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News > Latin America

Paraguay: Conservative Benitez is New President

  • Mario Abdo Benitez of the Colorado Party will be Paraguay's new president.

    Mario Abdo Benitez of the Colorado Party will be Paraguay's new president. | Photo: Reuters FILE

Published 22 April 2018

With 96 percent of the polls counted,  Mario Abdo Benítez had more than 46 percent of the votes.

The candidate from Paraguay's ruling Colorado Party won Sunday's presidential election, according to official results with over 96 percent of ballots counted, pointing toward another five years of conservative and neoliberal policies in the major soy producer.

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Mario Abdo Benitez, a 46-year-old former senator, clinched 46.7 percent of the vote, according to the country's elections tribunal.

His main rival, Efrain Alegre, a lawyer from the center-left GANAR coalition Alegre, trailed closely with 42.6 percent.

Abdo set the stage for governing with a minority in Congress by calling for dialogue with opposition parties. 

Outgoing president Horacio Cartes, who tried but failed to change the constitution to allow him to seek a second term, won a Senate seat in Sunday's vote.

Abdo is the son of the late private secretary of dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled Paraguay for 35 years.

"I am going to lead a wide national dialogue," Abdo told reporters before casting his ballot. Later he visited the tomb of his father, as he did on the day of the primary election in December when he won the nomination of the Colorado Party.

Polls say Abdo's party is likely to lose some of the 20 seats it has in Paraguay's 45-member Senate, which last year debated a bill to slap a 10 percent tax on soybean exports.

"The push for an export tax will intensify after the election, which is likely to see the empowering of the Frente Guasu, a major proponent of the initiative, and a party which is expected to substantially increase its presence in Congress," said Thomaz Favaro, an analyst for consultancy Control Risks.

Abdo may have to support the export tax to safeguard other parts of his investment-friendly agenda.

"Uncertainty over the level of taxation for the agriculture industry will thus likely persist in the short-to-medium term," Favaro said.

Voters were choosing a new president, a vice-president, 45 senators, 80 deputies, 17 governors, 17 departmental congresses and 18 envoys to the Mercosur Parliament. There are 10 candidates vying for the presidency.

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