By Daniela Lima da Silva
This year Paraguay, Guatemala, and Argentina will hold important high-stakes presidential elections. As the region faces a challenging political moment fueled by an anti-incumbency wave and a general lack of faith in democracy, we will delve deeper into what we can expect from these elections and what the results could mean for the future of all three democracies.
Paraguayan elections are scheduled to take place in just two weeks, on April 30th, 2023. Voters will elect a new President, Vice-President, all 80 Deputies, all 45 Senators, and all 17 Governors for a five-year term.
As polling predicts a tight presidential race, the big question this time around is: will the decade-long ruling right-wing Colorado Party remain in power? Santiago Peña is the new face of the party, as the current President, Mario Abdo Benítez, is not eligible for re-election. The opposing candidate, Efraín Alegre, from the centrist Authentic Radical Liberal Party, could be the one to depose the Colorados.
The domestic political scene in Paraguay has been very much shaped by the many scandals involving corruption and organised crime. Internationally, the longstanding diplomatic relations that Paraguay maintains with Taiwan – the only country in South America to do so – are at stake. Peña has promised to maintain ties with Taiwan, while Alegre has promised to rethink them.
The quickly approaching election is set to be unusually competitive for a country with normally predictable results.
In Guatemala, the first round of elections will be held on June 25th, 2023. With vacancies for President, Vice-President, 160 Deputies in Congress, 340 Mayors, and 20 members of the Central American Parliament on the ballot. Presidential runoffs could be held on August 27th.
The country’s state of democracy has significantly deteriorated in recent years, as current conservative President Alejandro Giammattei’s term has been marked by the weakening of democratic institutions and increasingly rampant human rights violations on account of the exposure of the abuse of power and corruption by journalists and judicial workers.
While Giammattei is prohibited from running for re-election, two female politicians from opposite ends of the political spectrum are key to understanding the delicate political environment in Guatemala as it sinks into authoritarianism. Left-wing indigenous Mayan leader Thelma Cabrera Pérez is being prevented from running under the pretext that her running mate is under investigation. However, far-right former Congresswoman Zury Ríos, from the Valor party, who is also currently the frontrunner in the polls, has been allowed to run despite being the daughter of Efrain Ríos Montt, who was sentenced in 2013 for genocide during his regime. Despite the Guatemalan Constitution prohibiting relatives of former dictators from participating in presidential elections.
Sandra Torres, former first lady and right-wing contender, is also running for the presidency.
The free legitimate, free, and fair nature of these elections has been called into question and will require close monitoring.
Argentina’s general elections will be on October 22nd, 2023, with the possibility of presidential runoffs on November 19th. Primaries will take place on August 13th. A new President, Vice President, 22 governors, 130 out of 257 deputies, and 24 out of 72 senators will be elected.
Elections in the past years have been characterised by a bi-coalitionism involving pan-Peronism/Kirchnerism on one end and anti-Kirchnerism on the other. What is observed at this time is the fragmentation of both, leaving internal competitive and antagonistic feelings in the air.
With an inflation rate of almost 100 per cent and current President Alberto Fernández seeking another term in office, the elections in Argentina promise to be heated. Although it is still very early to make concrete assumptions, the country’s economic turmoil, political polarisation, and disillusionment have opened up space for outsider Javier Milei, a radical libertarian, to climb up in the polls and become someone to keep an eye on given the reality that Argentina already faces with a global return of extreme-right ideologies within its political realm.
Furthermore, other elections to watch this year include two state elections in Mexico and gubernatorial and mayoral elections in Colombia. It is also imperative to keep observing how neighbouring countries’ governments behave in the meantime as Brazil’s Lula da Silva faces challenges since his reelection in a hyper-divided society, and Peru experiences a major political crisis.
The 2023 electoral agenda in the region will be intense for a multiplicity of reasons. Politics in Latin America is undergoing a great level of uncertainty and volatility. While there has been a recent notable return of the left in many countries, this year’s elections could be looking somewhat different.
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