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A Year of Latin American Elections

December 18, 2009

Updated February 8, 2010 - From October 2009 through October 2010, seven presidential races are taking place in Latin America, with elections in Uruguay, Honduras, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil. AS/COA offers an interactive guide to the results thus far and poll figures for elections yet to come.

  • Uruguay: October 25, 2009; Runoff: November 29, 2009
  • Honduras: November 29, 2009
  • Bolivia: December 6, 2009
  • Chile: December 11, 2009; Runoff: January 17, 2010
  • Costa Rica: February 7, 2010
  • Colombia: May 30, 2010
  • Brazil: October 3, 2010

First Round: October 25, 2009
Second Round: November 29, 2009

Main candidates:
José “Pepe” Mujica, Broad Front
Luis Alberto Lacalle, National Party
Pedro Bordaberry, Colorado Party

First Round: Mujica, 47.4 percent; Lacalle, 28.5 percent; Bordaberry 16.6 percent
Second Round: Mujica, 52.4 percent, Lacalle, 43.5 percent

The ruling Broad Front coalition’s Jose Mujica, a former guerilla movement leader, earned 48.1 percent of the vote during the first round of elections, just shy of the 50 percent plus one of the ballots needed to avoid a November runoff. In the second round, Mujica garnered roughly 53 percent against 43 percent for his opponent, ex-President Luis Alberto Lacalle of the National Party.

Mujica will replace current President Tabaré Vázquez, who commands a 71 percent approval rating according to November 2009 polls and is credited with successfully steering Uruguay’s economy into safe waters in spite of the global recession. Vázquez was the first Broad Front candidate to win Uruguay’s presidency.

HondurasNovember 29, 2009

Main candidates:
Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo, National Party
Elvin Santos, Liberal Party

Lobo: 55.8 percent; Santos: 38.6 percent

Candidates campaigned in the midst of a political crisis sparked by the June 28 ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. When November 29 rolled around, conservative candidate Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo, a wealthy farmer who ran for president in 2005, won with 55.8 percent of the vote against ruling Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos’ 38.6 percent.

Despite Lobo’s wide margin of victory, international recognition of the elections remained in doubt without a clear resolution to the country’s political crisis. While the elections took place, Zelaya remained holed up in Tegucigalpa’s Brazilian Embassy with his fate left up in the air. Neither the EU nor the Organization of American States sent electoral observers to the November elections. Governments of several countries—Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela among them—said they would not recognize the outcome. But Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, joined the United States in recognizing the elections as a democratic process and one that could help the Central American country experience to normalcy.

December 6, 2009

Main candidates:
Evo Morales, Movement Toward Socialism
Manfred Reyes Villa, New Republican Force
Samuel Doria Medina, National Unity Front

Morales: 62.5 percent; Reyes Villa: 27.6 percent; Doria Medina: 6.1 percent

Current President Evo Morales widened his political mandate in the December 6 elections, winning roughly 63 percent of the votes against nealry 28 percent for his main opponent, former Cochabamba Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa. Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party also won a majority of seats in both the lower house and the Senate.

Bolivians pledged support for a new Constitution in January 2009, opening the door for Morales, a former coca farmer and the first South American indigenous president, to run in the December election. Though Morales’ presidency has witnessed deep political divisions between the eastern highlands and western lowlands, the opposition failed to dent the president’s support base. In fact, Morales earned 10 percent higher share of votes than when he won his first term in 2005. Still, his government could face economic challenges and must steer the country through a process whereby Bolivia’s departments forge greater political autonomy.

First round, December 13, 2009
Second round, January 17, 2010

Main candidates:
Sebastián Piñera, National Renewal Party
Eduardo Frei, Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia
Marco Enríquez-Ominami, Independent

First Round: Piñera: 44.03 percent; Frei: 29.62 percent; Enríquez-Ominami: 20.12 percent.
Second Round: Piñera: 51.61 percent; Frei: 48.38 percent

The Chilean elections came at a time of great support for President Michelle Bachelet and solid economic stability for Chile. But, in spite of Bachelet’s 81 percent approval rating, a member of the opposition, wealthy businessman Sebastián Piñera, won with his pledges to engage the private sector as a means to boost the Chilean economy.

In the first round, Piñera pulled in more than 44 percent of the vote against former President Eduardo Frei’s 30 percent, but he did not obtain the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff. The election marked the first time in two decades that a candidate from the center-left Concertación coalition—in power since the return of democracy in 1990—did not finish first in the initial round of elections. Independent candidate Marco Enríquez-Ominami broke with the Concertación coalition earlier this year and split the center-left’s following.

As a result, the second round involved wooing Enríquez-Ominami voters, with Piñera clling for change and Frei hoping to tap into center-left-leaning votes. In the end, Piñera's message won out. He became the first conservative elected president of Chile in over 50 years, with 51.61 percent of the vote compared to Frei's 48.38 percent.

Costa Rica
February 7, 2010

Main candidates:
Laura Chinchilla, National Liberation Party
Ottón Solís, Citizen Action Party
Otto Guevara, Libertarian Movement Party
Luis Fishman, Social Christian Unity Party

Results: Chinchilla: 46.78%; Solís: 25.15%; Guevara: 20.82%; Fishman: 3.86%

National Liberation Party’s Laura Chinchilla, a former vice president and hand-picked heir to the Arias administration, was elected as the country's first woman president by a landslide, winning by nearly 47 percent. She will likely continue her predecessor's administration's economic and social policies, which focus on free-trade promotion and improving public security.

Back in the running were the Libertarian Movement's (ML) Otto Guevara and the center-left Citizens Action Party's (PAC) Ottón Solís, both of whom ran in the 2002 and 2006 elections. But the National Liberation Party’s Laura Chinchilla was the one to beat. Solís, who lost by two-tenths of a percent to current President Óscar Arias in the 2006 elections, ultimately came in second with 25 percent. Though voter support for Guevara, a lawyer who served in the legislative assembly, jumped from 13 to 30 percent between September and November 2009, he took the third spot with about 20 percent of the vote. The Social Christian Unity Party’s (PUCS) Luis Fishman came in fourth with less than 4 percent.

May 30, 2010

Main candidates:
If Uribe runs:
Álvaro Uribe, the U Party
Noemí Sanín, Conservative Party
Sergio Fajardo, Citizen Commitment (movement)
Gustavo Petro, Democratic Independent Pole
Rafael Pardo, Liberal Party

If Uribe does not run:
Juan Manuel Santos, the U Party
Andrés Felipe Arias, Conservative Party
Noemí Sanín, Conservative Party
Sergio Fajardo, Citizen Commitment
Gustavo Petro, Democratic Independent Pole
Rafael Pardo, Liberal Party

In Colombia, all bets are off until it becomes clear whether President Álvaro Uribe can and will seek a third term. Uribe, president since 2002, won a second term in 2006. A November 2009 Invamer Gallup poll showed a seven-point drop in his support base compared with a survey taken six months prior. Still, 64 percent of respondents approve of his job performance. Supporters credit him with boosting the economy, increasing public safety, and weakening the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (better known as the FARC). With these accomplishments in mind, Uribistas hope the Constitutional Court will approve a referendum that could allow a third term. The Court’s decision is expected in January and a referendum could occur at the same time as legislative elections in March—just two months before the presidential elections.

Uribe could be hard to beat if he runs. But a December poll shows a tight race with Uribe taken out of the mix. Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, who assumed leadership of the U Party this month, leads with 13 percent. Santos does not intend to run if Uribe does. Nor does the Conservative Party’s Andrés Felipe Arias. Polling close behind Santos are Gustavo Petro of the Democratic Independent Pole with 12 percent and Medellin’s charismatic former mayor Sergio Fajardo with 10 percent. The Conservative Party’s Andrés Felipe Arias, who also said he may not run if Uribe does, also polls at 10 percent. His image has been battered by a recent corruption scandal to the gain of Noemí Sanín, another potential Conservative Party candidate. She, like the Liberal Party’s Rafael Pardo, polls at 7 percent in the case that Uribe does not seek reelection.

October 3, 2010

Main candidates:
José Serra, Brazilian Party of Social Democracy
Dilma Rousseff, Worker’s Party
Ciro Gomes, Socialist People’s Party
Marina Silva, Green Party

Poll numbers (as of December 10):
Serra: 38 percent
Rousseff: 17 percent
Gomes: 13 percent
Silva: 6 percent

According to recent polls, current President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva maintains an approval rating of 83 percent, but this immense support has not extended to his chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff, who serves as his chief-of-staff. With 17 percent, Rousseff is trailing behind her main opponent, São Paulo Governor José Serra, who leads the polls with 38 percent. Congressman Ciro Gomes holds the third place spot with 13 percent of the vote while former Environment Minister Marina Silva is polling 6 percent.