16 April 2018, 13:48 GMT
This overlap of major elections only happens once every 12 years. Different from previous electoral years, when votes were marked by the polarisation of the left and right ideologies, this time around the common denominator is the popular reaction against corruption and violence among groups of society that have diverging beliefs about social inclusion and diversity.
The “Car Wash” operation celebrates its fourth anniversary this year. Tasked with digging out the largest corruption schemes in Brazil, its reach extends wider to other countries in the region that suffered from years of weak institutions, loose fiscal supervision and the intrinsic chain of corrupted schemes between the public and private sectors. But has the Car Wash investigation been successful in strengthening the democratic values of the population?
Quite the opposite. The elections in 2018 and 2019 will come at a time when support for democracy in LatAm is in fact at its lowest levels on record, at around 58%, as evidenced by the AmericasBarometer Survey.
Source: AmericasBarometer centre, September 2017
The AmericasBarometer data are based on national probability samples of respondents drawn from each country, carried out by The Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP).
With trust in political parties declining, support for executive coups has increased by 5%. This result is important for understanding the mindset of the average voter in the region. Despite the Car Wash investigation and widespread focus on anti-corruption measures in the region, society at large still doesn’t believe that the courts and government protect citizens’ basic rights.
As a result, those speaking out against mainstream policies may gather more support than the traditional left and right ideologies. Old-fashioned proposals, such as an increase in military influence, may represent a threat to a region largely in a post-dictatorship period at present.
And the change of the mindset in Latin America is not limited to politics. As the democratic system has been questioned, religious leaders have touted the need for a ‘return to moral values’. For centuries, the Catholic church had a monopoly over religion in Latin America. But more recently, the Evangelical group has seen a surge in support. In Brazil, 22% of the population is now Evangelical, up from less than 3% in 1991. In Central America, the Evangelical group can form up to 50% of the population.
Some contentious themes like same-sex marriage, abortion and gender equality will be divisive topics during election cycles where religion and politics will walk hand-in-hand. With a strong disillusion towards traditional parties, it will be no surprise if we see the Latin America and Caribbean region turning into a more conservative society.
This is not necessarily negative for the markets, as long as political leaders work with the framework of an independent central bank and a technocratic economic team focused on fiscal austerity.
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