The Organization of American States (OAS) highlighted this Friday in the framework of a virtual forum the role of governments to ensure electoral processes in times of pandemic and despite the crisis that COVID-19 causes in the region.
AVOID POLITICAL CRISIS
The secretary for the strengthening of democracy in the OAS, Francisco Guerrero, said in that videoconference that “it is essential” that the current health and socioeconomic crisis that the region is suffering “does not also become a political crisis.”
“That is one of the great responsibilities that all Latin American Democrats have, that democracy continues to flow in the best way,” Guerrero told electoral authorities in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay.
He warned that the last six months have been “already complex” for the elections and that the current challenge is how the countries will solve a schedule that in the next 18 months foresees the holding of a total of thirty elections.
The pandemic in the Dominican Republic forced the presidential and legislative elections, which were scheduled for this May 17, to be postponed to July 5, while the 26th of the same month is reserved for a possible second round.
In this regard, the president of the Dominican Central Electoral Board, Julio César Castaños, explained that these dates have been reached after a consensus with civil society for the elected authorities to take office on August 16.
He indicated that it works with all health protocols and with a history of the South Korean model of voting in the midst of a pandemic so that everything is carried out on time to “not see us in the situation of an unwanted terrain of absence of legitimate and legal sovereign in a specific moment “.
For his part, Salvador Romero, president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Bolivia, commented that the Legislative Assembly resolved in a proposal by that body that the vote be held “90 days after May 3,” the date originally planned.
He explained that it is a “narrower range” than what the Court proposed, between June 28 and September 27, “but maintains the attribution of defining the most specific date” in the midst of a political controversy.
Bolivia has to elect a president, vice president, deputies and senators after the October 2019 elections were canceled, in which Evo Morales was declared the winner between allegations of fraud in his favor and reports from international organizations about irregularities in the elections.
Above all, “the election will be more expensive because it must include a set of elements for the protection of health of all the actors involved in the process,” Romero said, noting that the training processes must also be reviewed.
“Bolivia’s electoral participation is one of the highest in Latin America due to its mandatory nature, but it also has a cultural root that responds to a highly participatory society,” added Romero.
In Uruguay, the municipal and departmental authorities of May 10 were transferred to September 27 by the Electoral Court, which considered that social distancing “altered normal electoral development,” said the vice president of that body, Wilfredo Penco.
For her part, María Elena Wapenka, minister of the Superior Court of Electoral Justice (TSJE) of Paraguay, said that this body is pending a legislative resolution of new dates as early as 2021, as its power to modify this year’s municipal powers is exhausted.
The TSJE changed the renewal of mayors of Paraguay from November 8 to 29 and in the face of the pandemic, suspended the electoral schedule, although during the quarantine its headquarters was transformed into a mask and IV pole workshop to reinforce the precarious public health, according to Wapenka.
“Democratic processes cannot stagnate for so long as they would constitute a stagnation in the democratic gymnastics that we have been maintaining,” he warned, stating that “there is an urgent need to reflect on the conditions under which elections should be held in the future.”
Ecuador, one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 and affected by an “extremely complex” socio-economic situation, is preparing to elect in 2021 “237 assembly members, parliamentarians and the president of the Republic,” said Diana Atamaint, president. of the National Electoral Council.
And he considers that due to the nature of an election “it is necessary to rethink its form of execution to avoid contagion and rebound from the pandemic.”