Mario Abdo Benítez Wins Paraguayan Presidency
Mario Abdo Benítez of the Asociación Nacional Republicana – Partido Colorado (ANR-PC) will be the next President of Paraguay following a general election on April 22. The result remained consistent with pre-election polling, which found former President of the Senate Abdo Benítez in the lead against Efraín Alegre from the centrist Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA). Abdo Benítez, dubbed “Marito” by some supporters, will replace Horacio Cartes, also a member of the Colorado Party, in August. While both are from the same political party, Abdo Benítez’s political platform is more conservative as Cartes supports liberal positions on economic issues. Socially, Abdo Benítez maintains a hard line against the abortion and LGBT rights that prevailed under Cartes.
Abdo Benítez focused his campaign on a fight against corruption and a recovery of traditional Paraguayan values, declaring that the Colorados were the party that built the country. Alegre, on the other hand, ran on increased social services like universal healthcare and higher education spending. Alegre ended his campaign by calling on supporters to ensure there is no return to authoritarianism under Abdo Benítez.
Opponents criticized Abdo Benítez for his perceived links to the right-wing military dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, which ruled Paraguay from 1954 to 1989. Abdo Benítez is the son of a former aide to Stroessner and while he has repeatedly stressed his commitment to democratic governance, Abdo remains reluctant to criticize the Stroessner regime.
The presidential election was held at the same time as elections for Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of Paraguay. The Colorado Party, which currently holds a slim majority in the Chamber of Deputies and a plurality in the Senate, is expected to lose seats in the election, meaning President-elect Abdo Benítez will have to govern with a minority in the legislature. A minority legislature will present difficulty for the implementation of Abdo Benítez’s agenda going forward.