Yesterday, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced the names of her campaign team for the upcoming presidential elections on November 17. Among them are Rodrigo Peñailillo, Bachelet’s former chief of staff that will assume the role of executive secretary; Alvaro Elizalde, who will resign as the general secretary of the Partido Socialista (The Socialist Party - PS) and assume the role of head of communications; Senator Ricardo Lagos Weber, Bachelet’s former minister spokesperson who will be campaign team leader; Paula Walker, head of press; Alberto Arenas, Bachelet’s former budget director; and Orieta Rojas who will be head of the campaign.
The remaining members of the team will be representatives from other political parties and civil society leaders such as former student leader Karina Delfino, a pioneer in the "revolución pingüina” who will oversee youth initiatives, and Javiera Parada, a close friend to Bachelet’s daughter who will oversee culture. Rodrigo Peñailillo relied on Osvaldo Andrade Lara of the Partido Socialista (The Socialist Party - PS) and former minister of Labor and Social Security under Bachelet’s administration, and former Senator Jaime Quintana and founder of the Partido por la Democracia (Party for Democracy – PPD) to create a short list of candidates.
In addition to establishing her political campaign staff, Bachelet will also create a "political advisory council" that will provide a space for conversation and reflection for experienced political leaders to offer their opinion leading up to the election.
Her 84 percent approval rating when she left office in 2010 suggests that she will win her party’s June primary with ease. In the succeeding election, in November, she will face a candidate from the governing centre-right Coalition, either Laurence Golborne, who as mining minister was in charge of the rescue of 33 miners trapped underground in 2010, or Andrés Allamand, a former defense minister.
La Unión de Naciones Sudamericanas (Union of South American Nations—Unasur) was notably excluded from Paraguay’s list of observers for the 2013 presidential election announced by President Federico Franco on Monday. The European Union (EU), Organization of American States (OAS) and The Carter Center, all prestigious and internationally renowned organizations according to Franco, will be allowed to monitor the elections on April 21, 2013. However, he refused to comment on Unasur, which temporarily suspended Paraguay after former President Fernando Lugo was unanimously impeached in January.
Monday’s announcement comes one month after President Franco denounced Paraguay’s suspension from Mercosur during his remarks at the United Nation General Assembly. Despite the fact that much of the international community viewed President Fernando Lugo’s ouster as a coup d’état, President Franco has consistently defended the nearly unanimous congressional impeachment process that took place last January. Former President Lugo was voted out of office by the opposition-controlled senate for his ties to officers responsible for the June 15 massacre at Curuguatay in which 17 peasants were killed by police who were attempting to evict them from private property near the Brazilian border.
President Franco, who is not allowed to run in next year’s election, has emphasized that the participation of the EU, OAS, and The Carter Center will ensure a transparent election.
The 2012 electoral process is the most uninspiring we’ve seen in recent history. Therefore it’s no surprise that Mexican society is increasingly disenfranchised with the political system. In fact, trust in the political elite is at an all-time low. Where interest groups saw possibilities of working hand in hand with the government in 2000 and 2006, the division between those governing and those being governed grows day by day.
The age group most alien to the electoral process this year will be young adults. A recent UNDP-sponsored study carried out by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) posits that 7 out of every 10 voters ages 18-29 will not turn out to vote due to “disenchantment with Mexican democracy.” Enrique Cuna Pérez, the head of the sociology department at the UAM, points out that Mexican adolescents do believe in democracy but not in the way it is implemented in the country. “Young people are not shying away from democracy as a system, they are shying away from Mexican democracy. They consider themselves as democratic people. They understand the importance of voting but they are not willing to participate in Mexican democracy as it stands today,” says Cuna.
There are many reasons for this. For one, people are finding it harder to believe in and rally for the different candidates. The turn that political campaigns have taken—toward destructive criticism, finger-pointing and whining—is far from inspiring. Since the actual political platforms and proposals show nothing new, candidates are focusing on projecting their persona, trying to get people to believe in them, but they are doing it by saying “you can’t believe in the other candidates” as opposed to showing the country why they are fit to lead.
Ruling People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) candidate Donald Ramotar yesterday claimed victory in Monday’s presidential elections in Guyana, after the national Election Commission announced the he had captured 49 percent of the vote. Ramotar, who ran under the campaign slogan "Let Progress Continue," promised to maintain social policies and infrastructure development projects that he said were a staple of his predecessor Bharrat Jagdeo’s administration.
Tensions had risen in Guyana over the course of the week due to the delay in announcing the results from Monday’s election.
Opposition candidate David Granger’s coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), won 41 percent of the vote to help seize an opposition-controlled parliamentary majority for the first time in 19 years. Race plays a heavy roll in Guyanese politics. The PPP/C—in power since 1992—is widely supported by the country’s ethnic majority of Indian descent, while the APNU—a coalition of the People’s National Congress (PNC) and other smaller parties—is dominated by Afro-Guyanese.
Outgoing President Jagdeo has been praised by supporters for his pro-business positions and his leadership in helping Guyana overcome severe economic hardship in the 1980s. Opposition parties and the country’s Afro-descendants, however, accuse the government of racial discrimination, close ties with drug traffickers and ignoring the country’s high crime rates.
President-elect Ramotar will be sworn into office on Saturday.
On the day that the United States reflected over the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Guatemala went to the polls to elect its next president. The contest pitted three leading candidates against each other: Otto Pérez Molina, a former army general, of Partido Patriota (Patriotic Party, or PP); Manuel Baldizón, business tycoon, of Libertad Democrática Renovada (Renewed Democratic Freedom, or LIDER); and academic Eduardo Suger, of Compromiso, Renovación y Orden (Commitment, Renewal and Order, or CREO).
Pérez Molina had a comfortable lead in the polls in the lead-up to the election; if he had earned more than half the vote he would have made history by being the first national candidate since the 1980s to avoid a runoff vote. But, having secured only 35 percent of votes from more than 7 million tallies, he won the first round but not by enough to avoid a second round. Meeting him in the runoff, scheduled for November 6, is Baldizón, who received 23 percent of votes. Suger finished a distant third with 16 percent.
"Several sectors of the dominant [Guatemalan] forces expected Otto Pérez Molina to win in the first round to save costs,” said Álvaro Velásquez, 42, professor of social sciences and political analyst at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Guatemala City. “Now the people have spoken to contradict this. That's good news for the power of the vote.”
But Pérez Molina can still make history in November; given his extensive military background and Guatemala’s history under decades of military rule, he can be the first ex-soldier to be democratically elected in Guatemala. Baldizón, a successful businessman with alleged ties to narcotraffickers, hails from the northern region of Péten—a department that borders Mexico.
Sandra Torres, the recent ex-wife of Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom, filed papers yesterday with the Registro de Ciudadanos at the Tribunal Supremo Electoral in Guatemala City to become a presidential candidate in the upcoming election. Accompanied by Roberto Díaz-Durán, her aspiring vice-presidential candidate and the former president of port operator Nacional Santo Tomás de Castilla, the filing put an end to weeks of speculation that the former first lady would run for office after filing for divorce from the president this past March. If approved, Torres and Díaz-Durán will be the candidates for the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE) and Gran Alianza Nacional (Gana) political parties, which have formed an alliance to back the two candidates in the September 11 election.
Torres filed for divorce from President Colom to sidestep a law in the country’s constitution prohibiting the president’s relatives from running for the nation’s highest office. Colom is also ineligible to run for re-election. Despite legal approval of the divorce in April, some have called the divorce fraudulent and a blatant violation of the constitution. On Friday, a legal organization, Alternativa Renovadora de Abogados y Notarios, filed a motion with the civil tribunal court asking for a reevaluation of the approval of the divorce in light of the allegations. The motion also asks the court to decide if the candidacy filing should be considered fraudulent and the approval annulled.
In the meantime, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral will now review Torres’ candidacy papers to ensure they meet all the necessary requirements before officially registering Torres and Díaz-Durán as candidates. It is uncertain how last week’s legal filing may affect the proceedings.
Should Torres be approved by the Tribunal, her main opponent would be former army general Otto Pérez Molina, of the right-wing Partido Patriota. Polls published this Monday by newspaper Siglo 21 show that Molina holds a 16+ point lead over Torres among likely voters in September's election.
More than 2 million Canadians took advantage of early voting last weekend to cast their votes ahead of the May 2 federal general election—a 34.5 percent increase over the 2008 election. This is Canada’s fourth election in seven years, and turnout was higher than expected amid a general feeling of voter fatigue. In a statement released Tuesday, Elections Canada, an independent, non-partisan agency that monitors and conducts federal elections, expressed optimism at the high turnout but emphasized that the figures were preliminary estimates and that not all polling stations may have yet reported.
The general election was prompted after a non-confidence vote was reached in Parliament. That vote, in turn, came after Parliament found Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government in contempt for not disclosing the full costs of certain anti-crime programs, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets from the United States.
Going into the election, Mr. Harper’s Conservative party was considered to be a frontrunner. Recent polls, though, show the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) gaining traction. An online Angus Reid poll conducted in partnership with the Toronto Star and La Presse gave it 30 percent of the vote—only 5 percent less than the Conservative Party, and ahead of the 22 percent allocated to the Liberal Party. Some analysts say the NDP’s rise, combined with the high early turnout, suggests voter dissatisfaction with Canada’s traditional parties.
Nonetheless, analysts say the NDP and Liberal parties are competing for the same voters, which could ultimately lead to a win for the Conservatives.
A Canadian political party needs 40 percent of the vote or a lead of at least 10 percentage points over the runner-up to win a majority in the House of Commons. While the NDP seems to be rising in popularity, some say it is competing with the Liberal Party for the same voters, which could ultimately lead to a win for the Conservatives. It remains unclear whether the two opposition parties will form a coalition, with Prime Minister Harper believing that will be the case if his party fails to win a majority and Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff denying any such plans.
A month away from the first round of voting in Peru’s presidential election, former President Alejandro Toledo (2001–2005) leads in the polls. The margin by which he leads, however, is not wide enough to avoid a runoff in which he would likely face Keiko Fujimori, daughter of another former president, Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000), or Luis Castañeda, a former mayor of the city of Lima. The election has attracted only lukewarm enthusiasm from the general public.
Latest polls show Toledo, of the Perú Posible political party, earning 30 percent of the vote, while Fujimori of Fuerza 2011 and Luis Castañeda of Solidaridad Nacional are tied as runners-up, currently projected to earn 19.2 and 19.6 percent of the vote, respectively, on April 10. Although of divergent pasts, the principal candidates share a campaign position of maintaining the current, free-market economic model, which has led to unprecedented and sustained growth in Peru (8.8 percent in 2010).
The notorious unreliability of polls in Peru notwithstanding, a number of analysts suggest Toledo has the greatest chance of ultimately winning the presidency. Nelson Manrique commented that he has “carried out his campaign the best and has been able to capture the votes of distinct sectors from all over the country.” Recently traveling in Peru’s northern areas, which lack such basic infrastructure and services as roads and hospitals, Toledo has campaigned on the promise of completing the social reforms he began during his first presidency, and has promised higher taxes on the rich and on mining companies’ windfall profits.
For his part, some analysts say, Castañeda is unlikely to repeat at a national level the popularity he earned as Lima mayor, which reached 80 percent. On the other hand, some recent polls show him beating both Toledo and Fujimori in the case of a runoff. And while Fujimori could attract significant votes, she, too, has limitations, relying on a loyal group of voters who would support her no matter what, but unable to win over those who would never vote for her.
Fujimori, for better or worse, is often perceived as carrying out the legacy of her father, who is currently serving a sentence of 25 years in prison for corruption and human rights violations committed during his presidency, but who enjoys great popularity among certain sectors of the population.
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced yesterday morning that government party candidate Jude Célestin is not eligible to run against frontrunner and former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the March 20 national presidential runoff elections. The long-awaited decisions means that Haitian pop singer Michel Martelly, who placed second in November’s first round voting will proceed to the second round.
The announcement mirrors recommendations made by the Organization of American States (OAS), which found evidence of widespread fraud, missing votes and altered tallies in favor of government-backed candidate Célestin. To many observers, the decision is a sign of progress in a country that witnessed a surge of violence and voter ballot confusion during the first round elections in November. Other tumultuous events such as the onset of an ongoing cholera epidemic and the recent return of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier on January 16 have raised the overall uncertainty regarding the election.
Support for the decision from international observers was immediate with Farhan Haq, a United Nations spokesperson, saying, "it is of capital importance for Haiti to have a new democratically elected government, to work on the pressing issues of reconstruction and the fight against cholera." The OAS also supports the decision and says it will send a new team of observers for the presidential runoff, as has been requested by the Haitian government.
The results of the runoff will be announced on April 16. Follow AQ Online for more updates and coverage.
One year has passed since Haiti was rocked by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010. In just three minutes, a nation already suffering from hunger and neglect was hit with a seemingly decisive blow.
The media’s coverage of Haiti is as insightful today as it was in the weeks immediately following the earthquake. Then, as now, there is a cache of grim photos and figures that find their way into each segment. Running down a list of casualties—supposedly to paint a picture of the situation plaguing Haiti—tends to oversimplify an unnervingly complicated situation. At the same time however, it’s important to take stock of what has been lost in just a year: more than 250,000 killed in the earthquake alone; 1 million displaced persons; 3,500 dead by Cholera with 400,000 more cases estimated to surface in 2012; upwards of $10 billion in damages; and political violence rampant surrounding the political election. As they say, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’.
But amidst the cripplingly slow reconstruction effort, some progress has been made. The most symbolic achievement—and perhaps the most dramatic as well—is the presidential election that took place on November 28, 2010. Why would a fraud-ridden election that played out like a telenovela be so key? Because the single most important entity in post-earthquake Haiti will be an established, well-funded Haitian government. Not only will this government be in charge of delivering social services the government has failed to provide for decades, but the legitimacy of the government (and I use the word legitimacy optimistically) will determine how much of the $10 billion in donations and foreign aid actually makes its way to Haiti, and from that point, how effectively it is invested.
Granted, it will be several months before Haiti’s next president comes into power, let alone establishes him or herself. But the Organization of American States (OAS) took a crucial step on Monday when it published a review of the hotly contested election results. The outcome: disqualification of 17,220 votes for ruling-party candidate Jude Celestin and 7,150 votes for kompa star Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly. The OAS put an end to the back and forth about who will participate in the run-off next month (assuming President Préval accepts the report, which he should given that he invited the 10-man OAS team in the first place). With Martelly likely to earn a second-place victory with 22.2 percent of the vote, he would face undisputed first-place finisher Mirlande Manigat for perhaps the most important presidential post in Haiti since the 1960s.