Municipal elections in Paraguay
Paraguay voted for its municipal authorities. Bringing the country out of the Covid crisis helped the ruling National Party win the election. However, the party did face problems in some strongholds.
At the second attempt it worked. Originally municipal elections in Paraguay should have been held in 2020. They were postponed due to the pandemic. On October 10, they finally took place.
The ruling right-wing Asociación Nacional Republicana – Partido Colorado (English: National Republican Association – Red Party) won the elections. It improved its results compared to the previous municipal elections six years ago. The party of Paraguay’s conservative president Mario Abdo Benítez won 161 municipalities nationwide, compared to 145 in 2015. In the past months, the economy has performed well. The country is recovering after the Covid period. Therefore, the ruling party was able to consolidate its position. It probably received a larger number of votes than that would have been the case a year ago.
The Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA, English: Authentic Radical Liberal Party), the country’s second traditional party, lost 15 municipalities, dropping from 75 to 60. However, the most important development was the growth of alliances of independent political groups with a local profile. Many of them considered themselves as an attractive alternative to the traditional two-party system and as the avant-garde of a new political era. The alliances consist of different small parties, with the number varying depending on the districts. The alliances will now govern 37 cities in the future, significantly more than the 25 they won last time.
Despite the Colorados’ victory, there are some indications of a decline of Paraguay's hegemonic party. In Asunción, it won only 47.5 per cent whereas the PLRA got 42.1. These results were much tighter than the polls had ever predicted. The liberal party’s candidate Eduardo Nakayama ran a good election and positioned himself within the party for the next legislative elections. Mr. Nakayama, an important contact of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, could become a key figure of the PLRA’s renewal after many years of internal struggles and conflicts between the Efraín Alegre and Blas Llano camps. Mr. Alegre is the incumbent president of the party. He ran for the country’s presidency in April 2018 and lost to Mr. Benítez. In early 2021 Mr. Alegre was arrested for a few weeks after having been accused of forgery of documents.
The results that disturbed the Colorados most were the heavy defeats in Encarnación and Ciudad del Este, economically two of the country’s most important municipalities. In both districts PLRA politicians ran as independent candidates and formed an alliance with some of the aforementioned small local opposition groups. Officially, the PLRA didn’t promote this kind of cooperation. For the Colorados the situation nevertheless poses a challenge. A strong "anti-color" coalition could accelerate the party’s decline nationwide.
The next presidential elections in Paraguay will take place in April 2023. Even if the Colorados win again they need to redefine their political identity in order to remain the country’s leading political entity. The PLRA on the other hand does not have a clear roadmap so far. In the case of nationwide elections, the party needs an ally, too, but an official one with distinct political experience. It remains to be seen whether the PLRA will once again seek an alliance with the left, namely with the party Frente Guasú like in 2018 or if it will aspire to a more center-right coalition with the party Patria Querida (English: Beloved Fatherland). The latter got a pretty good result in the municipal elections winning seats and councils in various municipalities throughout the country.