LIMA – Key elections are scheduled for April 11 in three Latin American countries where the COVID-19 crisis has caused major social and economic devastation.
Ecuador and Peru will hold presidential elections on that “Super Sunday,” while a second round of voting is set to take place in Bolivia to choose the governors of four departments.
All three of those countries suffered sharp economic contractions in 2020 as their governments responded to the pandemic by imposing stay-at-home orders and closures of essential businesses for months.
Peru’s economy shrank 11.2 percent, while Ecuador and Bolivia experienced contractions of gross domestic product of 7.8 percent and roughly 8 percent, respectively. In each case, the economic result was among the worst in their nations’ histories.
Chile also had been scheduled that same day to hold municipal and gubernatorial elections, as well as balloting to select the 155 members of a constituent assembly that will rewrite that nation’s constitution, although voting there is expected to be postponed until May due a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
In Ecuador, the upcoming presidential runoff has been marred by accusations of fraud leveled by indigenous candidate Yaku Perez, who garnered 19.39 percent of the vote in the first round but narrowly lost out to the second-place finisher, center-right businessman Guillermo Lasso.
Leftist economist Andres Arauz, who represents the Union for Hope coalition led by former incumbent Rafael Correa, handily won the first round with 32.72 percent of the vote.
President Lenin Moreno, who is not seeking re-election, once served as Correa’s vice president and was his hand-picked successor in 2017. But he moved to reverse virtually all of his mentor’s initiatives and programs after winning election on a promise to maintain them.
Polls through mid-March had shown Arauz as the clear favorite in the runoff, but his support appears to be lessening as election day approaches.
Peru, a country that has had four heads of state since 2018, will hold its first round of presidential balloting on April 11.
The presidential revolving door began when Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned in March 2018 amid vote-buying allegations and was replaced by his first vice president, Martin Vizcarra.
Vizcarra, a politically popular centrist, was later impeached and removed from office last November over graft allegations that he denied. His ouster, which was seen by many Peruvians as a legislative coup, triggered a large wave of nationwide protests.
The then-head of Congress, Manuel Merino, took the helm of a new government on Nov. 10 but was forced to resign after two protesters died at the hands of security forces.
Francisco Sagasti, a member of the only political party that voted against Vizcarra’s ouster, became the country’s third head of state in less than a week when he was sworn in as interim president on Nov. 16.
Keiko Fujimori, a former Peruvian first lady who finished second in both the 2011 and 2016 presidential elections, is expected to face a tougher struggle this time around to secure her place in a possible June 6 runoff.
The latest polls indicate that none of the main candidates – Fujimori, Yonhy Lescano of the center-left Popular Action party; Rafael Lopez Aliaga of the rightist Popular Renewal party; George Forsyth, a former professional soccer player and member of the center-right National Victory party; Hernando de Soto of the rightist Go On Country party; nor Veronika Mendoza of the leftist Together for Peru – will earn enough votes to win the presidency outright in the first round.
In Bolivia, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party will contest all four runoffs in the departments of La Paz, Chuquisaca, Pando and Tarija.
But there are concerns within that ruling leftist party that the Together for the Call of the Peoples (Jallalla) grouping could win the governorship of La Paz after its recent landslide victory in the mayor’s race in El Alto, a former MAS stronghold.