party and personality

Bom dia from Colonia, Uruguay,

South Americans certainly take their politics seriously.

After catching the ferry across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires, hiring a scooter and investigating the cobbled streets of Colonia, I quickly became aware that an election was imminent. You can tell this by the number of signs, banners and bunting all over the built environment but there is something much greater than an average ho-hum campaign going on here. It even seems to interfere with the normal rhythms of commerce. There are the usual loud speakers, sandwich boards and hawkers – all selectively sending election messages to the populace – but there is such a profusion of messages, it startles a newcomer.

Being a conspicuous visitor – testily navigating the scooter around the narrow cobblestone streets and right-hand drive roundabouts – I’ve been spared the most strident of the election campaign entreaties.

nonchalance and spin

In Australia, where democratic complacency has set in a long time ago, the campaigns are characterised by nonchalance and spin. The party is being transcended by the personality. Here in Uruguay, the desire for societal reform is still apparently the guiding agenda and elections are seen as a chance to instigate some meaningful change. The advertising machines haven’t yet infiltrated the polity. Democracy is still a going concern. It was great to see how the election was galvanising the populace. It is certainly reaching a climax this week.

The election is for local government in Uruguay: for the intendente. Perhaps it’s because these local government elections are being contested for the first time ever in the country that they are so keenly contested. Perhaps the Uruguayans are as passionate about their democracy as other South Americans. Either way, it’s a refreshing change.

Boa tarde from Colonia


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