2013 will usher in a round of election cycles across the region. And what political junkie doesn't love a hotly contested and fervently debated election? (Really, it's so much better than the fiscal cliff, especially when it doesn't affect your own tax rate). Elections in Latin America can be colorful, passionate (and unfortunately sometimes violent) affairs. Lucky for us, not only do we have 2013 elections in Ecuador (February) and Honduras (November), but pre-election politicking is already rampant in El Salvador (with elections slated for February 2014). In Colombia, the main newspapers are full of "will Santos run?" coverage.
Here are a few thoughts of what to look forward to in a select few election cycles. Now, Honduras and Ecuador are the only countries I'm mentioning that actually have elections in 2013, but expect El Salvador and Colombia to be consumed with election news this year:
|Xiomara throws her (cowboy) hat into the ring|
Oh, Honduras. Three years after the coup, I'm reading the news from Tegucigalpa and the headlines are either focused on how bad the security situation is or how prostitutes raided and stole computers from the Honduran embassy in Bogota when a staffer threw an overzealous Christmas bash. Amid these stories, who needs an election campaign for entertaining news? In all seriousness, I'm most looking forward to seeing Xiomara Castro's campaign. The new left-of-center Libre party candidate is former President Manuel Zelaya's wife (remember, Mel Zelaya, who was overthrown in the middle of the night and flown to neighboring Costa Rica, all the while in his pyjamas?). Since the 1980s, the Liberal Party and National Party have held a fierce grip on the presidency. I am skeptical that Castro can convince enough voters to win, but she'll probably take a fair share away from some left-leaning factions of the Liberal Party. In the interim, stay tuned for Honduras's (I believe first-ever) sovereign bond issuance.
|Correa in campaign mode|
President Rafael Correa is in full campaign mode right now and most analysts predict that he'll easily win a third term (one poll published by Perfiles shows him with 60% support). It looks like his campaign will be successful, despite no shortage of drama over the past few years: most recently he's warned supporters of an alleged "CIA attack" against him, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is still holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Despite that fun buzz, I'll elect his presidential campaign song as the Most Boring Campaign Slogan of 2013: "We already have a President. We have Rafael!" Really, Correa? That's all you got?
Correa is pretty amped about it though:
La canción de campaña "Ya tenemos Presidente. ¡Tenemos a Rafael!" Es un éxito completo.Yawn. I guess Correa has enough drama within his presidency that he doesn't need a catchy slogan to catch anyone's attention.
— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) January 7, 2013
|I'm skeptical Sanchez Ceren can win the presidency|
2014 couldn't come soon enough for the FMLN and Arena parties, both of which had their candidates selected last fall. Current President Mauricio Funes is ineligible to run and I suspect he will happily sit on the sidelines while his VP and FMLN candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren fails to drum up enough popular support to win the presidency. Meanwhile, conservative Arena party candidate and mayor of San Salvador Norman Quijano may have a slight edge in some recent polls, but it's hard to imagine the troubled Arena party easily gliding to victory at this point.
The big question for 2013: is former President Tony Saca going to throw his hat into the ring? A Saca candidacy will probably split the right-of-center vote and force a run-off. I've heard that the FMLN and Saca could be scheming up a plan to prevent Quijano from winning office.
|Vargas Lleras (left) could be contemplating a run|
Clearly, Colombia's election is 18 months away, but there is no shortage of speculation right now over whether President Juan Manuel Santos will decide to run for reelection. (He says he'll announce his decision mid-year). I'd be shocked if he didn't run, given his decent approval ratings and the power of incumbency. But Santos has a lot on his plate, most notably the ongoing negotiations with the FARC and the risk that a failed attempt at securing peace could derail his reelection plans.
In the meantime, it looks like many eyes are trained on current Minister of Housing German Vargas Lleras. Vargas Lleras ran against Santos in the 2010 election with the Cambio Radical party, and there is ample speculation that he could resign his post (looks like March would be an important cut-off date) to run again. Furthermore, don't expect former President Alvaro Uribe to keep quiet... he's likely to present a list of candidates for senate with his blessing, which could shake up the balance of power in congress in 2014.