“2018 provides a bold test of voter discontent as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Venezuela are all scheduled to go to the polls.”
Latin Americans are fed up with politics as usual. At the end of 2017, presidential approval ratings in the largest countries are dismal with Brazil’s Michel Temer leading the race to the bottom at 6%. Over the last three to four years, the region’s political leaders have been frequently embarrassed by their actions and words, recorded and broadcast on cellphones and social media in this new era of digital democracy. Many believed that Latin American voters were numb to corruption, but after so many grievous acts were paraded in the public spotlight, polls are showing otherwise.
2018 provides a bold test of voter discontent as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Venezuela are all scheduled to go to the polls.
Change will come to the region but not as a simplistic pendulum swing.
In Mexico, voters are predicted to choose Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) but not to embrace greater government intervention. AMLO has the chance to win because Mexico has no second round of voting, his opponents are laden with greater flaws than he, and AMLO is the most recognized and likeable candidate.
In Colombia, voter intention remains divided across a spectrum of some eight candidates ranging from middle left to middle right.
The winning President is likely to be the one who brings the most credible plan to set the economy right. In Brazil, the most viable candidate, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was sentenced in July 2017 to 10 years imprisonment for corruption. If his appeals are denied, he cannot run again for office. That leaves open a wide field and an angry electorate, a formula that could put into office a new mix of politicians that challenge the status quo.
In Cuba and Venezuela, skeptics doubt that the 2018 elections will produce the change that most voters appear to want. In Cuba, polling is notoriously imprecise, and many suspected that Venezuela’s Maduro would delay or cancel the planned election. With or without democratic legitimacy, a change in power in Havana could lead to dramatic change in Cuba’s international standing and accelerated reforms.
The leaders to be elected this year in Latin America will not be permitted by voters to gloat in their victories. Latin Americans expect change: less corruption, safer streets, more jobs, better social services, and lower taxes, i.e., better government. If their new presidents don’t deliver, there will be hell to pay.
Country Population (mill) President Approval Poll date
Brazil 208 Michel Temer 6% December 17th 2017
México 128 Enrique Peña Nieto 28% September 20th 2017
Colombia 49 Juan Manuel Santos 25% September 1st 2017
Peru 32 Pedro Pablo Kuczynski 18% December 17th 2017
Venezuela 32 Nicolás Maduro 19% November 17th 2017
JOHN PRICE is the managing director of Americas Market Intelligence and
a 24-year veteran of Latin American competitive intelligence and strategy
consulting. [email protected]
This article was published in the WEF 2018 edition of Latin Trade