This article is not about the coronavirus. Or at least not directly. It’s about the elections, political processes and protests in Latin America and the Caribbean that only a few months ago seemed destined to shape many countries’ democratic futures. In Bolivia, Chile and the Dominican Republic, public health concerns over COVID-19 have forced the postponement of critical elections; in all three countries social and political upheaval preceded the delays.
In the best of circumstances elections serve as a safety valve for political and social tensions. What will their postponement mean as the countries feel the economic and social effects of the pandemic?
In Bolivia, a make-up presidential election has been postponed. In Chile, a plebiscite on whether and how to amend the constitution has been pushed back to 28th October. In both of those cases, the special elections were called in the face of public protests. In the other country to postpone elections, the Dominican Republic, the government was forced to delay presidential and legislative elections originally scheduled for 17 May to July.
In that case too, the rescheduling came on the heels of protests; a suspicious technical meltdown in urban voting systems in the 16th February municipal elections sparked nearly two weeks of political demonstrations and forced a re-do on 25 March – which in turn forced a delay in the government’s imposing social distancing measures in response to the country’s COVID-19 outbreak.
And in Venezuela…. well, the complete absence of predictability and the politicization of the country’s electoral commission means scheduled National Assembly elections could occur almost any time; the one thing that is sure is under the current electoral authority, the process will never meet international standards(opens in new window) for free and fair elections.
To read more, visite Chatham House.