Latin America begins a month of electoral vertigo in November

Un hombre deposita su voto en las e
A man casts his vote during elections to choose mayors, councillors and a commission to rewrite the constitution in Santiago, on March 16, 2021. (Photo by Martin BERNETTI / AFP)

Latin America will have a loaded electoral agenda in November. The appointments will change the political map in Argentina, Chile and Honduras and will raise tension in Nicaragua, with some generals in which President Daniel Ortega will achieve his re-election after imprisoning all opposition candidates one by one. Venezuela, meanwhile, will have regional elections with opposition participation, after the anti-Chavez decision to end the electoral boycott and form a unity list.

Nicaragua goes to the polls this Sunday, with Ortega as the only candidate, because the other competitors in the process are considered “comparsa” of the regime by the opposition. The president is seeking his third consecutive reelection. Ortega unleashed a strong repression in June, when he began to imprison all the opposition candidates who according to the polls were more likely to win, among them Cristiana Chamorro, the daughter of former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who aspired to repeat the feat of his mother, who in 1990 defeated the former Sandinista guerrilla.

A poll by the firm Cid Gallup published on Sunday by the magazine Confidencial shows that 76% of Nicaraguans consider that Ortega’s reelection is not legitimate. The poll reveals that, in a competitive election, 65% of voters would choose any of “the opposition candidates,” while 17% would vote for Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo. The elections are considered a “farce” by the opposition and both the United States, the OAS and the European Union have warned of the lack of guarantees in the electoral process.

The following Sunday, the 14th, the government of Peronist Alberto Fernández faces a crucial legislative elections in Argentina. The primaries held in September, a mandatory first electoral period for voters and parties, was a catastrophe for the ruling party, with defeats in 18 of the 24 districts of the country. If the result is repeated now in the final election, Peronism will lose the majority in the Senate (and its own quorum) and will even cease to be the first minority in Deputies. The opposition would remain in the Lower House in legal conditions to demand the presidency of that body.

The Government has tried by all possible means to reverse the polls with millionaire welfare plans for the poorest, loans for the middle class and a campaign based on the face-to-face of the candidates with the voters. The economic crisis, the malaise derived from the pandemic and the internal fights in the coalition that brought Fernández to the Casa Rosada hinder the success of this strategy.

On the third Sunday of November, the 21st, it will be Chile’s turn, where the successor of Sebastián Piñera will be elected in the first round. They will be the most polarized elections since the return to democracy in 1990. The social unrest two years after the October riots has barely abated, while a Constituent Assembly dominated by independents has been drafting a Constitution for four months to replace the one inherited from the dictatorship. The economic climate has worsened, as has the social mood. The unrest has given wings to the candidacy of José Antonio Kast, a candidate from the extreme right who defends the legacy of the dictator Augusto Pinochet. Kast leads the polls with 22% of the vote, followed by the candidate of the left-wing coalition Frente Amplio. Formed in the student riots of 2011, Boric has the support of 17.4% of Chileans. In any case, the scenario is one of a result that will force a second round of tiebreaker, scheduled for December 19.

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While Chile votes, Venezuelans will elect 23 governors, 335 mayors and local councilors and deputies. It will be an election with opposition participation, after the bulk of the parties decided on August 31 last to end the electoral boycott that it had been holding since 2017 and present a unified list of candidates. After months of debate, the anti-Chavismo agreed that it was better to fight at the polls than to clear the way for Nicolás Maduro to take absolute control.

After 15 years, there will be observers from the European Union and the Carter Center, among other organizations. This is one of the conditions that the opposition has requested to guarantee the transparency of the process. As part of the negotiation that some sectors of civil society and countries such as Norway have fostered, last February the electoral referee was renewed and for the first time two of the five rectors have no political ties to Chavismo.

Despite the crucial nature of these elections, the opposition has not encouraged participation. The exhaustion of the pressure strategy of the opposition leader Juan Guaidó takes its toll. Although most of the parties have presented candidates, Guaidó and a sector of leaders who follow him have not taken the regional ones as their flag, evidence of the internal fractures that favor the Government, reports Florantonia Singer.

The electoral month will be closed by Hondurans on Sunday, November 28. It will be a lackluster election due to accusations of fraud and allegations of alleged links with the drug trafficking of President Juan Orlando Hernández, which have been investigated by the United States authorities. The polls indicate that the election will be decided on two sides, between the candidate of the ruling National Party, Nasry Asfura, and the leader Libertad y Refundación, Xiomara Castro. There are more than five million Hondurans summoned to elect a president, 128 deputies to Congress and 20 deputies to the Central American Parliament.

A poll by the Center for Democracy Studies (Cespad), published last week, puts Castro, wife of former president Manuel Zelaya, at the head of electoral preferences, overthrown by the coup d’état that in 2009 took him out at gunpoint and in pajamas of power and that polarized Honduran society. The poll reveals that the Libertad y Refundación candidate has 38% of the voting preferences, compared to 21% of her closest rival, the conservative Asfura, who obtains 21% of the voting intention. In other words, if the election were held now, Castro would win the contest with a 17% vote advantage.

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Latin America begins a month of electoral vertigo in November

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