Latin America Braces for Election Year amid Overwhelming Distrust in Politicians
EspañolLatin America enters 2018 with no clear solution to one of the greatest political challenges it has faced in years: a critical lack of trust in politicians and leaders — from the right, the left and the center. The most recent from Latinobarómetro shows a systematic decline in approval ratings throughout 2017, as well as a consensus that governments only look out for a chosen few.
As a result, the region’s democratic institutions are weakening. Latinobarómetro likened the situation of slow distrust for democracy to a type of political “diabetes,” and predicted that it will affect countries planning to hold elections this year on both national and regional levels. It also predicted a decline in economic and financial activity.
The upcoming October elections have been surrounded by uncertainty due to an epidemic of corruption affecting nearly all countries in the region. The construction company Odebrecht carried out what is considered to be the largest network of foreign bribes, with at least 11 presidents and former presidents on the continent either under investigation or prosecution for favoring the company during contract bidding.
Former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who intends to run, has been accused of corruption, which could have them disqualified. A far-right outsider with a military background, Jair Bolsonaro, took advantage of strong anti-Lula sentiments to gain support in the polls. However, analysts anticipate difficulty for Bolsanaro. The lower class still favors Lula. If he should be removed from the race, they will vote for whoever Lula endorses. Marina Silva, the leftist ecologist who came in third in the previous election, may also gain popularity as a result.
The fourth-largest economy in the region has upcoming elections scheduled for May. The elections could determine the ultimate outcome of the much-criticized peace agreement made between current President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).
The polls in Colombia paint a picture of a nation divided between those who supported or rejected the peace agreements, with Sergio Fajardo, the former Mayor of Medellín and former Governor of the Department of Antioquia, at the head of most polls. The conservative side is equally uncertain. Germán Vargas Lleras, leader of Cambio Radical and Iván Duque, who is the favorite to win the Centro Democrático nomination, both have a legitimate chance. Recent dealings between Uribe and former President Andrés Pastrana mean that many Uribe supporters could jump ship and vote for Marta Lucía Ramírez, formerly of the Conservative Party.
Due to the peace agreements, the FARC will have guaranteed parliamentary representation this year. Their top leader, Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timochenko, wants to run against the candidates of the traditional parties — a proposal that has provoked staunch disapproval from both the electorate and the country at large.
Mexico is also facing a complicated electoral situation following the failure of current President Enrique Peña Nieto to fulfill many of his campaign promises. There has been an unprecedented rate of violence and corruption under his leadership. The country also faces an unexpectedly tough re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada. The general elections, which will take place on July 1, so far show Andrés Manuel López Obrador as the favorite. The left-wing candidate is making his third attempt at the presidency. However, popular support is not enough to win. The main national party, PRI, is lead by José Antonio Meade, who was Secretary of the Treasury. He will have to overcome the damage the current President has done to the popularity of their party.
The Mexican people will also have Ricardo Anaya as an alternative, who was President of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN). There are also candidates from the progressive PRD and Movimiento Ciudadano parties, as well as Margarita Zavala, wife of former President Felipe Calderón, who resigned from the PAN party to run as an independent. The electoral landscape is still, therefore, very uncertain.
In Venezuela, a country that should have presidential elections in December, dictator Nicolás Maduro will most likely postpone or cancel elections if he is uncertain about winning. He has even announced plans to disqualify the main opposition parties that were planning to run against him.
To make matters worse, those elections come at a time when the opposition is at its worst as far as credibility and cohesion, which does not bode well for the stability of the country.