Non-Violent Protest Movements and the Recognition of Governments
The legality of the recognition of Juan Guaidó’s interim government in Venezuela is widely disputed among international lawyers. Helmut Aust adds an additional perspective to the debate by contesting the legitimacy principles behind the recognition. He questions the veracity of the legitimacy criteria applied and concludes that the recognition of Guaidó was not based on authentic legitimacy criteria due to severe doubts concerning Guaidó’s interim mandate under Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution. This article challenges Austs hypothesis by analysing the recognition statements made by multiple states. In particular, it identifies the legitimacy source of support by a non-violent protest movement in the justification for recognising Guaidó. To this end, the article engages with recent practice of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. This body frequently considers the presence of non-violent protests when assessing the suspension of a country after a change in government. Recent practice in Egypt (2011), Tunisia (2011), Burkina Faso (2014), Zimbabwe (2017), and Sudan (2019) shows that support through non-violent protest movements towards a new government is a key determinant not to suspend a government after a change in government. Similarities exist between the line of argument in these cases and the justifications advanced by the states recognising the Guaidó government. Therefore, this contribution concludes that the non-violent protest movement supporting Guaidó was a factor that drove states to recognise his government. It is an expression of an emerging international understanding that support by non-violent protest movements can legitimise changes in governance in exceptional circumstances.