Thursday, March 7, 2013

Latin America has a central role in the electoral year 2013

Photo: Eneas
2012 was a very exciting year for those who follow the world’s electoral affairs. Venezuela, Brazil, and the US were some of the most remarked elections, especially with the implementation of biometric authentication in the first two countries’ polling stations. With the advent of 2013, the electoral calendar did not come to a stop: in Latin America alone, Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay and Chile are stepping into the spotlight this year, and other countries like Colombia and Peru are getting ready to modernize its electoral platform for next year.

Ecuador inaugurated the Latin American electoral calendar with Rafael Correa’s victory at the February 17 presidential election. In order to offer faster results in this occasion, the country adopted a technology platform for the rapid counting of votes with the support of the Dominican Republic. It is worth noting that Ecuador is not new to the use of electoral technology, as it employed voting machines for a small election last year.

Meanwhile, Paraguay has been preparing for the election of a new president after Fernando Lugo was impeached in June last year. This will take place on April 21, amid fears that Mr. Lugo’s impeachment was a disguised coup d’├ętat planned by the right-wing Colorado party to establish a new dictatorship after its 61-year rule came to an end with Lugo’s ascent to power in 2008.

Meanwhile, elections in Honduras will become the arena for the first testing and eventual gradual implementation of e-voting. This is fueled by the nightmare that took place during the November 2012 elections, where people had to wait more than two weeks for the final results. The political class itself called for the modernization of its electoral platform after this fiasco.

Chile will hold presidential elections on November 17. This will be an event worth watching closely because it may set the final precedent for the modernization of this country’s electoral platform. Chileans have been demanding the implementation of e-voting after the alarmingly high abstention rate that marked last year’s elections. Local authorities have remained stubborn against automation, arguing that manual voting is a cultural legacy, but the increased voter absenteeism signals otherwise. If the trend continues, it might be time for the government of Chile to finally listen to the citizens and set forth on the path to automation.

Meanwhile, other countries are gearing up for their future elections: Colombia keeps pushing for the implementation of e-voting for its 2014 presidential election, while Peru is already carrying out e-voting drills in spite of it not having formally adopted electoral technology yet.

After the success of the Venezuelan and Brazilian elections with electoral technology in 2012, we are expecting to see new Latin American countries add up to the roster of nations that have made the choice to modernize its electoral platforms. 2013 is already showing us the progress these nations are making.