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Voting begins in Paraguayan elections, ties with Taiwan are balanced

Both frontrunners are social conservatives

Polling stations opened across Paraguay on Sunday, with citizens electing a president they hope will tackle rampant corruption, rising crime and economic inequality, with the election impacting the country’s future relationship with Taiwan. It is possible to give

The center-left coalition seeks to end the nearly 70-year hegemony of the ruling conservative Colorado Party in a long, close contest.

Of the 7.5 million inhabitants of the South American country, approximately 4.8 million are eligible to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections, which are decided in a single round.

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Efrain Alegre, 60, a lawyer with the Consatación Center-Left Coalition, has a slight lead in the polls amid the recent anti-incumbent trend in Latin American elections.

His main challenger is Santiago Peña, a 44-year-old economist and former finance minister who wants to continue the rule of the Colorado Party, which has ruled almost continuously since 1947.

Although their economic and international policies are different, they are both socially conservative, advocating strong anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage stances in predominantly Catholic countries.

When the voting began, Alegre and Peña urged the Paraguayan people to vote. This echoed calls for Mario Abdo, who is constitutionally limited to one term, to resign from his presidency Benítez.

“The higher the voter turnout, the more legitimacy a democracy has,” said Abdo, who was one of the first to vote in the capital Asuncion.

– “Go back to Jerusalem” –

This result could have important consequences for Paraguay’s international relations. He is one of only 13 countries to approve Taipei instead of Beijing.

But Alegre vowed to reconsider this if he wins, telling AFP that “our relationship with Taiwan means losing one of our biggest markets, China.”

“Paraguay has made great efforts and sacrifices to build relations with Taiwan, but we have not seen similar efforts from Taiwan,” he added.

Latin America has become an important battleground for diplomacy.

China believes that a self-governed, democratic Taiwan will eventually be part of its own territory and does not allow other countries to recognize both Beijing and Taipei.

Nicaragua transferred allegiance to Beijing in 2021, El Salvador in 2018, Panama in 2017 and Costa Rica in 2007.

Peña has said he will maintain ties with Taiwan but will move Israel’s Paraguayan embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Paraguay moved its embassy in 2018, but reversed the decision within months.

“Yes, I will go back to Jerusalem,” Pena told AFP before the vote.

– “Am not interested” –

Alegre has repeatedly pointed out the corruption of the Colorado Party and has recently seen two of its top members face US sanctions for alleged corruption.

Among them is Peña’s political leader and former president, Horacio Cartes.

Paraguay ranks 137th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Aside from the shadow of top-level corruption that has angered voters, other electoral issues include poverty, social inequality and escalating crime problems.

Paraguay’s GDP is expected to grow by 4.8% in 2023 according to the central bank and 4.5% according to the IMF, one of the highest growth rates in Latin America.

However, about a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

“This country is full of privileged people. People are earning 100 million guarani (about $14,000) a month, while others are dying of hunger,” Alegre said of the third presidential election. I did.

Indigenous groups in Paraguay, as well as residents of dirty slums, feel particularly neglected.

“I’m not interested. We’re not going to vote,” said Albino Cubus, who shares a crumbling wooden hut with his wife and three children in the slums of the capital’s Tacumbu. Told.

“I haven’t seen any serious proposals for the poor,” he told AFP.

Landlocked Paraguay, sandwiched between Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina, has become an important starting point for drugs destined for Europe, experts say.

In addition to the presidency, voters determine members of Congress and choose 17 governors.


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https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/polls-open-in-paraguay-election-with-taiwan-ties-in-the-balance/news-story/4f95a83228b78e53d06fbd1c1800cb69 Voting begins in Paraguayan elections, ties with Taiwan are balanced

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