COHA Election Outlook: Guyana, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico

In the next 6 months, Guyana, Peru, Colombia and Mexico will all hold presidential elections. COHA will be closely monitoring events in each country and will provide relevant analysis of the campaigns, issues and outcomes. Below, COHA offers a brief thumbnail of each ballot, highlighting important issues and questions at play in each of them.

Guyana (Between March and August – Precise date not fixed)
The past six years under the PPP government of Bharrat Jagdeo has been disappointing, as the economy has faltered (it was the only country to register negative growth in 2005), crime has gone unchecked, and partisan bickering has unrelentingly continued. The heir to the beloved President Cheddi Jagan and his then wife Janet, Jagdeo simply didn’t have the right mixture of qualities to provide the country with the same kind of inspirational leadership as that extraordinary couple. The country badly needs a change of course, however it remains uncertain whether or not the Guyana Third Force (GTF) movement – a coalition comprised of various alternative political parties – can hold together long enough to break the sterile two party domination of the PPP and the PNC. One has the feeling that however much Cheddi Jagan was a son of the PPP, if he were now with us, he would be the first to cast a ballot for the GTF.

Peru (April 9)
The ineffectual President Toledo is beyond a lame duck, with approval ratings in the teens, making the anti-establishment stance of Ollanta Humala a potentially powerful factor in the 2006 campaign. Many have suggested that Humala, who has made a public appearance with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, represents a “pink tide” option for the country, yet that label may be ill-applied in this instance, as his policies, while crudely populist, are otherwise largely undefined. Recently, allegations of human rights abuses a decade ago – well-founded or not – have chipped away at Humala’s standing, leading some to suggest that his candidacy may have crested and is now in its recessive days. Currently, Humala trails Lourdes Flores and her traditional conservative policies. Flores has retained her advantage of approximately 7 points ahead of Humala, despite being linked closely to the elite establishment. The possibility also exists that other candidates, such as the Aprista leader, former president Alan García, at Humala’s expense, could emerge and mount a strong challenge as the race progresses.

Colombia (May 28)
Unlike Toledo, President Alvaro Uribe, now visiting the U.S. in hopes of negotiating a free trade deal, enjoys tremendous popularity, and was even able to push through major legal changes permitting his reelection. His campaign drive has been profoundly tainted, however, by the flawed paramilitary demobilization project, and continuing allegations of links between the paramilitaries and legislators. Uribe has been damaged by scandals associated with the reckless demobilization of AUC vigilantes with no standards of punishment involved. Furthermore, the paramilitaries’ ongoing involvement in the drug trade, even as they return to civilian life, and their energetic recruitment into the police force, is concerning to say the least. Furthermore, a recent upswing in FARC violence has shaken the country, raising doubts about the stability on which much of Uribe’s popularity is based. These unsettling factors have eroded Uribe’s lead, yet as no credible alternative has yet to emerge, it appears as though the current president should have no trouble winning another term. Whether or not that outcome is the best for Colombia is an open question.

Mexico (July 2)
The Mexican campaign is shaping up to be a tight, intrigue-laden, three-way race between the leftwing Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the center-right Felipe Calderón, and Roberto Madrazo. History weighs heavily on the election, as it is only the second free and open presidential ballot since the collapse of the 71-year-rule of the authoritarian one-party state, and echoes of those past abuses are coloring the current race. Former Mexico City mayor López Obrador has, perhaps more suitably than Humala, been lumped with other left-leaning leaders in the region as a result of his long list of social policies, which included monthly allowances for the elderly. Yet many Mexicans are unenthused by the campaign, which seems to be laden with classic political games, and concerns about rising crime and violence from an intensifying drug trade have complicated the political landscape.