Tag Archive | "elections"

Santa Fe: Socialists Claim Victory in Contested Local Election


Miguel Lifschitz claimed a narrow victory in Santa Fe.

Miguel Lifschitz claimed a narrow victory in Santa Fe.

According to the provisional count, the Frente Progresista Civico y Social (FPCyS) will continue to govern in the province of Santa Fe after candidate Miguel Lifschitz claimed a narrow victory in yesterday’s controversial election.

In an unprecedented result, the three most voted candidates for governor were separated by just 1.5%. With more than 95% of votes counted, Lifschitz was first with 30.69% support, just 2,128 votes ahead of PRO candidate, Miguel Torres Del Sel, with 30.58%. Omar Angel Perotti, candidate for Frente para la Victoria (FpV), came in third with 29.25% of the votes.

A full recount will take place this week, with the provincial authorities aiming to complete the final count by either Thursday or Friday.

After hours of waiting, there was confusion last night when both Del Sel and Lifschitz claimed victory. From the FPCyS camp, Lifschitz affirmed that “Sante Fe continues to be progressive. We have more future than history,” as activists waved the party’s orange and blue flags.

Meanwhile, according to the PRO’s own count, Del Sel should be leading Lifschitz by a 0.7% margin.
PRO leader and Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri addressed the controversies last night: “We have to go through the legal steps, accept the results and do so with the self-criticism that the socialists [FPCyS] didn’t have during the campaign.”

Macri and Del Sel criticised the FPCyS for declaring victory in such a tight race when there were still votes to be counted. “It’s practically a three-way tie, with very little difference between the candidates,” said Del Sel in a press conference. “Both we and the public want to know what the true final result is, because otherwise we’ll start to lose confidence in our democracy and that’s the worst thing that can happen to the country.”

This isn’t the first time that Santa Fe has dealt with polemic elections. During the primary elections that took place back in April of this year, approximately 10% of the votes were found to be uncounted, after the authorities had claimed that there had been a full count. In that case, Del Sel emerged as the candidate with the most votes, narrowly ahead of Lifschitz.

This time, 4.55% of the total votes were left uncounted with the Electoral Tribunal dismissing 304 telegrams from voting tables. Current Santa Fe socialist governor, Antonio Bonfatti explained that: “there are about 300 tables that have not been included because the tribunal couldn’t upload them due to errors, illegibility, or inaccuracies in making the telegram.”

“Our numbers indicate [a victory], but to be prudent and serious, we will have to wait for the definitive count, because it’s a little difference of between 2,000 and 3,000 votes, according to what we’re seeing,” indicated Lifschitz this morning while speaking with radio La Red.

Río Negro

Elsewhere, general elections also took place in the province Río Negro, where governor Alberto Weretilneck was re-elected with 52.72% of the votes, followed by FpV’s Miguel Pichetto, who obtained 34% of the votes.

The landslide victory was seen as a blow to the national FpV government. However, Weretilneck, who launched the ‘Juntos, Somos Río Negro’ alliance this year, dismissed speculation that he would support an opposition candidate in the presidential elections later this year.

“I’m not going to answer to any candidate because it would be incoherent with what happened yesterday,” said Weretilneck in a radio interview this morning. “We have built a provincial political movement.”

Weretilneck was elected as deputy governor in 2011 but served nearly a full term as governor following the death of Carlos Soria just 20 days after taking office.

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Mexico: Election Victory for Ruling Party Amid Violence & Protests


Exit polls suggest that ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and its allies have held on to a majority in yesterday’s elections in Mexico.

(Photo from President Enrique Peña Nieto's Facebook 2015)

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto (Photo from President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Facebook)

Despite the fall in approval ratings due to corruption scandals, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s party is poised to gain 196 to 203 of the 500 seats in the lower chamber of Congress. Their allies, the Partido Verde, are predicted to win 41 to 48. The main opposition party, the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN) is predicted to win between 105 and 116 seats. Smaller parties also made gains, making the political landscape increasingly multipolar. Final results will be announced on Wednesday.

On top of the 500 federal legislators, the country also chose nine state governors, around 900 mayors, and local legislators in 17 of the country’s 32 states.

However, the elections were marked with an increasing challenge to traditional parties. With the turnout estimated at around 48%, and null votes at around 5%, those supporting no party form the largest group in the country.

Tensions

There were calls for boycotts, most notably in Guerrero where the parents and friends of the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa normal school continue their demands for the students to be found alive, and have called for Mexicans to not to vote until the case has been resolved.

In many places activists attempted to stop the elections from taking place. According to Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the installation or working of 603 voting stations was prevented, with the majority of the incidents registered in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, known for their revolutionary history. The newspaper also reported 145 cases of violence and 254 cases of destruction of theft of election materials.

One of the hotspots of protest against the elections was the town of Tixtla in Guerrero where 20% of the voting booths were burned by the protestors and consequently the election for municipal president was annulled.

Protests for 43 missing students in Mexico (Photo by Iván [protoplasmakid], creative commons)

Protests for 43 missing students in Mexico (Photo by Iván protoplasmakid)

In a separate incident, ten teachers from CETEG teachers union were detained by federal police for attempting to impede the electoral process in Tlapa de Comonfort. In response, CETEG proceeded to withhold federal police officers demanding the release of their colleagues. The operation by the federal police to rescue their members resulted in various injuries and the death of one of the teachers. The teachers are striking for more pay and to prevent Peña Nieto’s education reform. Like the relatives and friends of the disappeared students, they had called for a boycott.

Despite the clashes, president Peña Nieto assured in a message on national TV that the majority of Mexicans had shown their faith in the political system: “With the simple but important act of going to the box and depositing our vote in the ballot box, we reaffirm our desire to live in a country of rights and freedoms, democracy and pluralism.”

He went on to condemn the protests: “There were those who tried to affect these elections. In the previous days they even performed violent acts, seeking to discourage the population.”

Arguably the most talked about event of the day, however, was the first-ever victory for an independent candidate in a governor race. Jaime Rodriguez Calderón, 57, known by his nickname ‘El Bronco’, is estimated to have gained 45% of the vote in the wealthy northern state of Nuevo León, bordering Texas. Having become a symbol of the backlash against the main parties, the future governor stated that “Nuevo León will be the beginning of a second Mexican revolution”, while his nickname became the third most used hashtag in the country yesterday.

Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, Mexican elections (Photo by Estefania Acevedo, creative commons photo)

Jaime Rodriguez Calderón (Photo by Estefania Acevedo, creative commons)

Rodriguez Calderón became famous for confronting the Zetas drug cartel when mayor of Garcia, Nuevo León. With fewer resources than the established parties, his campaign was increasingly waged over social media.

“It is the awakening of Mexico. Nuevo León is the example of citizens asleep, let’s go a for a citizens’ government,” he tweeted last night. “If we all intend to do things well we can achieve it. Thanks to everyone who trusted and supported me,” he celebrated at the end of the election day.

Some people are sceptical as to Rodriguez Calderón’s capacity to bring about desired changes. They point out that he was part of the ruling PRI for 30 years and that his campaign has focused mainly on criticising the ruling elite while concrete policy proposals have been absent.

The challenges for those seeking to transform Mexico are significant. The case of the disappeared students has brought to light the widespread links between the political elite, police and the drug cartels and the corruption therein. Widespread violence is made worse by almost absolute impunity: of crimes committed in 2013, 93.8% remain unresolved, according to the government’s own statistics.

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Salta: Governor Urtubey Re-Elected for Third Term


Salta governor Juan Manuel Urtubey (photo: Wikipedia)

Salta governor Juan Manuel Urtubey (photo: Wikipedia)

Salta governor Juan Manuel Urtubey celebrated his second re-election on Sunday. With 51.2% of the vote, the Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) candidate defeated the Romero + Olmedo alliance candidate Jorge Romero by over 20%.

Salta is the second Argentine province to choose their governor this year, behind Neuquén. This will be Urtubey’s third and final term, as Salta’s constitution limits governors to three terms. Although Urtubey won by over 50%, Salta’s constitution only requires that candidates win by a simple majority, eliminating the possibility of a runoff.

“In Salta we see progress, but also pain. There needs to be more progress and less pain,” said Urtubey in his victory speech, referencing the high levels of poverty and inequality in the province. He also thanked the “beloved president for her enormous commitment to Salta.”

The wide victory of Urtubey did not come as a surprise after last month’s primary elections, in which he won 47% of the vote against Romero, who obtained 33%.

After complaints of lack of transparency due to the electronic ballot system in the primaries, Romero clarified that “all of the complaints [of irregularities] were about the previous election.”

In Salta’s capital city, the Frente Renovador candidate Gustavo Sáenz defeated FPV candidate Javier David by seven percentage points, winning 41% of the vote. Sáenz is supported by presidential candidate Sergio Massa, who considered that “the cities define the elections.”

Urtubey closed his acceptance speech by saying “We want an Argentina that integrates everyone!” referring to his goals for the economic and social inclusion of the northern provinces of Salta, Jujuy, Tucumán, and Chaco.

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The Four Paradoxes of the Election Campaign


This is an exclusive English-language translation of the article ‘Las Cuatro Paradojas de la Campaña‘ by José Natanson, originally published in edition 190 of Le Monde Diplomatique.

Politics is always many things: a struggle for power, of course, but also the defence of ideas, the construction of a discourse, masking interests, ingenuity. With six months to go to the presidential election, and four to the primaries, the campaign is starting to define itself around four paradoxes, which explain the frenetic tactical movements of recent days.

Let’s analyse them.

Paradox 1

Daniel Scioli (photo: wikipedia)

Daniel Scioli (photo: wikipedia)

According to the polls, even those conducted by opposition pollsters, Kirchnerism will leave power with the support of an important sector of society(1). The Kirchnerist core is broader than that which accompanied the agonising end of Raúl Alfonsín and Carlos Menem’s presidencies, the two long cycles of the democratic period. They still managed to keep a considerable amount of support: Alfonsinism kept its political influence many years after the former president’s resignation and Menem got almost 25% of the vote in the 2003 election; afterwards, his good luck faded.

But that militant support is not enough. Kirchnerism — not populist enough to force a constitutional reform like in Venezuela or Ecuador, and not institutionalist enough to lean on an organised party and appoint a successor like Brazil or Uruguay — is now facing the paradox of being unable to turn its solid first minority into an option that can express its ideological wavelength and also be competitive in the elections.

Not even [Interior and Transport Minister] Florencio Randazzo, the candidate that better fits this complicated mold, is able to thoroughly play this role, due to his beginnings with [former president] Eduardo Duhalde, his distance from the presidential entourage, and his strategy of avoiding strong definitions and instead focusing his discourse on his railway successes.

History repeats itself, not necessarily as a farce. In 1989 and 1999, Alfonsín and Menem resigned themselves to the fact that the government’s candidate —Eduardo Angeloz and Duhalde, respectively— would represent a different party faction. Now, with [Buenos Aires governor] Daniel Scioli leading the polls for Frente Para la Victoria (FpV), the same could be true. The difference lies in the context: in times of party post-modernism, Scioli keeps an ideological distance similar to the one that Angeloz or Duhalde showed at the time, but he dilutes it through a series of ambiguous and ‘good-vibe’ gestures, as if the only way to express his dissidence was through image and silence: Scioli is an implicit anti-Kirchnerist.

Paradox 2

The second paradox is ideological. Regardless of the results of the October elections, Kirchnerism will live on as a political culture. What do I mean, exactly? For years, political researchers have discarded the concept of political culture as a dimension to be taken into account, something impossible to capture in analytical terms, similar to the Fascists’ “national being”.

Lately, however, new studies have begun to be published which, through complex opinion polls, allow us to capture the ghost and take some conclusions out of it, like the nuclear proton gun that the Ghostbusters used to catch their victims. In that sense, the main studies carried out in Argentina concur that the great political orientations of the last decade —state intervention, social policies, a focus on Latin America, human rights— make up a core set of values that are shared by the majority of society.

And still, despite the left turn that society has experienced, the October elections appear like a sort of struggle within the centre-right. These options include Scioli, who, in his house in Villa La Ñata combines life-size statues of Menem and [music duo] Los Pimpinela with photos of himself posing next to Lula [Da Silva], the Pope, and [Néstor] Kirchner. “Scioli’s Aleph”, as it is called by his biographers, is a kind of museum of himself which shamelessly shows the trajectory of a politician who used to hide and play cards in order to avoid the assemblies in the hyper-politicised Pellegrini School in the ’70s. The same politician who, when he first ran for office —as the candidate within the fading Menemism for a seat in Congress— used a phrase that was very typical of him (“I am the opposite of the blues”) and who stuck to the end, despite the personal costs, with his three political bosses: Menem, Duhalde, and Néstor Kirchner.

Paradox 3

The third paradox refers to the opposition. Having learnt their lesson after various failed presidential experiments (their own candidate Leopoldo Moreau in 2003, the external candidacy of Roberto Lavagna in 2007, an alliance with Francisco De Narváez in 2011), the Radical party (UCR) is now leaning towards the only tactically possible option: an electoral agreement with Mauricio Macri and Elisa Carrió. The latter had preempted the move a few months earlier, also confirming her ability to lead her old party despite lacking a significant volume of voters, which, on the other hand, shows that it is possible to lead the UCR without votes, something unthinkable for Peronism: can anyone imagine a minority Peronist leader?

UCR Shield

UCR Shield

But let’s not digress. The Radical turn was possible due to the loose ideological of a political force that, despite common belief, is just as broad as Peronism: Radicalism, beyond the biased memory of the Alfonsín-Kirchnerism era, takes us back to the Alem-Yrigoyen-Alfonsín tradition as much as it does to the Alvear-Balbín-De la Rúa one.

But it can also be explained by the paradox of a party that still keeps an important share of institutional power. The UCR has the second-largest block of seats in both chambers of Congress, some 320 mayors, and the possibility of reaching government again in around five provinces; at the same time, it suffers from the lack of an expectant presidential candidate.

The closest comparison is with Brazil’s PMDB, the party that, just like the UCR, won the first election after the return to democracy with Tancredo Neves but was never able to build a national alternative. With 18 senators (against the PT’s 15), the second largest bench in the lower house, and the largest number of governors (seven), the PMDB is Brazil’s main political party (its slogan is, in fact, “Brazil’s party”). Despite all this, it has been unable to put forward its own presidential candidate… in 20 years.

Paradox 4

Finally, a territorial paradox. The main presidential candidates (Scioli, Mauricio Macri, and Sergio Massa) and the fourth fundamental actor in the campaign (Cristina) lack their own candidates in key districts. The Buenos Aires City primaries are approaching and neither Scioli or Massa have anything to offer. Likewise, Kirchnerism lacks important names in Córdoba and Santa Fe and Macri’s PRO does not have a popular candidate in the province of Buenos Aires: the fact that they have chosen the Buenos Aires city deputy mayor to run for governor is symptomatic.

The cause of this apparent anomaly is the territorialisation of the Argentine party system. Born out of the expansion of a centre towards a periphery, the main parties (Peronist, Radical, and Socialist) are going through a process, at least since the ’90s, of relocating power centres from the national to the territorial level. This is a result of the decentralisation policies implemented during the first Menem administration, which strengthened the provincial states by giving them control of the health and education services and which turned the governors into political actors of an importance unthinkable a few years earlier.

This trend deepened during the 2001 crisis, when the federal state was forced to establish urgent and direct conversations with the towns in order to attend to social emergencies: much like an overwhelmed firefighter, the national government delegated the execution of social welfare programmes (the one targetting heads of household first, and Argentina Works, amongst others, after) to the town mayors. So if the governors had burst into the big political leagues in the ’90s, the mayors did it from 2001 onwards: [Former Tigre mayor] Massa, in this respect, is a product of the crisis.

As a result of these deep shifts, political parties splintered into fragments that establish possible and opportunistic relations between themselves, with the state the only actor able to give them an order and a meaning (up to a certain extent). The main candidates are territorial chiefs, but they have difficulties projecting beyond their respective territories.

Double T

Elections in Argentina (Photo: Jorge Gobbi)

Elections in Argentina (Photo: Jorge Gobbi)

Let’s rewind. The two “intense minorities” of Argentine politics — the ‘Sunni’ Kirchnerists and the uncompromising anti-Kirchnerists — lack candidates that can live up to the media noise they produce. Their hegemony in communication terms does not translate into electoral successes, because representation is more complicated than television and because TV ratings do not mean votes (well-known politicians who do not win elections: Elisa Carrió, Luis D’ Elía, Diana Conti, Patricia Bullrich…).

Far from these burning extremes, society seems to lean towards the broad centre of the “commodity politicians”, a gooey ecosystem through which they wade slowly, trying not to make mistakes. And this is because politics is television but it is also territory, the double T that captures the number of its successes and its failures.

If we look carefully, we can explain the strategies of the main actors through the needs of those who have high levels of public knowledge and acceptance but lack territorial infrastructure (Macri, Massa, Scioli) in opposition to those who have control of towns and provinces, institutional power, and a mass of activists, but lack representative national leaders (UCR, the Peronist governors, La Cámpora). The four paradoxes described above make up the most basic explanation of these crossed-over needs.

1. Around 30%, according to the more pessimistic polls, and 40% according to the more optimistic ones.

Translated by Celina Andreassi.

 

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Salta: Governor Urtubey Wins Primary Election


Juan Manuel Urtubey casting his vote in Salta. (courtesy of Urtubey for Governor)

Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey (photo courtesy of Urtubey for Governor 2011)

Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey from Frente Justicialista Renovador para la Victoria came ahead in his provinces’s open, simultaneous, and mandatory primaries (PASO), obtaining 47% of the vote against runner up Juan Carlos Romero from the Romero + Olmedo alliance (Frente Renovador and PRO), with 33%.

Urtubey celebrated his victory, saying that “we want to go ahead and not go back to the past, we want to go ahead with inclusion.” The governor critised the opposition and highlighted “the strong inclusion that took place in Salta, because today [for yesterday] there was a clear confrontation between an inclusion project against the economic powers.”

The national government sought to capitalise on Urtubey’s victory ahead of the provincial and national elections that will take place this year. Interior and Transport Minister and presidential pre-candidate, Florencio Randazzo, was one of the Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) leaders to consider Urtubey’s victory as “an important [display of] support to the policies of the national government.”

Romero, however, questioned the results, saying that the government had tampered with the electronic voting system and committed “one of the most massive frauds in the history of the province.”

Left-wing Partido Obrero (PO) came third with 7% of the vote and celebrated the result. They also highlighted the 12.5% of the vote the received in the capital mayoral primary, and the “first place” obtained by their candidates in that district for privincial legislators and town council members.

The primaries were meant to define the candidates for the general election that will take place on 17th May, and in which Urtubey will seek to be reelected for a third term. However, each party presented just one candidate for governor and most presented one ballot for provincial deputies and senators. Only one party -Movimiento Independiente Justicia y Dignidad- was unable to obtain the 1.5% of the vote required to participate in the general election.

The city of Salta was an exception, as the primaries effectively defined the candidate for mayor for the Romero + Olmedo alliance. There, Sergio Massa’s candidate Gustavo Sáenz beat PRO candidate Guillermo Durand Cornejo by a difference of less than one percentage point (22.42 against 21.75%). Urtubey’s man, Javier Durand, came first with 22.79% of the vote, however Romero + Olmedo’s combined vote almost doubles that of the pro-government candidate.

Next Sunday, the provinces of Mendoza and Santa Fé will hold primary elections, and on 26th April it will be the turn of the City of Buenos Aires.

 

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Uruguay: Campaigns Close Ahead of Sunday’s Presidential Run-Off


Presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ema)

Presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ema)

Presidential candidates Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio) and Luis Lacalle Pou (Partido Nacional) will close their campaigns today, ahead of Sunday’s presidential run-off.

Vázquez and his running mate Raúl Sendic will participate of a festival at Parque Battle, outside the Centenario stadium, in Montevideo. The event will begin at 6.30pm with the performance of the murga Reina de La Teja and will finish close to midnight with a set by candombe musician Rubén Rada. At 8.30pm, Sendic and Vázquez will address the crowds for the last time before the election.

Meanwhile, the Partido National will hold a rally in the city San Carlos, district of Maldonado, where Lacalle Pou and his vice-presidential candidate Jorge Larrañaga will give their final speeches at 8pm.

The latest polls show Vázquez well ahead of Lacalle Pou, with between 53 and 55% of the vote against the Partido Nacional’s 40 to 42%. This result would give the Frente Amplio its third consecutive government, with Vázquez becoming president for the second time.

Luis Eduardo González, director of pollster Cifra, told Uruguayan newspaper El País: “This last month of the electoral campaign has been odd by Uruguayan standards: there was little mobilisation, a relatively low amount of publicity, few appearances by the candidates. But even with this campaign at half throttle, the most likely outcome is that Vázquez will win by a broader margin than its predecessor [President José Mujica], and will become the third Uruguayan to be elected president twice.”

The reasons behind the support for the Frente Amplio, according to the polls, would be a good economic performance by the current government and the good image of President José ‘Pepe’ Mujica.

Vázquez came ahead in the first round of the election, on 26th October, with 47.17% of the vote, followed by Lacalle Pou with 30.55%.

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The Indy Guide to October’s Elections in South America


October is set to be a decisive month in South American politics, with more than 150m people in Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay set to cast their vote in presidential and legislative elections. While the vote is something of a formality for the supremely popular Bolivian leader Evo Morales, the contests in Brazil and Uruguay are set to be decided in tight, second round run-offs.

Here we provide a quick guide to the elections in each country, including a look at the key candidates and campaign issues.

 

BRAZIL: 5th October

What: General Elections to choose president, national congress, state governors, and state legislatures.
Run-off: If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in presidential and gubernatorial races, a run-off will be held on 26th October.
Term: New president will be sworn in on 1st January 2015, members of congress on 1st February 2015.

South America’s largest country goes to the polls amid an economic downturn that has sparked growing criticism of incumbent Dilma Rousseff, now seeking a second term. Rousseff remains favourite, but renewed competition from environmentalist Marina Silva could lead to a tense run-off at the end of the month.

Candidates:

640px-Dilma_Rousseff_-_foto_oficial_2011-01-09Dilma Rousseff, Worker’s Party (PT)
VP: Michel Temer (PMDB)
Coalition: With the strength of the people
Current ranking in the polls: 38%

Incumbent Dilma Rousseff, 66, Brazil’s first female president, is running for re-election. Rousseff became a socialist during her youth and under the military dictatorship she was captured and jailed between 1970 and 1972, and was reportedly tortured. She was one of the founders of the Democratic Labour Party (PDT) in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and worked her way up the ranks to become state Energy Secretary. In 2000, after an internal PDT dispute, Rousseff deflected to the Worker’s Party (PT). In 2002, Rousseff joined the committee responsible for the energy policy of presidential candidate Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva, who, after winning the election, invited her to become Energy Minister. In 2005 she became Lula’s Chief of Staff, a post she held until 2010 when she resigned to run for president, winning in the second round.

Rousseff has continued many of Lula’s social policies, and until mid-2013 had popularity ratings equal to that of her predecessor, regularly topping 80%. However, in June last year things changed when over a million people took to the streets to vent anger at the escalating prices of public services and corruption among politicians, as well as what was seen to be excessive spending on the stadiums for this year’s football World Cup.

Under Rousseff the country’s growth has slowed down, largely due to the impacts of the global economic downturn, but also, according to some analysts, due to policies that her administration has implemented, and her “economic micromanaging”. Brazil is currently in a recession, although unemployment remains historically low at 4.9% and household incomes have managed to keep up with the high inflation. However, it is thought that were Rousseff to win re-election she would not encourage confidence in foreign investors, which could affect the country’s long-term growth.

Marina_Silva2010Marina Silva, Brazilian Socialist Part (PSB)
VP: Beto Albuquerque (PSB)
Coalition: United for Brazil
Current ranking in the polls: 29%

Marina Silva, 56, only officially became the PSB candidate six weeks ago, after the original PSB candidate, Eduardo Campos, was killed in a plane crash in Santos on 13th August and Silva, who had been Campos’ running mate, was chosen to succeed him.

Silva is as known for her background as an environmentalist as she is a politician. Growing up in the Brazilian Amazon, Silva comes from humble origins, and only learned to read and write at the age of 16. She was a colleague of activist Chico Mendes, who was killed for defending the rainforest in 1988, around the time Silva became a member of the Worker’s Party (PT), a membership she continued until 2009. She served as former president Lula’s Environment Minister from 2003, but frequently clashed with then Energy Minister Dilma Rousseff, and resigned in 2008. In 2010 Silva ran for president as a Green Party candidate, obtaining 19.4% of the votes, the highest ever figure for a Green Party candidate, far exceeding expectations. In 2013, she attempted to create new party Sustainability Network, but after failing to gather the required number of signatures to create the party, she changed her affiliation to the PSB. In April, Campos named her as his running mate.

The PSB is traditionally a centrist party with market sympathies, and Silva had to work hard when inheriting the ticket to convince the party’s traditional base that she wasn’t a radical reformist. She has outlined a market-friendly plan that both businesses on the ground in Brazil as well as foreign investors believe will spur productivity and encourage investment, both of which have tailed off under Rousseff. Silva has also said she would reinstate fuel tax and allow more fluctuation in prices of things that are currently regulated. She would also give the central bank more independence, and her policies underscore an ideology of fiscal rectitude, tax reform, and more robust inflation-targeting. Socially, Silvia is seen to be conservative – due to her religious faith, she retracted Campos’ support for gay marriage, although her campaign has since come out to say she is a supporter of LGBT rights and human rights in general. Her posture has led Rousseff to claim she is continually switching sides and affiliations, something which could prove to be her Achilles’ heel.

Aécio_Neves_2014-02-20Aécio Neves, Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB)
VP: Aloysio Nunes
Coalition: Change, Brazil
Current ranking in the polls: 18%

Economist and politician, Aécio Neves, 54, is currently a senator representing Minas Gerais state. Since entering politics in the 1980s, he has only been defeated once, when he ran for mayor of Belo Horizonte in 1992. He was elected four times to Brazil’s lower house between 1987 and 2002, before becoming governor of Minas Gerais from 2003-2010, the first to be elected outright in the first round and also the youngest in the state’s history. As governor, Neves introduced the “Management Shock”: a set of sweeping reforms designed to bring the state budget under control by reducing government expenditure and promoting investment.

Neves, a centre-right candidate, is the market’s favourite, and a win would bring back into power the party that Lula’s Worker’s Party beat in 2002, and which has remained in the wings for the past 12 years.

 

BOLIVIA: 12th October

 

What: General Elections to choose president, vice-president, renew 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 36 in the Senate. There will also be seven new ‘special’ seats for indigenous leaders in the lower house.
Run-off: If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote – or at least 40% and a 10 percentage point lead over the nearest rival – in presidential race, a run-off will be held on 7th December.
Term: New president will be sworn in on 22nd January 2015.

President Evo Morales (left) and opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina

President Evo Morales (left) and opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina

Candidates:

Evo Morales (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS-IPSP)
VP: Álvaro García Linera
Current support in opinion polls: 52-55%

Incumbent Evo Morales, 54, is expected to win another landslide election – his third – in the first round. Bolivia’s first indigenous president, a former cocalero in power now since 2006, has managed to combine a socio-economic revolution with relative political stability, and fervent anti-capitalist rhetoric with pragmatic macroeconomic management. The results are impressive: The nationalisation of key energy, mining, and communication sectors would normally draw the ire of neo-liberal observers, but even the IMF has praised a track record of strong growth, moderate inflation, low debt, and balanced budgets. At home, his approval ratings hover around the 70% mark. At the heart of the model is the indigenous concept of Suma Qamaña (good living), the idea that community bonds and living in harmony with la Pachamama (Mother Earth) are just as important for well-being as an increase in income.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for Morales. While enjoying huge support among the country’s majority indigenous population, he has faced regular challenges by opposition in the economic wealth province of Santa Cruz. Morales says this unrest is deliberately provoked by the local business elite and supported by the US embassy, which last year he threatened to shut down after his presidential plane was rerouted and grounded by European authorities who accused him of smuggling Edward Snowdon out of Russia. However, he also faced a major crisis in 2010 after raising the price of state-subsidised gas, a decision he eventually reversed after a week of widespread protests (the ‘gasolinazo’). Meanwhile, the plan to construct a major international highway running through the TIPNIS indigenous territory sparked major protests in 2012 and created some divisions within the party’s support base.

Other challenges remain if he is elected, as expected, for his third term. Poverty levels have fallen by around a third since 2005, but at around 40% are still high in regional terms. After easing some of the country’s worst economic ills, the long-term future will require greater industrialisation and diversification to reduce the heavy dependence on primary exports from extracting oil, gas, and minerals. Finally, the government is facing growing pressure to tackle social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, which are both prohibited.

Samuel Doria Medina (Frente de Unidad Nacional, FUN)
VP: Ernesto Suárez
Coalition: Concertación Unidad Demócrata (FUN+MDS)
Current support in opinion polls: 14-17%

The business magnate will run against Morales for the third time. In 2005 and 2009 he came third with less than 8% of the vote, though opinion polls this time rank him as a comfortable second. Despite being involve in politics for more than 20 years, Doria Medina is still better known for his business exploits. Since 1987 he has been the president and main shareholder of the Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento (SOBOCE), one of the largest companies in the country, while his portfolio has expanded to include the local franchise of fast food outlets such as Burger King and Subway.

Doria Medina says he offers an alternative to Morales’ authoritarian style and unsustainable economic model, proposing more market-friendly policies including providing foreign investors with a greater share of Bolivia’s oil wealth in return for an injection of capital. He also calls for more investment in renewable energies, technology, and services, which he claims this will provide more jobs and help reduce crime. However, Doria Medina he has failed to unite the opposition – which includes ex-president Jorge Quiroga (Partido Demócrata Cristiano, PDC) and leftist challenger Juan del Granado, of the Movimiento Sin Miedo (MSM) – behind his cause.

 

URUGUAY: 26th October

What: General election to choose president, vice-president, and complete renewal of both legislative houses in the General Assembly.
Run-off: If no presidential candidate achieves an absolute majority in the first round, a run-off will be held on 30th November.
Term: New president and legislators will be sworn in on 1st March 2015.

From left to right, Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry  (Photos via Wikipedia)

From left to right, Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry (Photos via Wikipedia)

José “Pepe” Mujica has won the hearts and minds of the global media as “the world’s poorest president” who legalised marijuana, but he is forbidden by the constitution for seeking re-election. His predecessor and Frente Amplio colleague Tabaré Vázquez is currently favourite to return for his second term, though latest polls suggest a second round run-off is likely and could be a close call. Education reform and crime are two of the key campaign issues.

Candidates:

Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio, FA)
VP: Raúl Sendic
Support: 40-43%

Oncologist Tabaré Vázquez, president between 2005 and 2010, is looking to secure another five-year term at the age of 74. The country’s situation has changed significantly since he first came to power a decade ago: poverty has fallen from around 40% to just over 10%, while unemployment is at historic lows. The country has also become one of the world’s most socially progressive after decriminalising abortion, legalising same sex marriage, and regulating the market for legal marijuana.

Vázquez says a third successive Frente Amplio government would be “committed to improving even further the life of every Uruguayan citizen” by consolidating these social and economic advances and tackling problematic areas. One of his key electoral promises is to increase education spending to 6% of GDP (from around 4.5% currently), another the introduction of a Nordic-style ‘national care system’ to increase state support for families with dependants (infants, disabled or elderly relatives).

If triumphant, however, Vázquez will face a challenge to keep the more radical leftist factions of the Frente Amplio coalition in line, especially if a weak parliamentary majority or direct minority results in new concessions to a rejuvenated centre-right opposition (he has already made overtones about reaching “broad agreements”).

Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou (Partido Nacional, PN)
VP: Jorge Larrañaga
Support: 29-33%

Son of former president Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995), 41-year-old Luis Lacalle Pou was a surprise winner in the primaries, something that is considered an advantage for the main event as his rivals were preparing to face a different candidate (Jorge Larrañaga, who has since become Lacalle Pou’s running mate). His campaign has sought to play up his image as a fresh and youthful alternative to Vázquez, and he has promised a renewal of politics with “action, not reaction”, preferring to talk about policy management rather than ideological concerns.

Lacalle Pou has said that education, security, and infrastructure were three “emergencies” that his administration would treat.

Pedro Bordaberry (Partido Colorado, PC)
VP: Germán Coutinho
Support: 11-15%

Another son of an ex-president, though this time former dictator Juan María, Bordaberry represents the country’s traditional right-wing Colorados. Bordaberry has promised deep education reform, including a guarantee for a 200-day school year and decentralising decision-making. He has also put security at the heart of his camping, pledging to reverse the legalisation of marijuana, lower the age of criminal responsibility for serious crimes, and use the military to support police operations.

Posted in News From Latin America, TOP STORYComments (0)

Brazil: Marina Silva to Replace Dead PSB Candidate


PSB presidential candidate Marina Silva (photo: José Cruz/ABr)

PSB presidential candidate Marina Silva (photo: José Cruz/ABr)

Former senator and environmental activist Marina Silva was appointed yesterday as the presidential candidate for the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB), after the death of party leader Eduardo Campos in a plane crash last week.

Silva’s joining of the presidential race changes the political landscape, complicating the so far comfortable position of favourite Dilma Rousseff. A recent poll for Datafolha, conducted after the death of Campos, shows that President Rousseff could obtain 36% of the votes in the first round on 5th October, whilst Silva comes second with 21% (12 points more than Campos), and Aecio Neves of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) a close third with 20% of the vote. However, in the event of a second round on 26th October -which would be held if no candidate reaches 50% of the votes- the poll suggests Silva could beat Rousseff by 47% to 43%.

Silva will be joined by vice-presidential candidate Luiz Roberto ‘Beto’ de Albuquerque, a deputy representing the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Albuquerque has been linked to the agribusinesses that environmentalist Silva opposes, which have contributed funds to his political campaigns. He is expected to mediate between Silva and the representatives of the rural sector.

Silva’s campaign team has decided to not accept funds from companies that produce tobacco, arms, and alcoholic beverages. She has also announced she will not campaign in districts where she disapproves of the local alliances established by the PSB, such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina, and Paraná.

A “Black Woman of Humble Origins”

Marina Silva was born in 1958 in the city of Rio Branco, capital of the state of Acre, near the border with Peru and Bolivia. The descendent of black slaves and Portuguese immigrants, her father worked in the rubber plantations in the countryside and her mother died when Marina was 14.

At age 16, Silva moved to Rio Branco to get treatment for hepatitis, and there she learned to read and write. She then worked as a maid, obtained a history degree in university, and became involved in politics and unionism. In 1985, together with union leader Chico Mendes, she founded the local branch of the Unified Workers’ Central (CUT) and became a member of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

In 1988 Silva obtained the only left-wing seat in the local Rio Branco council, and in that same year her friend Chico Mendes was murdered. In 1990 she was elected to the state congress of Acre, and in 1994 to the federal Senate in representation of her state. In 2003, she was appointed by the newly elected president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ Da Silva as Environment Minister.

During her term at the Ministry, Brazil reduced the rate of deforestation in the Amazon, created new natural reserves, and arrested hundreds of people for environmental crimes. However, she lost the battle against the expansion of transgenic crops and nuclear energy. Her relationship with other members of Lula’s government, such as then-minister Dilma Rousseff, was difficult, and she also denounced receiving pressure from some state governors who opposed her measures against deforestation in the Amazon. She resigned on 13th May 2008, citing differences with the Lula administration’s environmental outlook, and returned to her seat in the Senate.

In 2010, Silva ran for president in representation of the Partido Verde and obtained almost 20m votes (19% of the total). Back then, she expressed her desire to be “the first black woman of humble origins” to reach the Brazilian presidency.

Upon the announcement of her candidacy, Silva said that, if elected, she plans to favour technological development in the rural sector in order to increase productivity whilst decreasing the exploitation of natural resources and ratified her commitment to economic measures such as inflation goals, a floating exchange rate, and fiscal responsibility.

In terms of social policies, she has rejected reforms such as the legalisation of abortion, drugs, and homosexual marriage, based on her evangelical faith. Her religious views could cost her votes amongst the Catholic majority and socially progressive sectors, though they could attract the growing number of Evangelical Christians.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Colombia: Campaigns Close Ahead of Presidential Run-Off


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is running for re-election (Photo: Facebook official account)

Election campaigns officially ended in Colombia yesterday, a week before Sunday’s presidential run-off, which sees incumbent Juan Manuel Santos, up for re-election, face right-wing opposition candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga.

The race looks to be a tight one, with three of the five polls putting Santos as victor, whilst two give the next presidential term to Zuluaga. The first round saw the opposition candidate, backed by former president Álvaro Uribe, beat the incumbent, winning with 29.3% of the votes, to Santos’ 25.7%. However, in the first round, absenteeism hit 60%, and both candidates used yesterday’s final acts to encourage people to get out and vote. 

Tonight the pair will face off in their final televised debate before Sunday’s elections.

The ballot is seen to be a referendum on peace talks with left-wing guerrilla group FARC, which could end Colombia’s five decade-long conflict. During a second term, Santos aims to bring peace to Colombia, continuing the peace talks with FARC, which began last year in Havanna, Cuba. Zuluaga, who had initially run on a platform of ending the talks with FARC, has changed his stance since the first round, and now says that under his mandate peace would continue to be negotiated, but under the condition that FARC offer a ceasefire.

On Saturday, FARC announced a ceasefire for the elections, which would last from 9th to 30th June. The group undertook a similar ceasefire during the first round of the elections. The announcement came on the same day that the government and FARC made a joint announcement to “recognise their mutual responsibilities” to victims of the civil war. The announcement is seen to be a landmark, and likely to boost Santos’ campaign, as it is the first time both sides have officially not only recognised victims, but also both sides’ debt to them.

Although the peace talks have dominated both candidates’ campaigns, the polls indicate that Colombians are more worried about unemployment, crime, improving health services, and the quality of education. The country has been growing at a rate of 4%, but a third of the population of 47m lives in poverty.

 

 

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Uruguay: Parties Choose Presidential Candidates in Primaries


Ex-president Tabaré Vázquez casts his vote (photo: AFP PHOTO/Miguel Rojo/Télam/ddc)

Ex-president Tabaré Vázquez casts his vote (photo: AFP PHOTO/Miguel Rojo/Télam/ddc)

Uruguayans took to the polls yesterday to choose the candidates that will participate in October’s presidential elections. The three main parties will be represented by ex-president Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio), Luis Lacalle (Partido Nacional), and Pedro Bordaberry (Partido Colorado).

Partido Nacional was the party which obtained the most votes, with 43% of the total, whilst Frente Amplio got 28% of the vote and Partido Colorado 14%. Vázquez and Bordaberry both beat their party rivals by a landslide (obtaining around 80% and 75% respectively), whilst Lacalle’s victory was tighter, beating rival Jorge Larrañaga by 54% to 46%.

Smaller parties such as Partido Independente and Asamblea Popular also participated in the primaries, though with only one candidate each.

The country’s electoral tribunal reported a very low participation rate, with only between 30 and 35% of the electorate casting their vote. Mónica Xavier, president of Frente Amplio, said politicians should “reflect about the reasons why people don’t feel compelled [to vote]” and to “think about the parties’ responsibility in the low levels of participation.”

President José Mugica, also of the Frente Amplio, was one of many analysts who considered that the high absenteeism was due to the predictability of the results.

Presidential and legislative elections will be held in Uruguay on 26th October. The latest polls show that Frente Amplio candidate Tabaré Vázquez is favourite to succeed Mugica.

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

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