Our Vote: No.
The usual suspects will persevere. The last two years’ worth of electoral results have dealt repeated shocks to political establishments and to “business as usual,” as the victories of Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron have shown. Nevertheless, except for Colombia, we expect more traditional candidates to prevail in Latin America.
In Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) – who has twice attempted to become president – has consistently led in the polls and has taken advantage of people’s disenchantment with the status quo. The response: established parties – PRI, PAN and PRD – have formed alliances with each other and with smaller parties to increase appeal. Nominees will be chosen in February. But José Antonio Meade, the finance secretary until November, is running unopposed for the PRI, and Ricardo Anaya, who resigned as PAN president in December, will likely get the nod from the PAN-PRD coalition. Official campaigning for the July 1 vote begins on March 30, but with the three main contenders virtually decided, watch out for increased intensity from the anti-AMLO forces.
In Colombia, Sergio Fajardo, a teacher and former mayor of Medellín, and Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla fighter and mayor of Bogotá until 2015, currently lead the polls. While both have held public office before, each is running under the outsider political banner without any traditional political party backing either campaign. Their victories would require significant citizen mobilization and would signal a substantial defeat for conventional political machinery.
In Brazil, while former President Lula da Silva is currently front-runner, his candidacy is anything but certain. An appellate court will rule on his appeal to a potentially disqualifying corruption conviction on January 24. But even if rejected, this could end up as merely the first in a series of appeals that buy him enough time to stand for election. Jair Bolsonaro – an incendiary, anti-immigration former army officer who honored the military dictatorship that imprisoned Dilma Rousseff – also remains a favorite. Yet, we expect disenchantment with Michel Temer and his reform agenda to spur a mobilization of the Left. Even if Lula is not able to run, his former Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, would arguably capitalize on that vacuum to handily compete against Bolsonaro. Watch out for other candidates, including four-time São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who, in December, was elected to lead the PSDB by a vote of 407 to three.