LatAm: Who’s Competing for Power in 2018?
January 10, 2018
By the end of 2018, a very different political landscape could have emerged across Latin America and the Caribbean. We can expect to see reactions at the ballot box to a wide range issues such as: disillusionment with traditional ruling classes due to corruption; the election of a populist president in the US; huge reform programmes instigated by current regimes; and crime and violence trends that have not seen the improvement that incumbent governments would like.
To highlight some of the most important points to watch: in Central America, Costa Rica will see an unpredictable poll in February. A series of corruption scandals have come to light, leaving voters jaded and disillusioned with their rulers. The disillusionment continues in El Salvador, which will elect a new legislature and new mayors in March. Here the disenchantment is more about the current government’s perceived failure to tackle persistently high homicide rates.
In the Andean region, Colombia will go to the polls to elect a new legislature and president in March and May respectively. Both elections will be a tussle between unequivocal supporters of the peace deal with the Farc, those who want to see it amended, and those who want to scrap it. Whatever the outcome, the new Farc political party will be represented by at least five seats in each chamber. Venezuela, in theory, is due to go to the polls in December, although in what is essentially now a one-party state, anything is possible. An election is possible as early as March, which would allow incumbent President Maduro to stand effectively unopposed, or the ballot could simply be cancelled altogether.
Cuba is undergoing a power transition, and April’s national assembly will see a new leader appointed; the process has gone largely according to script, albeit a hint of political dissent has quietly let itself be known across the country.
In Paraguay, also in April, the opposition looks well poised to come back to power due to the deep internal divisions within the ruling ANR-PC over the issue of presidential re-election. The split seems likely to divide support for the party at the ballot box.
In July, Mexico will turn out to vote in a trying time for the country. The election of Trump in the US has helped to boost support for Mexico’s own populist candidate. Thrown into the mix is the issue of corruption, with top officials from across the traditional parties found wanting, and indeed culpable. On top of all this, violence rates are heading in the wrong direction, and the country’s economic future is uncertain given the ongoing renegotiation of Nafta.
Brazil will see a general election in October. The challenge for the incumbent president, who has a woeful approval rating, is to convince people that his government has been doing what is necessary to return the country to growth following the recent deep recession, despite it not yet filtering down into voters’ pockets. Again, all of this is set against a backdrop of corruption scandals, some of which have rocked the entire continent and beyond. With the current opposition front-runner possibly unable to run due to a corruption conviction, the race is still wide open.
Latin American Newsletters (LatinNews) was founded in London in 1967 to provide expert political, economic, and security analysis on Latin America and the Caribbean. For nearly 50 years, it has been acknowledged as the foremost authority on the region.