ASUNCION – Paraguayan authorities said they were wrapping up the nationwide distribution of ballots ahead of Sunday’s general elections by getting materials to polling stations in Asuncion.
The presidential race is a contest between 46-year-old Mario Abdo Benitez of the ruling Colorado Party and 55-year-old Efrain Alegre, the standard-bearer of the Ganar Alliance, which is made up of the main-opposition Liberal Party and the left-wing Guasu Front alliance.
The Guasu Front is led by ex-President Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop who was removed from office in 2012 via an impeachment process that he termed a parliamentary coup.
On Saturday morning, the Superior Tribunal of Electoral Justice was concluding the process of distributing materials to polling stations in Asuncion, Luis Salas, the tribunal’s electoral resources director, told reporters.
More than 4.2 million Paraguayans are eligible to cast a ballot at one of 21,020 designated polling stations nationwide on Sunday, when they will elect a new president and vice president, members of Congress and provincial governors.
Eighteen other polling stations have been set up in the United States, Spain, Argentina and Brazil for the 38,000 Paraguayans eligible to vote in those countries.
Paraguay is in a blackout period that began Friday and continues on Saturday, during which time candidates and political parties are barred from holding campaign rallies or displaying campaign material in public areas or in the media.
A total of 307 election observers from different observation missions – including the European Union and the Organization of American States – are in Paraguay for Sunday’s election.
A sizable contingent of foreign reporters also has traveled to the South American country for the election, in which a new president will be elected for a five-year term in a single round of balloting.
Incumbent President Horacio Cartes is ineligible to run.
He had sought to have the constitution amended last year so he could run for re-election but backed away from those plans after the move triggered rioting.
Re-election is a highly controversial issue in Paraguay, which was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1954 to 1989.