Hope and controversy as election results declared across South America

Elections in Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia have produced both surprising and predictable results. Find out why in demoAbierta. Español

democracia Abierta
31 October 2019, 12.01am
Alberto Fernández and ex president Cristina Kirchner celebrate after winning the presidential elections in Buenos Aires. PA Images: All Rights Reserved.
Ni Ruijie/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. Todos los derechos reservados.

Colombia: progressive forces rise to power and ‘Uribismo’ takes a hard hit

The far-right wave that is sweeping through Latin America and the world is beginning to provoke a reaction from more progressive sectors within civil society and the political sphere.

This Sunday, Colombia demonstrated that progressive values in the region are not entirely lost, when 1 million Bogotans elected a lesbian woman who comes from a working class family as the mayor of the Colombian capital.

Ex-senator and candidate for the progressive Alianza Verde party, Claudia López won the elections with 35.21% of the votes against Carlos Galán, son of president Galán assassinated in 1989, who achieved 32.48%. It’s the first time a woman will occupy the position of mayor in Bogota, the second most important political post in the country.

“Today, Bogota elected for the very first time, a daughter from a family like yours, from a family that has built itself up, and with love and perseverance got through the difficulties of everyday life” said López, the daughter of a teacher, in her post-election speech.

Voters in Medellín, the city that is home to the far-right ex-president Álvaro Uribe and that has always been a bastion of conservatism and right-wing values, also surprised the world with their election results on Sunday. Daniel Quintero, an independent candidate, won the elections to become the mayor of the second largest city of the country, over Uribe’s candidate of choice, Alfredo Ramos, breaking a decades long dominance of victories of ‘Uribista’ candidates.

The results of the local elections are fundamental because they offer an insight into what Colombia could expect for the next presidential elections in 2022. “These elections have given a hard blow to ‘Uribismo’ and the most conservative sectors of Colombian society” Sergio Guzmán, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, indicates.

Argentina: the return of Kirchnerism and the left

Argentines have officially rejected the austerity policies of soon to be ex-president Macri with the most recent presidential elections. On Sunday, candidates of the left-wing alliance Frente de Todos, Alberto Fernández and vice candidate Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, celebrated their victory. The coalition won the first round of the elections with more than 47.80% of the overall vote up-against 40.69% of current president Macri.

“Thank you for the commitment you’ve all shown to create a more humanitarian, supportive Argentina, that defends public health and public education, an Argentina that prioritises those who work, those who produce” Fernández declared.

The Frente de Todos coalition was victorious in Buenos Aires, where ex-Minister of Finance of the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Axel Kicillof, was elected province governor.

“There has been a categorical triumph in the provinces as well as at a national level, that’s why I’m with the president elect and the vice president elect. The unity of the countryside has been crucial” said Kicillof from the coalition headquarters together with Fernández and Kirchner.

The elections are a blow to Macri and to the neoliberal model in the region. In almost four years of government, Macri finalises his first mandate with all indicators in a worse-off state. The Argentine economy is in collapse, inflation this year is at 55%, unemployment is around 10.6%, poverty has increased, millions of dollars have left the country, and external debt is around $100 thousand million dollars.

Presidential candidate and current president Macri during the presidential elections in Argentina on the 27th October 2019. PA Images: All Rights Reserved.
Matías Baglietto/NurPhoto/PA Images. Todos los derechos reservados.

Uruguay: disputed elections will go to a second round

The Frente Amplio, party of the current president, will go to a second round with the opposition party, Partido Nacional, on the 24th of November.

Daniel Martínez of the Frente Amplio gained 39.2% of the total votes in the first round, whilst Luis Lacalle Pou, of the centre-right Partido Nacional obtained 28.6%. To win the first round, a candidate had to have achieved 50% or more of all votes.

This scenario means that Martínez and the Frente Amplio, the party of popular ex-president José Mujica, will most likely only count on support from those who are already party followers the next month. Ernesto Talvi of the Colorado party is the most coveted political partner for future coalitions within the executive and the parliament. Last Sunday, Talvi, who came out in 3rd place, announced that he will support Lacalle in the second round.

Lacalle and the Partido Nacional also have support from the far-right Cabildo Abierto, whose candidate Guido Manini Ríos obtained almost 11% of the votes. Expertise in mathematics isn’t necessary to understand that these numbers are bad news for Martínez and the Frente Amplio. It’s likely that next month the most progressive country in Latin America takes the neoliberal route.

Supporters of Lacalle Pou gather in Montevideo during his speech, Uruguay, 2019. PA Images: All Rights Reserved.
SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images. Todos los derechos reservados.

Bolivia: another mandate for Evo Morales?

More than a week after the presidential elections, Bolivia is still anxious over the results. On Friday the 25th, the Supreme Court announced the victory of Evo Morales for a fourth mandate.

According to official numbers, Evo, from the Movimiento al Socialismo party, obtained 47.08% of the votes, meanwhile ex-governor Carlos Mesa from Comunidad Ciudadana obtained 36.51%.

In Bolivia, to win the first found a candidate should obtain 50% or more of the votes, or 40% with a percentage point difference of 10% above second place. That’s why Evo won the elections by a minimal difference, which led many to denounce electoral fraud of the current president.

Protesters took to the streets of various cities in the midst of the allegations to demand a second round of voting.

In his official Twitter account, Mesa denounced Evo’s victory as a fraud and asked his fellow Bolivians to continue mobilising democratically and pacifically. He also said that the actions of Evo and his government don’t surprise anyone. “What happened a few minutes ago is what we were all expecting. We know of the obstinacy of the president and of the government, but we also know of our own strength to carry on forwards”.

But Evo still has a lot of power and popular support. In fact, a powerful trade union of farmers has announced an indefinite blockage of certain roads in support of the leader and the “indigenous vote”.

“The Pacto de Unidad and the CSUTCB (National Confederation of Farmers) have determined that we’ll be entering into a nationwide blockage to reject the coup d’etat, in defense of democracy and in defense of the indigenous vote” said leader Jacinto Herrera.

A woman in La Paz in a pro-Evo Morales protest on 23rd October 2019, Bolivia. PA Images: All Rights Reserved.
Gaton Brito/DPA/PA Images. Todos los derechos reservados.

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