Monday, October 27, 2014

Some Surprises in Uruguay and Brazil Elections

Brazil and Uruguay both held elections yesterday, and both votes saw some surprises.

While Uruguay’s presidential race will go to a runoff between Tabare Vazquez of the Frente Amplio (FA) and the National Party’s (PN) Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, the first round vote will determine the breakdown of congressional seats for the next five years by proportional representation.

Last week’s projections predicted the ruling FA coalition would win just 43-44 percent of the vote, but in reality they performed far better than expected. Exit polls conducted by all three major pollsters (Cifra, Factum and Equipos Mori) suggest that the FA won between 46.5-47.4 percent of the vote, putting it very close to winning the estimated 47 percent it needs to hold onto control of both houses.

The final vote count is still being tallied, but with 96.9 percent counted so far by the Electoral Court, the results are as follows: Frente Amplio 46.98 percent, National Party 30.68 percent, Colorado Party (PC) 12.85 percent and Independent Party (PI) 3. 01percent. What’s more, the ballot measure to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 only received 46.47 percent of the vote, losing out by over 6 points to the “no” vote, with 53.53percent.  As El Pais reports, it seems the efforts of the “No a la Baja” civil society campaign have paid off, and the measure has been defeated.

Radio 180 reports that Colorado Party candidate Pedro Bordabery wasted no time last night in endorsing the PN’s Luis Lacalle Pou in the second round, as he was ultimately expected to do. However, El Observador reports that the Frente has been preparing its runoff campaign for this scenario for weeks, and it stepping up its messaging and campaign tactics to reach out to “colorados” who might balk at voting for a traditional rival among the “blancos” (as the National Party is known locally).

The big winners in Uruguay’s first round vote are the Independent Party, which increased its showing by half a percentage point compared to the last vote in 2009. This may not seem like much, but because of Uruguay’s proportionate vote, they stand to add a senator to the two congressional seats they currently control. If the FA fall just short of a majority, the Independents may become important powerbrokers in the next Congress.

In Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff won re-election by the slimmest majority the country has seen since its return to democracy. According to official results, the incumbent beat her challenger Aecio Neves by 51.6 to 48.4 percent of valid votes. This despite the fact that Ibope and Datafolha polls last week showed Rousseff beating Neves by 53-4 to 46-47 percent.

Folha’s analysis of the vote points out that this campaign season was especially divisive and tumultuous, with both candidates exchanging allegations of corruption and abuse of power. As the paper notes, moving forward Rousseff will have to overcome widespread skepticism towards her policies, especially regarding her management of the economy.

The president seemed aware of this in her victory speech last night. Appearing before a crowd of supporters, she promised that the first priority of her second term would be political reform, as Reuters and O Globo report. Rousseff is also reportedly planning on naming several new figures to her cabinet to repair her relationship with Congress, which soured in recent years.

More on Brazil’s election today from The Economist (which has a useful graph of fluctuation in the polls in recent months as well as a breakdown of how each state voted), New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

News Briefs
  • Lawmakers in Guerrero have voted to replace the governor of the Mexican state, who stepped down last week in response to outrage caused by the case of the 43 missing students there. El Universal has a profile with Rogelio Ortega Martínez, his replacement, who previously served as the rector of the Autonomous University of Guerrero.  The L.A. Times notes, however, that the replacement is unlikely to satisfy the thousands of Mexicans who have protested against the situation in Guerrero in recent weeks.
  • On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro replaced Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez with Defense Minister Carmen Melendez, a move that the Miami Herald’s Jim Wyss notes comes after Chavista collectives accused him of ordering an operation that killed a collective leader earlier this month. As El Nacional reports, Rodriguez was not expelled from the government, however, with Maduro saying that he would give him “15 days” of rest before assigning him elsewhere.
  • The Miami Herald takes a look at Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez, heavily quoting Human Rights Foundation President Thor Halvorssen Mendoza, who happens to be Lopez’s cousin.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos seems again to be attempting to lower expectations of an immediate end to the country’s conflict. In remarks on Sunday, the president stressed that the “most difficult negotiating points remain,” and warned that “there is still no reason to declare victory.”
  • While the education reform supported by President Michelle Bachelet was passed by Chile’s lower house recently, it has some detractors in the country. BBC Mundo and the AFP report that the thousands who participated in a march in Santiago on Saturday oppose the measure over concerns that it would cause certain schools to close and force families to send their children to the public system.
  • This author has an analysis of the growth of militia groups in Rio de Janeiro for InSight Crime. According to official estimates, militias formed by off-duty and ex-security force members have gone from operating in just six communities in 2004 to 148 today, and there is reason to believe they had a significant impact on their neighborhoods' voting patterns in Sunday’s election.
  • The AP has an update on the charges faced by former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has been accused of corruption, drug trafficking and money laundering.  A local judge has ordered his arrest for failing to appear in court, which police have been unable to follow as they are engaged in a tense standoff with supporters of the president outside his home for the past weeks.
  • Also on Haiti, the New York Times reports that the Haitian cholera victims’ lawsuit against the United Nations before a Manhattan judge is underway, and saw its first court proceeding on Thursday.