Several observer missions, including one from UNASUR, will monitor polling stations and vote counting throughout the country's elections.
Polls opened in Paraguay Sunday morning where nearly 4 million voters are eligible to cast their vote in the South American country’s local elections.
Voters will elect mayors and council members in 250 districts across Paraguay’s 17 departments, as well as the capital district Asuncion.
Voters will choose between candidates from the country’s three main political parties: the ruling Colorado Party, the Liberals, and the Together We Can alliance.
Leading up to the elections, polls showed opposition candidate Mario Ferreiro of the Together We Can alliance maintaining a healthy lead over incumbent Colorado Party mayor Arnaldo Samaniego in the key district of Asuncion.
Gracias por tantos abrazos. Gracias por encender la esperanza. ¡Gracias por reivindicar la alegría y la esperanza! pic.twitter.com/iyK4Qr9DPS — Mario Ferreiro (@Ferreiromario1)
November 14, 2015
“Thank you for so many hugs. Thank you for turning up the hope. Thank you for reclaiming happiness and hope!”
The ruling Colorado Party has been the subject of intense criticism over its increasingly unpopular conservative policies.
In the weeks leading up to the Sunday’s elections, students, teachers, medical staff, campesinos, indigenous people, and transport workers have protested the lack of government support for public institutions and even demanded the president’s resignation.
Sunday’s vote will be the country’s first elections since the victory of the country’s current president Horacio Cartes, whose approval ratings have plummeted since coming to office two years ago.
Regional electoral observation missions from the Union of South American Nations as well as the U.S.-backed Organization of American States will monitor polling stations and vote counting throughout the country.
“#UNASURElectoralMission began its agenda in Paraguay, leading up to the municipal elections.”
The election will be the first time the country offers special support for voters who are deaf, blind, or illiterate, marking an important step toward taking inequality in the democratic process amid wider social crises in the country.
It is also the first election that includes voting in the indigenous Guarani language, spoken by 95 percent of the population. Though many Paraguayans speak both Spanish and Guarani, a significant portion of the population only communicates in the indigenous language.
But the advances in equality with respect to voting accessibility hardly scratch the surface of Paraguay’s larger social and economic problems, including poverty, weak institutions, and vastly unequal land distribution.
Last September, Latinobarometro, a Santiago-based research organization, released a poll, which showed that only 14 percent of Paraguayans considered their country to be progressing.