Voters In Poland, Guatemala And Argentina Surprise Establishment Candidates

October 26, 2015

Polish and Guatemalan voters have decisively rejected their current leadership, while Argentina heads for a run-off.

Polish voters went with the right-wing opposition party Law and Justice on Sunday. The party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is a former prime minister and Eurosceptic who has publicly opposed a European Union plan to require member states to take in refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. It was a sweeping victory: for the first time since the transition from Communist rule in 1989, none of Poland’s left-wing or social democratic parties appeared to have won seats in the new parliament.

The victory is part of a larger rightward shift on the continent. The anti-immigrant, fiscally conservative Swiss People’s Party, or SVP, triumphed in that country’s recent parliamentary elections. And polls show far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s Les Republicains party on track to gain control of two northern regions in France in upcoming December regional elections.

In Guatemala, voters also opted for change. Jimmy Morales, a former television comedian who has never held elected office, cruised to victory over former first lady Sandra Torres. Morales — who campaigned under the slogan “I’m not corrupt nor a thief” — portrayed himself as a divisive break with the Central American country’s discredited ruling class. Former President Otto Pérez Molina was forced to resign last month and is currently in jail awaiting trial for his alleged participation in a multi-million dollar customs fraud case.

Argentinian voters did not reject its current leadership in the manner of Poland or Guatemala this election cycle. But Sunday’s election did defy expectations that outgoing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s anointed candidate would win an outright victory, without having to participate in a run-off. Instead, Kirchner-endorsed Daniel Scioli, a former vice president, just barely edged out conservative opposition candidate Mauricio Macri. The economy was front and center in this campaign: inflation is around 25 percent and foreign reserves are dwindling.

Kirchner was constitutionally prohibited from running for a third consecutive term. She was elected to the presidency after the death of her husband Nestor Kirchner in 2007; he had been elected to Argentina’s top office in 2003. Together the couple held the presidency for a dozen years.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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