NEW YORK – A long cycle of presidential elections is wrapping up this year with balloting in Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina, with candidates facing the challenge of responding to citizens’ demands and dissatisfaction, regional experts gathered for the 2019 Global Forum Latin America and the Caribbean said on Friday.
The second day of the event, which has brought together around 40 experts on international politics and the economy, began with a panel discussion of the so-called “election super-cycle,” a series of elections in 12 Latin American countries that began in 2017 and will conclude in October of this year.
The regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean of International IDEA, Daniel Zovatto, said the outcome of this cycle will be “very important in checking the region’s pulse,” since all indications are that Latin America’s four biggest economies – Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina – will come away from these contests with different parties in power.
“It’s a super-cycle that’s coming at the end of the decade, a decade of missed opportunity,” Zovatto said.
For her part, Maria Victoria Murillo, director of Columbia University’s Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), said the current cycle is very different from the previous one, which coincided with a “commodities boom” and the emergence of leftist governments” and with “incumbents re-elected due to good economic conditions.”
The expert said there are now “much more competitive races” and a “growing discontent among the electorate about their political options.”
In that regard, the speakers agreed on the need for the region’s democracies to respond to citizens’ needs and demands.
The current cycle also has been characterized by the use of technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence and reliance on social media to disseminate campaign messages – both true and false.
“The level of micro-segmentation that’s made of the electorate and the level of messages that are disseminated on social media – based on the (targeted) segment – is now so sophisticated that the normal regression models we once used to determine what most influenced an election are no longer sufficient,” said Alejandra Sota, general director of Integra Metas Estrategicas.
Also participating in the panel debate was Argentine ex-Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana and Gerardo de Icaza, the director of the Organization of American States’ Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation.
De Icaza said there is also “a problem of balance of powers to varying degrees, both in legislatures and in the judicial powers.”
In that regard, he said another regional trend is the “judicialization of electoral processes” that has led both to candidates being unfairly disqualified and unjustifiably allowed to run.