Analysis: Elections are scheduled this year in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela. In Mexico, the centrist PRI is favored to regain control of the government. In Venezuela, Chávez is looking to hang on to power – health permitting.
SANTIAGO – While the Western hemisphere remains caught up in the media frenzy surrounding elections in the United States, 2012 is an important election year throughout the Americas, both North and South. Venezuala, where President Hugo Chávez will try to extend his already 13-year-long grip on power, is among the many countries where candidates are campaigning for the presidency.
The region's first presidential contest occurs in the Dominican Republic, where polls favor Danilo Medina of the governing Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD). Trailing him is ex-president Hipólito Mejías who led the island nation from 2000-2004 and is now running under the slogan "Llegó papá" (Daddy's home). The election is set to take place May 20.
Exactly six weeks later, Mexico – Latin America's second most populous country – will celebrate its own presidential election. Leading at this point is the centrist Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which held power in Mexico for 70 years before losing the 2000 election to the governing Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).
Last month the PRI selected Enrique Peña Nieto, the governor of the state of Mexico, as its presidential candidate. The more conservative PAN, which is running second in the polls, has yet to choose a candidate. Running a distant third is Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-wing Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD). López Obrador narrowly lost Mexico's last – and much disputed – presidential election to Felipe Calderón. Central campaign issues are expected to be Mexico's ongoing war on drugs, citizen security and economic reforms.
Six more years of Chávez?
Venezuelans go to the polls Sunday, Oct. 7. President Chávez, first elected in 1999, is favored to win despite his less-than-transparent battle with cancer. Last year the illness forced Chávez to spend several weeks in Cuba, where he received treatment. Venezuela's opposition will choose a single candidate via a primary scheduled for Feb. 12.
The front-runner, according to polls, is Henrique Capriles, governor of the state of Miranda. His challengers include the governor of Zulia, Pablo Pérez; current Deputy María Corina Machado; former ambassador Diego Arria; and left-wing leader Pablo Medina.
Should Chávez win, Venezuela will continue to have a personalist government that doesn't believe in the balance of powers. In Mexico, barring a sudden change of events, a party that held power for more than half a century will once again take the reigns of government. The country's tenuous status as one of the world's largest democracies will depend, in other words, on how the PRI handles that return to power.
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