Paraguayans on Sunday elected a president from the rightwing social gathering in energy for practically eight many years, rejecting a center-left challenger who had railed towards endemic institutional corruption.
Economist and former finance minister Santiago Pena, 44, took the election with greater than 42 p.c of the vote to proceed the hegemony of the conservative Colorado Occasion, outcomes confirmed.
Sixty-year-old challenger Efrain Alegre of the Concertacion center-left coalition garnered practically 27.5 p.c regardless of having gone into the vote with a slim lead in opinion polls.
The result bucked a current anti-incumbency pattern in Latin American elections with voters repeatedly punishing institution events, typically in favor of leftist rivals.
The Colorado Occasion has ruled virtually frequently since 1947 — via an extended and brutal dictatorship and for the reason that return of democracy in 1989, however has been tainted by corruption claims.
Pena’s political mentor, ex-president and Colorado Occasion chief Horacio Cartes, was just lately sanctioned by the USA over graft.
Pena thanked Cartes in his first public deal with as president-elect for his “cussed dedication to the social gathering,” to loud cheers from supporters at social gathering headquarters.
Conceding defeat, Alegre acknowledged: “The trouble was not sufficient.”
Some 4.8 million of Paraguay’s 7.5 million inhabitants have been eligible to vote Sunday for a alternative for President Mario Abdo Benitez, leaving workplace after a constitutionally restricted single five-year time period.
In addition they voted for brand spanking new lawmakers in a rustic the place voting is necessary, however solely 63 p.c turned out.
Key points for voters have been endemic corruption, a spiraling crime drawback and poverty.
– ‘Again to Jerusalem’ –
Like challenger Alegre, Pena is socially conservative, holding sturdy anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage stances in an overwhelmingly Catholic nation.
On worldwide coverage, he had vowed to retain diplomatic ties with Taiwan — Paraguay is one in all solely 13 nations to acknowledge Taipei over Beijing — not like Alegre who had mooted a shift to China.
However Pena has promised to maneuver Paraguay’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Paraguay had beforehand moved its embassy in 2018, below Cartes, however reversed its determination inside months, elevating the ire of Israel.
“Sure, I’d return to Jerusalem,” Pena instructed AFP earlier than the vote.
“The State of Israel acknowledges Jerusalem as its capital. The seat of the Congress is in Jerusalem, the president is in Jerusalem. So who’re we to query the place they set up their very own capital?”
Transferring an embassy to Jerusalem is very contentious. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital whereas Palestinians view east Jerusalem because the capital of their future state.
– Hoping for ‘least worse’ –
Alegre repeatedly pointed to corruption within the Colorado Occasion.
Paraguay is ranked 137 out of 180 nations on Transparency Worldwide’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
Aside from the shadow of top-level graft, which has angered voters, different election considerations embrace poverty and an escalating crime drawback.
Paraguay’s GDP is predicted to develop 4.8 p.c in 2023, in accordance with the central financial institution, and 4.5 p.c in accordance with the IMF — one of many highest charges in Latin America.
However poverty plagues 1 / 4 of the inhabitants.
Paraguay’s Indigenous teams and inhabitants of squalid shantytowns really feel particularly uncared for, with many saying they will not vote in any respect.
Pena had pledged to create half-a-million jobs, with out saying how.
“From tomorrow (Monday) we’ll start to design the Paraguay that all of us need, with out gross inequalities or unjust social asymmetries. We have now rather a lot to do,” he stated in his victory speech.
Crime can be a priority, with an anti-mafia prosecutor, a crime-fighting mayor and a journalist murdered in 2022 as cartels settle scores.
Consultants say landlocked Paraguay — nestled between Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina — has develop into an necessary launchpad for medication headed for Europe.
“We hope the least worse wins. All have their weaknesses,” Marta Fernandez, 29, instructed AFP after casting her poll in Asuncion.
Additionally within the capital, 60-year-old voter Ana Barros stated: “You need to have a minimum of hope, that there will likely be much less crime. It’s what I hope as a mom, that the youngsters can examine and have work.”