Paraguayans elected tobacco magnates as the new leader Sunday, returning the Conservative Party of Colorado for the presidency that it held for 61 years before the former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo was appointed in 2008.
Horacio Cartes won a five-year term with 46 percent of the vote over 37 percent for Efrain Alegre Radical Liberal Party, the electoral court announced after most of the votes were counted. Five other candidates trailed far behind.
“I need help from all Paraguayans to manage in the next five years. Poverty, lack of jobs for young people and international issues are waiting for us,” Cartes said Sunday night.
Poverty is widespread in Paraguay, which is an agricultural country, is at No. 3 South American producer of soybean, corn and sunflower. About 1 percent of the population controls 77 percent of the arable land. According to UN estimates, more than half of Paraguayans live in poverty while the country’s census bureau put the figure at 39 percent.
Alegre conceded defeat, despite saying earlier that he may challenge the results. “The Paraguayan people have spoken. There’s nothing more to say,” he said in a brief concession speech.
Cartes, 58, is part of a tiny elite, which controls nearly all of Paraguay. His father represented the company Cessna plane in Paraguay, which provided Cartes training in the U.S. state of Oklahoma.
The president-elect has controlling stakes in banks, investment funds, agricultural estates, the producer of soda and tobacco plantations. Most of the pre-election polls predicted a victory, despite it being his first run for public office. Cartes was well known in Paraguay as President Libertad, Club, who won the Cup last year.
Many Paraguayans hope these elections will encourage other countries to restore full relations, which were suspended last year after the impeachment of Lugo, which is the neighboring peoples were regarded as a threat to democracy in the region.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias led the Observer Mission of the Organization of American States, and said Sunday that he had complete confidence in the Electoral Court, as he spent months observing and supporting the process. There were 515 observers from the OAS, the European Union, the Union of South American Nations regional bloc known as UNASUR and the Union of Latin American electoral associations.
International election observer Martin Sequeira said voting proceeded calmly with a high turnout. He said that there were some unconfirmed reports of electoral fraud have complained that some ballots were pre-marked.
But Arias said those were only “minor incidents that you see, even in the most consolidated democracies.”
Colorados are not presided during and after Alfredo Stroessnera 35-year dictatorship, while Lugo, left, sandal-wearing former bishop, joined with the radical liberals and was embroiled in an office on promises of land reform. But Lugo was not even a handful of supporters in Congress, made a political mistake in his own coalition and was a dead end at every turn.
Radical liberals have finally joined with the Colorados Lugo vote out of office for “poor performance” last year. The impeachment process is well defined in the Constitution, but the neighbors Paraguay criticized the overthrow of the popularly elected president as anti-democratic and suspended the country’s membership in the Unasur, Mercosur trade bloc and CELAC, which unites the Caribbean, Latin America and the European Union countries.
Vice-President Lugo, Federico Franco, Radical Liberal politician who took on the acting president, said he expects the status of Paraguay to be normalized soon after the new head of state will take office on August 15.
The voter turnout was more than 68 percent of about 3.5 million of 6.2 million citizens of Paraguay, who are registered to vote. They elected 45 senators, 80 deputies, 17 governors and 18 delegates to the Mercosur Parliament located in Uruguay.
Millions of voters living outside Paraguay, but after a poorly funded registration process, less than 22 000 people have been reported, mainly in Argentina, Spain and the United States.