March 17th, 2014 (VOXXI) With seven out of 19 Latin American countries holding presidential elections in 2014, this year is monumental for shaping the course of Latin America’s political future.
On March 9th, Salvador Sánchez Ceren of the governing left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) won the presidential election run-off in El Salvador—but barely. Sánchez Ceren won by just over 6,000 votes, a narrow victory that has provoked accusations of fraud and heightened tensions between political parties.
With one election down (a controversial one at that), there are six presidential elections on the horizon for Latin American countries. Here is a look at the forecast for each election:
Costa Rica—April 6th
Similar to El Salvador, Costa Rica’s presidential elections that occurred on February 2 were pushed to a run-off scheduled for April 6th. However, the ruling party’s candidate Johnny Araya quit the presidential campaign just a month before the run-off, which means that his opponent, leftist Luis Guillermo Solis, is practically guaranteed the presidency.
Panama’s current president, Ricardo Martinelli, may not be able to run again for the presidency this year, but that doesn’t mean his wife can’t hold office. Martinelli’s conservative Democratic Change (CD) party elected first lady Marta Linares as its vice presidential nominee for the upcoming five-year term. Linares will run on the ticket of presidential hopeful Jose Domingo Arias, who currently leads in the opinions polls.Martinelli might also reappear on the presidential stage in the future, as well, since he will be able to run for office after waiting two more terms.
President Juan Manuel Santos is up for reelection this year, and at the moment, his odds of holding office another term look good. Santos hopes to govern for a second term so that he can complete negotiations with FARC rebels to end a war that has resulted in 220,000 casualties. Many of his opponents believe that the FARC should be beaten militarily rather than appeased through negotiations.
President Dilma Rousseff of the Worker’s Party (PT) is expected to stay in office. Although Rousseff’s approval ratings sank last summer after a wave of protests about inflation, inequality, and poor government services, she has gradually regained national favor. She will run against Aecio Neves (the PSBD party) and Eduardo Campos (the PSB party). While Rousseff is currently favored to win, much can change in the next six months, especially since Brazil is hosting one of the world’s biggest sporting events this summer—the World Cup.
Bolivia’s constitution limits a president’s time in office to two terms, but Evo Morales is ready to seek a third term. Bolivia’s Constitutional Court ruled that Morales could seek a third term since his first term didn’t fall under the current constitution, which was amended in 2009. Because the presidential race is crowded, with twelve parties vying for office, it is unlikely that another candidate will stand out to challenge Morales, who represents the Movement Toward Socialism party (MAS).
President Jose Mujica, famous for his humble and philanthropic lifestyle, will not be able to run for reelection this year due to constitutional term limits. The current frontrunner, Tabaré Vázquez, is a former president who left office with a 60% approval rating. If Vázquez wins, that means a continuation of many of Mujica’s policies for Uruguay.