ASUNCION – Last weekend’s elections in Paraguay were carried out in “a context of institutional debility,” the head of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) said on Tuesday.
The general impression of observers was that Sunday’s balloting was “well administrated by the TSJE electoral court,” but still awaits “in-depth institutional reforms,” Renate Weber, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, told a press conference in Asuncion.
In reading the report, Weber cited the composition of local election boards that oversee the voting and the count, and their noncompliance with certain laws.
The EUEOM statement referred specifically to complaints by the leftist Guasu Front that their observers were excluded from some polling places.
“The TSJE took well-balanced decisions on crucial subjects affecting different political parties. However, decisions by some electoral courts and juries were based on political preferences, and sometimes they overreached their authority,” Weber said, reading from the report.
The text also denounced the failure of parties to drop candidates accused of corruption and influence-peddling.
“The EUEOM believes there was sufficient political will to remove those candidates, but the parties used as an excuse the difficulties of implementing the internal mechanisms,” the document said.
Weber described election day as “calm and organized, with polls following the established procedures.”
“The general evaluation of the closure and vote-count were considered good or very good in 88 percent of the cases observed, and the transparency of the process was rated good or very good at 89 percent of the polling stations observed,” Weber said.
Nonetheless, the main opposition candidate for the presidency, Efrain Alegre, complained Tuesday about irregularities in the preliminary recount, which found the winner to be Mario Abdo Benitez, candidate for the ruling Colorado Party.
Asked about the matter, Weber would only say that it is necessary “to wait until this phase is completed before filing a challenge, and then wait for the decisions of the TSJE.
Weber was accompanied at the presentation by Spain’s Jose Ignacio Salafranca, who headed a delegation of Euro lawmakers that accompanied the mission.
“The delegation of the European Parliament adheres to the preliminary statement of the EUEOM. The PE delegation wishes to add that it has not observed during election day any factors that substantially compromise the provisional results,” Salafranca said.
The EUEOM will remain in the country until May 15, and will return to Paraguay in June to issue its final recommendations.