Latin America’s long election cycle is finally coming to an end, for now. In the past three years, the region has held 12 presidential elections and multiple transitions of power.
Now, with elections decided in Argentina and Canada, an election fiasco in Bolivia, and a run-off election in Uruguay set for next November, the region will have decided their heads of states for at least another four years. Here are the results of the elections in Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, and Uruguay, so far and what they tell us—if anything—about electoral trends in such a diverse region.
Bolivia (October 20)
The results of Bolivia’s presidential election have left the country in an uproar. Disputes over the October 20 results began the night of the election, when after having released preliminary results that pointed toward a runoff election between President Evo Morales and main challenger Carlos Mesa, election officials backtracked. To remain in power, Morales needs to win 50 percent of the votes, or 40 percent and a 10-point lead over the runner-up.
After failing to update reporting of results for 24 hours, on Monday night, election officials released an updated vote tally showing Morales had the 10 percent lead he needed to avoid a runoff. With 97 percent of votes counted, Morales declared himself winner in the first round. In a televised speech, he accused opposition leaders and foreign powers of attempting a “coup,” as Mesa, along with union leaders and civil society groups, called for a general strike to dispute the results.
Irregularities in the election process have left many, including election observers from the Organization of American States (OAS), questioning the integrity of the process. In a report on Monday, the mission said the trend reversal that occurred on Sunday through Monday was at odds with independent tallies of the results. The mission said a runoff should be held even if Morales did indeed have the 10 point advantage, saying “in the case that… the margin of difference exceeds 10 percent, it is statistically reasonable to conclude that it will be by negligible margin.” The European Union has backed the mission’s recommendation of holding a runoff election.
Concerns grew after Antonio Costas, vice-president of the electoral board resigned over the board’s decision to stop reporting results, which he said discredited “the entire electoral process, causing unnecessary social convulsion.”
Bolivia’s electoral board announced Morales as the official winner, with 47.08 percent of the vote compared to Mesa’s 35.51 percent—less than a percentage point over the 10-point lead needed. The opposition fails to accept the results of the election, and protests have engulfed the country with neither side backing down.
On Thursday, the Organization of American States will start a “binding” audit of the election, an agreement made by the OAS and Morales’ government. The audit will take approximately 10 to 12 days and will include the verification of the voting tables and ballots. For his part, Mesa, who had previously stated he believed the audit would demonstrate clear election fraud, said on Wednesday he did not “accept the audit under the current terms, agreed unilaterally.”
Polls have said that if President Morales were to face off with Carlos Mesa in a second round, Mesa would win the presidency—something Morales, who is now seeking his fourth consecutive term in office, is looking to avoid.
In July, Global Americans interviewed presidential candidate Carlos Mesa on his proposals for the future of Bolivia. You can listen to the interview here.
Canada (October 21)
Monday’s federal election in Canada saw the liberal party narrowly win, highlighting the growing divide in a country known for its harmony. Although Justin Trudeau won a second term as Canada’s prime minister, the Liberals won 157 seats, 14 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the House of Commons. Conservatives moved up from 95 seats to an estimated 121, while the New Democratic Party lost 15 seats, leaving them with 24 seats.
The results of the election show the growing urban-rural divide in the country. Liberals performed well in urban areas, including the country’s eastern provinces, while Conservatives and their leader Andrew Scheer, a career politician who is anti-abortion and promised to remove carbon pricing legislation, were backed by voters in Canada’s Western Prairie Provinces.
Trudeau’s campaign was undermined in the months leading up to the election by the resurfacing of images of him in blackface and his handling of the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal, where Montreal-based company was allegedly involved in bribery and corruption abroad, including in Libya. Trudeau was alleged to have interfered in the judiciary after his aides pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to reach a settlement with the company so it would continue to create jobs in the country.
Now at the head of a minority government, Trudeau has ruled out working with other minority parties as a coalition and will instead govern from a minority position while working with other parties. He said, “[Canadians] sent a clear message that they expect us as a government to work with the other parties on these issues that matter to them, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.” For his part, main challenger Scheer warned Liberals during his concession speech that “when your government fails, Conservatives will be ready, and we will win.”
Argentina (October 27)
During Argentina’s Simultaneous and Mandatory Open Primaries (PASO in Spanish) held last August—an exercise that measures voter intention—candidates Alberto Fernández and running-mate and former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner swept the primaries winning 47.66 percent of the national vote.
Now, after Argentina headed to the polls this past October 27, as expected, the Peronist formula will take back the presidency from business-friendly reformer Mauricio Macri. Similar to the outcome of the PASO, Fernández won 48 percent of the vote with 95 percent of the ballots counted. Macri in turn won 40 percent of the vote, although the current president performed better than expected.
Fernández needed to secure at least 45 percent of the vote, or 40 percent plus a 10-point lead over the runner-up, to settle the elections in the first round. The Fernández coalition will take office next December 10, but conversations between President elect and President Macri began as soon as Monday October 28, to arrange a smooth a transition as possible.
But although the Fernández coalition won the presidency, Congress is more evenly distributed among political forces. On Sunday the Peronist coalition gained a majority in the upper house (Senate), but only managed to become the first minority in the Chamber of Deputies.
As Patrick Gilesspie and Jorgelina do Rosario properly point out for Bloomberg, Fernández will need to immediately deal with a contracting economy, with inflation above 50 percent, unemployment at more than 10 percent and a third of the population living below the poverty line. Fernández will also face the challenge of defining the level of influence that the new vice president will assume. The senator and former president Fernández de Kirchner currently faces 11 separate corruption cases, another pending issue that the new president must sort out.
Colombia (October 27)
On October 27 Colombians elected 1,101 mayors; 32 governors; 1,101 municipal councils; 32 departmental assemblies and 1,040 local administrative boards for the 2020-2023 period.
Cities such as Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga chose their next mayor. In the Colombian capital, Bogotá, voter intention favored Carlos Galán with 35.2 percent of voter intention, followed by Claudia López with 31.2 percent of voter intention. However, López—a journalist turned politician that ran on an anti-corruption platform—made history on Sunday by becoming the first woman and the first openly-gay politician to occupy the second most important elected office in Colombia.
Uruguay (October 27)
Uruguayans also headed to the polls last Sunday to decide their next president among a dozen candidates. Voter intention favored the ruling Broad Front coalition—led by former Montevideo mayor Daniel Martínez—narrowly followed by the conservative National Party’s senator Luis Lacalle Pou.
Until Sunday, Daniel Martínez—a socialist engineer and former union leader—was the presidential front-runner with a 10-15 percent voter-intention advantage over Lacalle Pou. However, after the Electoral Court ran the official tally, Broad Front’s Martínez obtained 39.2 percent of the votes, while the right-wing center National Party’s Lacalle Pou totaled 28.6 percent. Since no candidate received 50 percent of the votes in the first round, Uruguayans will head to a run-off election next November 24.
What does this all mean?
Though often offered, sweeping conclusions about close wave of elections in the region are difficult—and when made are often facile. So tentatively, we offer one possible conclusion: a growing tide of anti-incumbency. While Morales may have thwarted a second-round election that he quite possibly may have lost, and the final winner is still to be determined in Uruguay, what is surprising is the sagging popular support for sitting presidents. In the case of whether it will lead to a change in office in Bolivia or Uruguay, is yet to be seen.