Upcoming elections in Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico could change course of each country
As Latin America barrels through an active political season, the talk on the second day of the Americas Conference in Coral Gables turned to elections in Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico.
In Venezuela, which is seeing critical parliamentary elections Sept. 26, the vote is almost evenly split with 52 percent of voters supporting allies of President Hugo Chávez’s allies and 48 percent supporting the opposition, said Venezuelan pollster Luis Vicente Leon of Datanálisis, a panel speaker.
However, new voting-district reforms make it likely that Chávez will maintain the two-thirds majority he needs to have his initiatives rubber-stamped.
Asked how Chavez has managed to maintain support despite record-high inflation, a shrinking economy and rampant crime, Leon said that Chavez still has a strong base of support among the poor and, as early as 2006, had approval ratings of upward of 75 percent.
Also the opposition remains “institutionally weak” and has failed to connect with voters, he said.
Still, when those numbers are broken down, undecided voters make up almost 37 percent of the electorate, he said.
“Those who are undecided will define the election,” said Leon, speaking he said. “But they are not easy to understand.”
In Argentina, which will see presidential elections Oct. 23, 2011, opposition candidate Ricardo Alfonsin of the Radical Civic Union said the electorate is ready to shake-off a sense of “generalized pessimism” that pervades Argentina. Voters are demanding that their politicians engage in dialogue, provide legal stability that will encourage investment, and steer away from party politics.
“Whoever can best interpret these changes is the one who will win,” he said.
Finally, Mexico will see presidential elections in 2012. There, the ruling National Action Party, PAN, has been battered by security woes and the sluggish economy. That has made many yearn for the strong-arm rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, which held sway over Mexican politics for 70 years, said Diana Vielliers Negroponte of the Brookings Institute.