Tag Archives: run-off

Chile – Presidential Election Goes to Run-Off

On Sunday, Chile went to the polls for the first round of their presidential election. Voters also had to elect all 155 lower house deputies and half of Chile’s senators. The former billionaire, center-right president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera (2010-214), despite a clear lead in public opinion polls, was forced into a second round run-off due to a late surge by candidates on the left.

Piñera, with his right-leaning Chile Vamos coalition, won 36.4 per cent of the vote, while the left-leaning representative of the incumbent coalition, Alejandro Guillier, came second with 22.7 per cent and Beatriz Sánchez Muñoz, also on the left, came third with 20.3 per cent of the vote. The right wing candidate of the Unión Demócrata Independiente, José Antonio Kast, came fourth with 7.9 per cent.

Guillier a former news anchor, is the candidate of the centre-left Nueva Mayoría governing coalition led by current incumbent Michelle Bachelet and during the election campaign, he pledged to continue the reform agenda of the Bachelet administration. Sánchez, also a former journalist, represented the left wing Frente Amplio coalition, a party that emerged from the Chilean student movement of 2011. Sánchez ran on a platform that emphasized redistribution and higher taxes for the wealthy. This was the first time that the Frente Amplio has competed in a presidential election.

Piñera’s victory reflects divisions among the left in Chile. The Partido Demócrata Cristiano decided to leave the governing leftist coalition and contest the election on their own for the first time. Their candidate, Carolina Goic, received 5.8 per cent of the vote. It is also a product of  the falling popularity of the current incumbent, Michelle Bachelet. Her popularity has plummeted a long way from the eighty plus rating that she enjoyed towards the end of her first term in office. Her administration has been beset by a number of corruption scandals, one of which involved one of Chile’s largest corporate entities, Penta Group, and the right-leaning Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI). More significantly however, one of the scandals involved the President’s own son, Sebastián Dávalos. Dávalos was accused of using his political influence to arrange a US$10 million bank loan for his wife’s firm, Caval, which then used the funds to purchase land in central Chile that was promptly resold for a profit. The national banking regulator cleared Dávalos of any wrongdoing, but Congress launched an investigative committee to explore the allegations.

The emergence of the Frente Amplio, an anti-establishment coalition, was partly a response to this corruption crisis.

The low turnout at 46.7 per cent probably also helped Piñera. A run-off is now scheduled for December 17. The big question of course will be whether the supporters of Sánchez will weigh in behind the incumbent candidate, Guillier. Sánchez has been highly critical of Piñera in the past. A right-leaning victory in Chile would continue the recent swing to the right in other South American countries, including, Brazil, Peru and Argentina.

Peru – Leading Contender in Presidential Race May be Barred from Running

Last Wednesday, the electoral committee in Peru announced that it might bar one of the leading candidates, César Acuña, from this year’s presidential election, because of allegations that he plagiarized parts of his doctoral dissertation.

César Acuña completed his doctoral thesis, on education, at the Complutense University of Madrid in 2009. Acuña, an entrepreneur and owner of three private universities in Peru, including the Cesar Vallejo University in Trujillo, has campaigned on a largely populist platform, with some overtures to capital and domestic business. He has argued for increased state intervention, and suggested that the government should impose price controls in key areas such as food, gas and utilities and that the Central Bank should set the exchange rate. Peru’s rate of inflation has been slowly rising and is currently at 4.4 per cent. At the same time, Acuña has tried to stress his market friendliness by highlighting his business credentials.

His campaign has proved popular and one of the more recent polls have him tied for second place with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski with 13 per cent support.

However, last week, Acuña was accused on Twitter by the anthropologist Sandra Rodríguez, of plagiarizing big chunks of his 2009 dissertation. Given his ownership of Peruvian universities and his emphasis on education during the election campaign, this has generated enormous controversy. The newspaper, El Comercio has launched an in-depth investigation and extracts of the thesis are now actively discussed, analyzed and dissected online and on social media.

In response, the Complutense has launched an investigation into any wrongdoing. Now, everyone is awaiting the results of this investigation. If evidence of plagiarism is discovered, than according to the electoral committee, César Acuña could potentially be barred from competing in the upcoming election.

The presidential election is due to be held this April. Ollanta Humala is constitutionally barred from running again, and despite previous alterations of the Peruvian constitution, and unlike many of his contemporary presidential counterparts in Latin America, President Humala has stated he will respect the constitution and step aside. The current front-runner in the race is Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of currently jailed former president Alberto Fujimori. A 50 per cent majority is needed to avoid a run-off and given Fujimori and Acuña are both appealing to lower income groups, Acuña’s removal from the race could stand to benefit Fujimori and help her avoid a second round run-off.

 

Uruguay – Tabaré Vázquez and the Left win the Presidency Again

The Uruguayan left continues its hold on the executive office. On Sunday, Uruguay went to the polls in a second round run-off election to choose a new president. Tabaré Vázquez of the left-leaning Frente Amplio coalition, an oncologist, who previously served as president from 2005 to 2010, convincingly won the election with approximately 53 per cent of the vote, well ahead of his rival, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, of the conservative Partido Nacional or Blancos and son of former president, Luis Alberto Lacalle, who won just under 41 per cent of the popular vote. Vázquez will take over from the hugely popular incumbent, José (Pepe) Mujica, who was constitutionally prohibited from running for a second term. Vázquez’s victory means that the Frente Amplio, who have held the presidency since 2005, will retain control of the executive office until 2020.

The election itself drew some noticeable international press attention, largely because Lacalle Pou promised to undo pioneering legislation under Mujica, which established a state monopoly in the production and supply of marijuana in Uruguay in 2013. Vázquez, a strident anti-tobacco campaigner, who oversaw legislation that prohibited smoking in public places during his first term as president, although not an outright supporter of Mujica’s stance on marijuana, has stated that he will not repeal the controversial measure.

In reality however, this election was about economics and redistribution. Vázquez’s first electoral victory in 2004, which saw the left win a presidential election in Uruguay for the first time in 150 years, was part of a broader trend across the region, where left-leaning politicians and parties convincingly won a swathe of elections at local, state and national levels. This political phenomenon, now known as the ‘left turn’ or the ‘pink tide’, has largely been interpreted as discontent and unhappiness among the electorate with some aspects of the market model implemented in the 1980s and 1990s. This has given rise to unusual cross-class coalitions in support of greater compensation and redistribution, primarily because of a sense of increased income risk among those deleteriously affected by the process of liberalization, and unhappiness with the income distribution. This left turn has also been interpreted as a demand for an increased role for the state in the productive economy.[1]

The end result has been the election of varied left leaning parties and presidents, ranging from those who have implemented wide-ranging social democratic policies, to more radical presidents with a stridently anti-market rhetoric, epitomized by Hugo Chávez. Tabaré Vázquez and the Frente Amplio fall firmly into the former group.

Since Tabaré Vázquez’s initial election in 2005, the Frente Amplio have overseen steady economic growth – over 5 per cent per annum – and their mix of social security institutions have cushioned many from the worst effects of the global economic downturn. Given this, together with Mujica’s extraordinary popularity and charisma, it is no great surprise that Vázquez was re-elected.

[1] For example, see Andy Baker and Ken Greene, 2011. ‘The Latin American Left’s Mandate: Free Market Policies and Issue Voting in New Democracies.’ World Politics 63(1): 43-77 or Nina Wiesehomeier and David Doyle. 2013. ‘Life Satisfaction and the Left Turn in Latin America.’ Political Science Research and Methods. Vol. 1(2), pp. 201-221.

Afghanistan – Second round of the presidential election

afghan-abdullah-ghani

On Saturday 14th June, Afghan citizens voted for their president in the second round of the presidential election that took place on the 5th April. In April, none of the candidates obtained more than 50% of the votes, making a second round necessary. The two contenders are Abdullah Abdullah, a close associate of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance, turned into a doctor and Minister of Foreign Affairs between 2001 and 2005; and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a World Bank technocrat and former Minister of Finance between 2002 and 2004. The results are still unknown, and doubts have been voiced about the actual number of people that turned out to vote and the likelihood of electoral fraud. However, Afghanistan could hardly bear the cost of further disorder and political uncertainty, which would not only undermine the economy but also weaken the central government’s power to manage the country after the withdrawal of foreign troops. In the meantime, the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, continues acting as the president. According to the Constitution, he is barred from seeking a third re-election, a condition which makes the current election the first democratic transfer of presidential powers in the country.

Both second-round contenders promise to sign a long-delayed security pact with the United States, which President Hamid Karzai has always rejected. This deal would allow nearly 10,000 American troops to remain in the country until 2016 after the withdrawal expected in December 2014. The troops will conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training and advising the Afghan army and police. Both declare that they will fight for peace and against corruption. Abdullah and Ghani Ahmadzai, however, have also a number of differences. In particular, their different ethnic and biographical background ended up mirroring the very troubled history of this war-torn country.

Abdullah was a vocal critic of the Taliban during their years in power and fought against them along with Ahmad Shah Massoud. Because of this, he ended up by being perceived as the non-Pashtun candidate. Although he was once an ally of Karzai, serving in his government as foreign minister, he challenged the incumbent president in the 2009 election. Then, though, he dropped out after the first round to protest what he said was large-scale voting fraud.

Ghani Ahmadzai is a technocrat economist, former academic and American citizen who gave up his passport to run for the Afghan presidency in 2009. He worked as an adviser to Karzai and served as finance minister in his Cabinet. He is perceived as a Pashtun with no Jihadist history. He is seen as the favorite by a large majority of the Pashtuns. Because of his ‘American’ past, he has emphasised his Pashtun ethnicity by adopting his tribal name ‘Ahmadzai’, growing a beard, performing a Hajj pilgrimage and showcasing piousness.

According to official sources and to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, more than 7 million Afghans turned out to cast their vote. This seems to suggest that the very serious security threats caused by the Taliban’s opposition to the election have not succeeded in keeping voters away. Nevertheless, elections have been marked by a high degree of violence. By Saturday 14th June, there had been more than 150 attacks, with 10 Afghan soldiers, 14 civilians and 19 insurgents killed.

Over and above security issues, legal ones are also making headlines as candidates are very suspicious of the trustworthiness of the electoral results. As already voiced by an observer, a major fear is that candidates are focusing on fraud in an unscrupulous attempt to set the ground for complaints if they lose. Echoing the nearly 300 complaints filed against electoral procedures and against the Independent Election Commission’s staff, Abdullah has declared that he would not accept the results of Saturday’s election unless the IEC Chief, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, appointed by Karzai, is suspended and a full investigation of possible electoral fraud is conducted. This declaration is a further obstacle to a smooth electoral process in Afghanistan.

Definitive results are expected to be declared on the 22nd July.

Guinea-Bissau – José Mário Vaz wins Presidency

José Mário Vaz has won Sunday’s presidential run-off, according to preliminary results announced by the country’s electoral committee on Tuesday. Vaz, the candidate of Guinea-Bissau’s largest party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), won 61.9 per cent of the vote, defeating Nuno Nabiam, an independent, who garnered 38.1 per cent. Voter turnout was 78.1 per cent, indicating a drop in participation from the nearly 90 per cent recorded in the first round. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declared the second round of the presidential elections free, fair and transparent.

Since the PAIGC won a majority of seats in the national assembly in the April parliamentary elections, the party now controls both the presidency and the assembly.

Political stability at last?

Since the introduction of a multiparty system in 1994, Guinea-Bissau has had four elected presidents, five transitional presidents and three military heads of state.[1] No elected president has completed a five-year term. In addition, the country has experienced 15 prime ministers during the same period.[2] According to Guinea-Bissau sociologist Miguel de Barros, the future president should not have the power to influence the formation of the government.

Guinea-Bissau’s president-parliamentary constitution[3] authorizes the president to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and to dissolve parliament (Art. 68). In the literature, president-parliamentary systems are often associated with political instability.[4] Conflict between the president and assembly, it is argued, would prompt the head of state to dismiss the prime minister or to dissolve parliament. Guinea-Bissau constitutes a textbook example of the dangers of president-parliamentarism for political instability. For instance, late President Kumba Ialá dismissed no fewer than three prime ministers and dissolved parliament in the period 2000-2003. Equally, his successor, late President João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira of the PAIGC party, fired three prime ministers in the period 2005-2009. It is important to note that the three prime ministers belonged to President Vieira’s party. So the fact that President-elect José Mário Vaz and Prime Minister-designate Domingos Simões Pereira are party members does not imply the end of institutional conflict and political instability per se.

Another potential source of political instability is Guinea-Bissau’s powerful military. The military has exercised substantial power and interfered repeatedly in civilian leadership since 1994. In the past 20 years, the country has experienced two coups d’état, a civil war, an attempted coup, and a presidential assassination by the military. On 18 May 2014 the Chief of the Armed Forces, António Indjai, pledged his support for a return to constitutional order. Indjai is accused of being involved in the April 2012 coup against presidential candidate and PAIGC member Charles Gomes Junior. Like Gomes Junior, Vaz does not have a good rapport with the soldiers. Despite the fact that the PAIGC has full control over the presidency and the assembly, it still faces the army whose prominent members may fear lawsuits and reforms that could undermine its interests. The army could therefore interfere in political affairs and disrupt government action.

[1]See http://www.worldstatesmen.org (assessed May 21, 2014)

[2]Ibid.

[3]In president-parliamentary systems the government is dually accountable to both the president and the assembly majority.

[4]Moestrup, S. (2007) ‘Semi-Presidentialism in Young Democracies: Help or Hindrance?’, in Elgie, R. and Moestrup, S. (eds) Semi-Presidentialism Outside Europe: A Comparative Study, London: Routledge, 30-55; Elgie, R. (2011) Semi-Presidentialism: Sub-Types and Democratic Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Costa Rica – The Left Likely to Win One-Horse Presidential Run-Off

Yesterday, the Costa Rican electorate went to the polls to vote in what was probably the most predictable presidential run-off election in recent times. It seems almost certain that the next president of Costa Rica will be Luis Guillermo Solís, of the center-left Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC). Solís, a former academic and diplomat, capitalized on popular discontent with inequality and corruption to unexpectedly clinch the first round election in early February. His victory in the second round became almost guaranteed after his rival, Johnny Araya, of the incumbent centrist party, the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), stopped campaigning in March.

Araya, who only lost the first round election by less than one percentage point, decided to stop campaigning after a devastating poll released by the University of Costa put him over 40 points behind his rival. Within hours of the poll, Araya, struggling to finance his campaign and dogged by allegations of corruption while mayor of San Jose, publicly announced he was no longer going to contest the election.

The Costa Rican constitution however, prohibits presidential candidates from dropping out of the second round of a presidential election (they can drop out of the first round), so Araya’s name remained on the ballot, and his beleaguered party, the PLN, continued to campaign on his behalf. The legal requirement for candidates to contest the second round of presidential elections was incorporated into the 1949 constitution primarily because of irregularities during the 1913 and 1932 elections. In 1913, after all candidates withdrew their names from the contest, the national assembly choose the unelected Alfredo González Flores and who, lacking a popular mandate, was overthrown by a coup less than three years later. In 1932, following Manuel Castro’s renouncement of his second-round candidacy, Ricardo Jiménez became president after the first round with less than the required 50 per cent threshold, plunging the country into discord, which some have argued eventually led to the 1948 Civil War.[1]

This does not mean that Solís will have everything his own way. Costa Rica has a sizable debt overhang (roughly half of GDP), and Solís has promised to hold out on tax increases and increase social spending. Any legislative agenda however, will prove difficult. His party, the PAC, has only 13 of the 57 seats in Congress, and the Costa Rican president has relatively weak executive power.[2] What is more, given that many consider this election a foregone conclusion, turnout is likely to be a problem, weakening Solís’ mandate and undermining his political legitimacy.

*UPDATE: According to the Costa Rican Electoral Tribunal, with 92.6 per cent of all votes counted, Solís has won the election in a landslide victory. He  has recieved 77.85 per cent of all votes cast.  Asbtentionism was 43.29 per cent, the hightest ever registered in Costa Rica. Nontheless, Solís has some claims to political legitimacy. He recieved just over 1.3 million votes (of an electorate of 3.1 million).


[1] For more, see Steven Palmer and Iván Molina (eds.) The Costa Rica Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press.

[2] See Mainwaring and Shugart (1997). Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America. Cambridge University Press.

El Salvador – FMLN Candidate Sánchez Ahead in Run-off

On Sunday, El Salvador held its presidential run-off election. With 99 per cent of electoral precincts counted, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the vice-president of the current incumbent, Maurico Funes, and the candidate of the left-leaning Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), has 50.11 per cent of the vote, compared to 49.89 per cent for Norman Noel Quijano, of the right-leaning Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), the party who had been in power for twenty years between 1989 and 2009.

With only 6,634 votes between the two candidates, the result has hung in the balance for over a day. However, on Monday afternoon, the country’s electoral tribunal announced that Sánchez’s lead is now irreversible, although the electoral authorities have yet to declare Sánchez as the winner. Quijano has also claimed victory and asserted that he will not allow “fraud of the Chavista or Maduro style like in Venezuela.”

In fact, Sánchez, a former guerrilla commander during El Salvador’s bitter civil war (1979-1992) who had overseen a cautious campaign, light on ideology, was initially expected to be the clear winner in the run-off, but Quijano successfully capitalized on unrest in Venezuela and Sánchez’s apparent support for Nicolás Maduro. During the tail end of the run-off campaign, Quijano ran daily TV adverts with coverage of the civil unrest in Venezuela, which portrayed Sánchez as a dangerous and subversive communist, and which raised the specter of Chavista-like nationalizations in El Salvador should Sánchez win.

This tactic, together with his hard-line stance on gang crime, enabled Quijano to recruit moderate conservatives who had previously supported Antonio Saca (the third placed candidate from the first round).

Sánchez’s victory, which will give the FMLN their second consecutive term in power, does not come without problems. The closeness of the result suggests that some type of legal challenge is inevitable, further eroding Sánchez’s already weak electoral mandate. This will most likely force Sánchez to compromise his policy position, thereby angering the more ideological wing of the FMLN. Not to mention the fact that he takes over a country with dizzyingly high levels of poverty and inequality, and with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

*UPDATE: A vote count is now under way in El Salvador, given the closeness of the result and apparent irregularities with 14 ballot boxes.

Presidential Election in El Salvador goes to Run-off

Election season in Latin America continues apace.[1] As Costa Rica went to the polls on Sunday, so too did the voters of El Salvador. Just like events in their Central American neighbor, the presidential election in El Salvador on Sunday saw an embattled incumbent party struggle to hold onto office and a close electoral contest, which failed to produce an outright winner. A second round run-off election will be held on March 9th.

With nearly 99.3 per cent of the vote counted, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the vice-president of the current incumbent, Maurico Funes, and the candidate of the left-leaning Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), has 48.93 per cent of the vote. Norman Noel Quijano, of the right-leaning Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), the party who had been in power for twenty years between 1989 and 2009, has 38.95 per cent of the vote. Third place went to the former president (2004-2009), Antonio Saca of the Movimiento Unidad, with 11.44 per cent of the ballot. Given that Sánchez just failed to reach the 50 per cent plus one vote threshold, this means both him and Quijano will now face off in a run-off election in March.

With crippling levels of poverty and inequality, and some of the highest homicide rates in the world, corruption, crime and the provision of social services dominated the electoral campaign. Again, as in Costa Rica on Sunday and in Honduras in November, valence issues continue to monopolize elections in Central America.[2]

Sánchez, a former guerrilla commander during El Salvador’s bitter civil war (1979-1992), adopted a cautious rhetoric, largely devoid of ideology, which was centered upon promises to maintain FMLN’s social programs, open the country to FDI, and tackle rampant crime with military resources.  Quijano, the former mayor of San Salvador, adopted a hard-line stance on gang crime, which plagues El Salvador, and was critical of the recent truce signed, under the moderation of the government, between some of the major gangs. However, Quijano’s campaign was damaged by a corruption scandal involving a former ARENA president (1999-2009), Francisco Flores.

What matters now is who can attract the voters of the third-placed conservative candidate, Saca, in the run-off. It is unclear whom Saca’s voters might support, given Saca was expelled from ARENA in 2009. Both sides have already begun to woo him. He has yet to endorse either candidate.


[1] In 2014, presidential elections have been held in Costa Rica and El Salvador, and are due to be held later this year in Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay.

[2] For example, see Holland, Alisha. 2013. “Right on Crime?  Conservative Party Politics and Mano Dura Policies in El Salvador,” Latin American Research Review 48(1): 44-68.

Costa Rican Presidential Election to be decided in Run-off

Early results from Costa Rica’s presidential election on Sunday indicate that a second round run-off election, to be held on April 6, is now inevitable.

With 82 per cent of all votes counted, Luis Guillermo Solís, of the centre-left Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), has 30.9 per cent of the votes, while Johnny Araya of the incumbent centrist party, the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), has 29.6 per cent and José María Villalta, of the left-leaning Frente Amplio, has 17.2 per cent. Given it appears highly unlikely that any of the three leading candidates will garner the 40 per cent of votes needed for an outright victory, a run-off election is now unavoidable.

Luis Solís’ surge in votes is somewhat unexpected, given that polls immediately before the election suggested that Johnny Araya was the front-runner. Araya, former mayor of San Jose and the candidate of the current incumbent, Laura Chinchilla (who was constitutionally prohibited from running for a consecutive second term), had tried hard to distance himself from the beleaguered Chinchilla, whose government had been beset by a series of corruption scandals. However, an investigation into embezzlement while mayor of San Jose suggested to voters that he represented more of the same, and his popularity was further eroded by a number of gaffes throughout the course of the campaign. For example, during an interview he was unable to provide the correct price for milk.

Luis Solís, an academic, former official of the foreign ministry and advisor to Oscar Arias, ran on an anti-corruption platform, which saw him launch frequent broadsides at the Chinchilla government, the PLN and Johnny Araya. Solís was previously a member of the PLN but in 2005, critical of party irregularities and repeated corruption scandals, he left the party. In 2009, he joined the PAC. A second round run-off should suit Solís, as he should be more likely than Araya to pick up the votes of José Villalta, the other left-leaning candidate.

Thirteen candidates took part in this presidential election, a clear indication of the increasing fragmentation and weakening of the Costa Rican party system, which began to splinter following the introduction of economic reforms under the PLN in the 1990s.[1] Whoever wins the second round run-off will have some difficulties in governing, given the relative legislative weakness of the executive office,[2] and the current multi-party system.[3] The collapse of Latin American party systems, and the subsequent implications for governance, has become a frequent theme for this blog. Watch this space on April 6th.


[1] See Roberts (2013). Market Reform, Programmatic (De)alignment, and Party System Stability in Latin America. Comparative Political Studies, 46: 1422-1452.

[2] See Mainwaring and Shugart (1997). Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America. Cambridge University Press.

[3] On Sunday, Costa Rica also elected 57 legislators.

Chile – Michelle Bachelet wins Presidency

Michelle Bachelet, of the Partido Socialista (PS) and Nueva Mayoría alliance, has emerged as the winner of yesterday’s presidential run-off race against Evelyn Matthei of the right-leaning Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI). A recent poll from Ipsos and the University of Santiago estimated that Bachelet commanded support from 63.7 per cent of the electorate, in comparison to just 36.3 per cent for Matthei. With nearly 92 per cent of ballots counted, Michelle Bachelet currently has 62.32 per cent of the national vote.

With penalties for not voting abolished, turnout for the run-off race, at 5,174,624, was even lower than the first round of the election, thereby depriving Bachelet of a commanding mandate for change. Nonetheless, Bachelet and her new government will now press forward with major education reform together with an increase in corporate tax from 20 to 25 per cent. However, proposed constitutional changes, and a pledge to reform Chile’s infamous binomial electoral system, will prove very difficult for the new president.

Significantly, for the wider region, Sunday’s election was the first ever presidential run-off race in Latin America where both candidates were women. Michelle Bachelet re-joins the growing list of women who have been elected to the presidency across the region: Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), Mireya Moscoso (Panama) and Violeta Chamorro (Nicaragua).[1]

In a region noted for its culture of machismo, this is an important, albeit gradual, change. A number of Latin American countries have adopted gender quotas to increase women’s participation in politics. In 1991, Argentina was the first country to do so, introducing legislation, which stipulated that women had to comprise at least 30 per cent of the list positions on party ballots for legislative elections. Thirteen other Latin American countries followed suit and adopted similar laws stipulating gender quotas for legislative elections.

Recent research has demonstrated that while gender quotas have notably increased women’s representation in elected office, they have done little to address the marginalization of women in mass political participation across the region.[2] Latin America still has a very long way to go to address long-standing and entrenched gender inequalities.

In Chile, Michelle Bachelet will assume residency of the Palacio de la Moneda next March.


[1] Rosalia Arteaga also served as interim president of Ecuador for two days in February 1997. Lidia Gueiler Tejada was interim president of Bolivia from 1979 to 1980. Isabel Perón, the first ever woman president in Latin America, assumed office following the death of her husband Juan Domingo Perón in 1974. None of these women were directly elected to the office of the president.

[2] See Leslie Schwindt-Bayer (2012) ‘Gender Quotas and Women’s Political Participation in Latin America,’ available at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/lapop/pdfs/Schwindt-Bayer_SmallGrant_Publish.pdf