Friday, October 24, 2014

Last Polls Before Voting Day in Brazil, Uruguay

On Sunday, both Brazilians and Uruguayans will be going to the polls. In Brazil, recent surveys have suggested that President Dilma Rousseff has widened her lead over challenger Aecio Neves. But in neighboring Uruguay, recent polls suggest that that the ruling Frente Amplio coalition isn’t having the same luck.

Yesterday, Ibope and Datafolha both published the results of surveys taken earlier this week, both of which for the first time showed Rousseff leading Neves outside of the margin of error. Ibope has Rousseff beating Neves 49% to 41% of total votes (excluding null and blank votes, Rousseff has 54% to her rival’s 46), while Datafolha found 48 % for the incumbent and 42% for Neves (which would be 53 to 47% of valid votes, respectively).

The Wall Street Journal reports that analysts say Dilma’s rise is a product of her campaign’s ability to secure support among working-class voters. However, the Datafolha survey suggests this is isn’t quite the full picture. As Folha reports, Datafolha’s data shows that the president’s challenger lost support across all classes in recent weeks.  The pollster found that support for Neves after the first-round vote stood at 74% among upper class voters and 67% among the middle class, but that these figures have since fallen to 64% and 58%, respectively.

Meanwhile in Uruguay, the governing Frente Amplio coalition has not seen a rebound similar to Rousseff’s. Polls released this week suggest the FA will fall short of the roughly 47% that most analysts suggest it needs to hold on to its legislative majority.  Equipos Mori has the Frente Amplio at 43.6%, the National Party (PN) at 33.4%, the Colorado Party (PC) at 15.1% and the Independent Party (PI)  at 3.1%; Cifra has FA 43%, PN 32%, PC 18% and PI 3.3%; and Factum suggests FA 44%, PN 32%, PC 15% and PI 3%).

According to El Observador’s helpful projections based on these polls, in the best possible scenario for the FA, they will still lose two congressmen in the lower house. This means that no matter what, the next Congress will see far more debate and vote-wrangling than in the past five years under the FA’s controlling majority.

Because the FA won’t obtain a majority of votes in the first round, there will almost certainly be a presidential runoff on November 30 between the FA’s Tabare Vazquez and the PN’s Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou. On this front the news isn’t good for the FA either. Factum, the only pollster to publish surveys on a hypothetical pairing between the two, found earlier this month that two are statistically tied at 48% for Vazquez and 47% for Lacalle Pou, with a 3 point margin of error. This gap has narrowed from September, when Factum had 50% for Vazquez and 48 for Lacalle Pou, and is a far cry from polls earlier this year. As recently as April, Vazquez enjoyed a 15-point lead over his rival, with 55% to Lacalle Pou’s 40%.

Regarding Uruguay’s plebiscite to lower the age of criminal responsibility, the latest survey from leading pollster Cifra shows that 47% support the reform and 43% oppose it.  However, the good news for Uruguay’s No a La Baja campaign is that this 47% will not automatically translate into votes for the measure. In order to support the initiative, voters have to present a special slip inside the sealed ballot lists of their party of choice. Not including the slip is the equivalent of not voting for the reform, which is why the Frente Amplio lists do not include them. And though the Colorado Party is automatically including the slip in its ballot lists, the National Party is divided on the issue, as El Pais has noted. While Lacalle Pou’s faction of the National Party will include it, Vice President candidate Jorge Larrañaga’s list -- the party’s second-most popular grouping -- will not. Though this seems like a minor detail, Larrañaga’s decision will likely mean the failure of the reform initiative.

News Briefs
  • Though it has largely avoided becoming a major campaign issue thus far, Uruguay’s marijuana law has come into play in recent days, with both Vazquez and Lacalle Pou mentioning it in remarks to the press. Last week, the FA candidate remarked to newsmagazine Busqueda that he saw the law’s provisions on commercial sales in pharmacies as “unheard of,” though he said he would continue to implement it while carefully evaluating its effects.  And as El Pais reports, in a Wednesday interview he again put some distance between himself and the law, remarking that commercial sales could potentially put pharmacies at risk of criminal attacks.  Lacalle Pou, for his part, confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday if elected president he would present a bill to end sales in pharmacies, restricting it to home-growing and cannabis clubs.
  • In the latest twist in the case of the 43 missing students from Mexico’s Guerrero state, Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre Rivero has stepped aside to allow the state legislature to choose his successor, Animal Politico and the AP report.
  • News site Plaza Publica has an interview with the head of Honduras’ National Anti-corruption Council, Gabriela Castellanos Lanza. Since taking office she has made a name for herself as a committed champion against abuse of public funds and criminal influence in government.
  • InSight Crime’s David Gagne offers his take on Guatemala’s recent government-commissioned civil society report on potential drug policy reforms.  In his estimation, the report’s lack of “state regulation or at least decriminalization of marijuana” represents a step backward from Guatemala’s position as a main advocate for a new approach to drugs in the hemisphere.
  • The government of Venezuela yesterday announced the discovery of warehouses packed with food and medical goods that had been meant to illegally smuggle into neighboring Colombia, which President Nicolas Maduro held up as an example of what he has in the past called an “economic war” being waged against the country.  He also said he would use decree powers to raise the maximum jail sentence for smugglers to 14 years, Ultimas Noticias reports.
  • The Dominican government officially gave a response to the recently-published Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling on its citizenship and immigration practices yesterday. As El Listin Diario reports, government spokesperson Roberto Rodriguez Marchena told reporters that the administration of President Danilo Medina “rejects” the sentence even as it continues to adhere to the Inter-American human rights system. According to Rodriguez, the government views the decision as a violation of a state’s sovereign right to decide its own citizenship requirements, enshrined in international law.
  • But while the Medina government claims to respect the American Convention, the court’s ruling has fueled arguments among Dominican lawmakers arguing in favor of withdrawing recognition of its jurisdiction. This includes spokesmen of both major parties -- Medina’s PLD and the PRD -- in the lower house, according to El Dia.