Uruguay is an exceptional case in Latin America with respect to democracy, enjoying high scores and occupying the first position in several quality indicators of democracy developed by institutions such as Freedom House, Latinobarometro or the World Bank. These high scores are an expression of the country's long democratic tradition compared to other countries in the region, officially established after the enactment of the Constitution of 1918. Since then, there have been only two institutional ruptures in the country: between 1933 and 1942 and between 1973 and 1984 - and it was only during this last rupture, that of the military dictatorship, that the elections and the political parties were suspended.
The democracy in Uruguay is popularly called party politics because it is essentially organized around political parties. Historically, this organization has revolved around two political parties, both founded in 1836: the Colorado Party, representative of the urban groups, and the National Party, representative of the rural groups. With the founding of the Broad Front party in 1971 and the return to democracy in 1984, this organization gradually changed, going from traditional bipartisanship to a competitive multiparty system - changing, as well, the electoral divisions in the country: from the territorial division between the rural and the urban to the ideological division between the right, represented by the traditional parties, and the left, represented by the Broad Front, which since 2005 has occupied the Presidency of the Republic.
The development of democratic innovations in Uruguay is related to the electoral growth of the Broad Front. First of all, the mechanisms of direct democracy were provided for in the 1967 Constitution and have been part of the democratic structure of the country since 1984: since then, 17 consultations with the population have been held through these mechanisms. Well-known examples are the revocation of the Public Enterprise Act in 1992 and the ANCAP Law in 2003. In addition to being a demand from the organized civil society, they have played an important role in the dispute between the Broad Front and the traditional parties, serving as a means to decentralize the power of the Executive branch and to slow down the privatization process underway in the 1990s, not only in Uruguay but throughout Latin America, ensuring that the main companies of the country were kept under state control.
Secondly, the Participatory Decentralization Plan of Montevideo, implemented in 1990 by Tabaré Vázquez, from the Broad Front, was influenced by the first experiences in progress in the city of Porto Alegre. This innovation, based on dialogues, public budgets and neighborhood councils, has been progressively institutionalized, and since 2005 its main experience has been the Participatory Budget. Thirdly, there is the Law on Political Decentralization and Citizen Participation - Act 18.567 / 2009 - an initiative implemented by Vázquez during his first presidential term. With this law, a third level of government was established: the municipalities. Before this law, the country only had the national and departmental governments - comprised of a City Council and a Departmental Board. The innovations developed in the country seem to be related to the processes of political decentralization: the Law of Political Decentralization and Citizen Participation is a reproduction of the process carried out in Montevideo.
In addition to these three prominent innovations, there are several spaces institutionalized within the State which are constituted by councils and committees and with the participation of civil society. These spaces are thematic and seek to involve both specialists and the population affected by these topics in the monitoring of certain policies developed by the government. There are a number of issues addressed, such as rural women, natural resources, persons of African descent, domestic violence, racism and discrimination, among others.
Finally, Uruguay stands out at a regional and global level for its advances in Digital Government. Especially relevant are the Open Government projects, which focus on transparency and openness to citizenship. Civil society has also been involved in the processes of digital participation through the use of open data in the development of applications, which fundamentally aim at monitoring and strengthening the accountability of the Executive. Collaborative platforms - some replicated in other countries - have been created based on the participation of the population in the mapping and construction of databases that help generate both demands and proposals to the State.
This graph indicates the percentage of each means of innovation adopted by all cases in the country. Each case draws on one (primary) or two (secondary) means of innovation; this graph reflects both. See our concepts page for a description of all four means of innovation.
This graph indicates the percentage of each end of innovation adopted by all cases in the country. Each case draws on one or more ends of innovation (up to five); this graph reflects all of them. See our concepts page for a description of all five ends of innovation.
Citizen Innovation Lab of Montevideo
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National Debate on Drugs
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Laboratory of Social Innovation in Digital Government
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National Culture Plan
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