Paraguay - Election 2018
On April 22 Paraguay elected its new president, as well as 17 governors, 45 senators, 80 congress representatives, and 18 representatives to the Parlasur, Mercosur’s parlament. The Colorado Party dominated Paraguayan politics until 2008, when it lost the general elections for the first time in 61 years to the opposition, the Patriotic Alliance for Change. On April 22, Paraguayan citizens headed to the polls to vote for national and local authorities. For the first time in the history of Paraguay, only two candidates were competing for the presidential seat.
On 31 March 2017 the Senate secretly voted to amend the constitution, which had not allowed re-election since it was created in 1992 following the fall of the brutal dictatorship. The bill would then move to the house, and if it passed, Cartes would have been eligible for re-election in 2018 when his current five- year term ended. Former president Fernando Lugo, who was ousted in 2012 for his handling of a land eviction in which 17 people were killed, would also be allowed to run again. A number of South American countries, including Paraguay, Peru, and Chile, have laws against presidents running for consecutive terms in a region not long removed from military dictatorships.
Rioters set fire to parliament to protest the bill that would allow the country's president to serve more than one term. Demonstrators broke windows and set fire to the interior of the parliament building. Paraguay's President Horacio Cartes said 16 April 2017 he would not run for a second term in 2018, after signs that he would try to hang onto power sparked deadly riots. Cartes made his intentions known in a letter to the Archbishop of Asuncion, saying he always puts Paraguay first.
Paraguayans headed to the ballot box 17 December 2017 to select their parties' presidential candidate for the general elections on 22 April 2018. Leading the pack, according to Americas Quarterly, were the two candidates vying for the top spot in the ruling, right-wing National Republican Association, or Colorado Party. Santiago Pena is a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) employee and finance minister. His opponent, Mario Abdo, is a senator who's the son of a private secretary to former dictator General Alfredo Stroessner. Little separate the two in policy terms.
The opposition alliance between the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, PLRA, and the leftist Guasu Front has remained weakened. the Guasu Front announced last year that Lugo will run for president. "The Guasu Front entered in the political arena to stay, we did not come to do a fashion show or exhibitionism in Paraguayan politics, we came to stay and transform our history," said Lugo.
Paraguay's presidential election took place on April 22, 2018. Vying for the top spot was the ruling, right-wing National Republican Association, or Colorado Party. Santiago Peña, a former International Monetary Fund, IMF, employee and finance minister. His opponent, Mario Abdo Benitez, is a senator, the son of a private secretary to former dictator General Alfredo Stroessner. He does not talk publicly about the role his father played in Stroessner's brutal regime that saw him jailed following the leaders ouster in 1989.
Little, if any, separated the two in policy terms. Both candidates seek to spur the economy through foreign investment and austerity measures, expressing hazy commitments concerning issues related to healthcare and education. Since the expeditious impeachment of former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in 2012, the opposition alliance between the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, PLRA, and the leftist Guasu Front has remained weakened.
"The Guasu Front entered in the political arena to stay, we did not come to do a fashion show or exhibitionism in Paraguayan politics, we came to stay and transform our history,” Lugo said. However, political commentator Estela Ruiz Diaz said that “none of the PLRA candidates standing for the presidency incite passion,” adding that they still have to settle their “own feuds.”
Not counting the four-year hiatus under Lugo, the past seven decades of Colorado Party politics attest to the absence of progressive leadership in the landlocked country.
The candidate of the ruling Colorado Party, Mario Abdo Benitez, and the opposition Ganar Alliance's candidate Efrain Alegre both proposed to reform the legal system of Paraguay to give confidence to foreign investors in the only debate before the April 22 presidential elections. The debate was held 16 April 2018 at the Central Bank of Paraguay offices and its discussion topics included economic development and environment; education and social integration; institutions and gobernability; health and childhood; and legal and physical security. But the discussion focused on Paraguay's institutions, especially the legal system. The opposition candidate suggested a change to the legal power in order to provide the country with a better institutional framework, to combat the idea of the government as a “booty” for candidates.
During the campaign, both promised to bring foreign investment to create jobs for the country's fast-growing economy which has seen annual growth of about 6 percent over the past five years. Corruption and poverty affect nearly 29 percent of the population and close to 80 percent of all property is owned by just 2 percent of the population, according to Oxfam Intermon. Both candidates oppose the legalization of abortion and gay marriage in the deeply conservative Catholic country.
A poll for Paraguay's upcoming presidential elections showed Abdo Benitez leading the polls with 55.7 percent of voter intention. Alegre, of the coalition between the Guasu Front and the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, was behind by 24 points with 31 percent of voter intention.
With 96 percent of the polls counted, Mario Abdo Benítez had more than 46 percent of the votes. The candidate from Paraguay's ruling Colorado Party won Sunday's presidential election, according to official results with over 96 percent of ballots counted, pointing toward another five years of conservative and neoliberal policies in the major soy producer. Mario Abdo Benitez, a 46-year-old former senator, clinched 46.7 percent of the vote, according to the country's elections tribunal. His main rival, Efrain Alegre, a lawyer from the center-left GANAR coalition Alegre, trailed closely with 42.6 percent.
Paraguay’s Superior Court for Electoral Justice (TSJE) has rejected allegation of fraud advanced by the leadership of the Ganar Alliance and reiterated its trust in the Preliminary Electoral Results Transmission (TREP) system used during the election. Since results of the general election held on April 22 were announced, handing a narrow 3.7 percent victory in the presidential election to the Colorado Party's candidate Mario Abdo Benitez, members of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party and the Guasu Front, the two main parties within the Ganar coalition have highlighted several irregularities in the electoral process. The main charge against the results is that the TREP system, operated by the Electoral Justice has presented a lower number of votes for Ganar coalition candidates and these figures are smaller than the data registered in the original count.
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