1 November 2017

Election Season in Latin America

For much of the world, the next 12 months will be a relatively quiet period in terms of national elections.  However, one region will see voters go to the polls in a large number of important countries.  That region is Latin America, where voters will go to the polls to take part in national elections in at least nine countries over a 12-month period.  This election season in Latin America already kicked off last month in Argentina and between then and next October, countries comprising nearly 80% of Latin America’s today population will hold presidential or parliamentary elections. 

Given the state of the Latin American economy and the fact that so many presidents and governments in that region are highly unpopular, these elections could result in many significant policy changes in the region’s most important countries.  Here is a list of the nine countries that will hold, or have already held, national elections between last month and next October.

Argentina (October 2017): Supporters of President Mauricio Macri won a clear victory in last month’s legislative elections in Argentina, providing a major boost for the president’s plans to reform Argentina’s struggling economy.

Chile (November 2017): Chile will hold presidential and parliamentary elections later this month, with the former center-right President Sebastian Pinera appearing likely to return to Chile’s highest office in these elections.

Honduras (November 2017): Honduras will also hold presidential and parliamentary elections later this month, with the conservative President Juan Orlando Hernandez becoming the first president in that country’s history to be eligible to seek a second term in office.

Costa Rica (February 2018): Presidential and parliamentary elections will take place in Costa Rica in early 2018 and the results are likely to be very close to see who succeeds the outgoing center-left President Luis Guillermo Solis.

Paraguay (April 2018): Paraguay’s next presidential and parliamentary elections will take place in April 2018.  Current conservative President Horacio Cartes had initially sought to run for re-election next year, but gave up on these efforts following major protests against this plan earlier this year. 

Colombia (May 2018): In the wake of the recent peace deal between the country’s government and the FARC rebel group (and ongoing negotiations with the ELN rebel group), a crowded field of candidates will seek to replace outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos in next May’s presidential election in Colombia. 

Mexico (July 2018): Presidential and Congressional elections will take place in Mexico next July amid a slumping economy and rising tensions with the Trump Administration in the United States.  This situation could provide a boost for the left-wing populist, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in the race for the presidency. 

Brazil (October 2018): Latin America’s largest country will hold presidential and parliamentary elections next October as that country struggles to pull out of a deep recession and a series of massive corruption scandals.  Current President Michel Temer’s approval rating is the lowest of any leader in the world at just 3%.

Venezuela (October 2018): As Venezuela’s left-wing government erodes that country’s already-fragile democracy, President Nicolas Maduro is expected to seek another term in office next year, despite his complete mismanagement of that country’s collapsing economy. 

A number of key themes will run through nearly all of these national elections in Latin America next year.  Most notably, there will be populist candidates and parties, both on the political right and left, that perform well in most of these elections. This is due to the fact that Latin America has been the world’s worst-performing region in terms of economic growth and development in recent years. Moreover, many of the countries that are holding elections during this 12-month period have suffered from massive corruption scandals that have eroded voters’ faith in political leaders from their countries’ traditionally-dominant political parties. 

Given the fact that so many important countries in Latin America are going to the polls in this 12-month flurry of elections, it is clear that the region’s political and economic policies could undergo a major shift in the coming year, depending upon the outcomes of these elections.  As the region has struggled economically, and has failed to adequately deal with the problem of corruption, it is clear that good governance is needed more than ever.  Whether or not Latin America receives this needed good governance depends in large part on the region’s voters, who will have the chance to have their voices heard in large numbers in the coming months.