios Montt)

We are at this workshop because Ixmukané is concerned with the participation of rural indigenous women in the electoral process (not to advocate for a party). So it's actually a pretty interesting analysis.

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