Latin America’s Incumbents Will Have a Good 2024. Democracy Won’t

Latin America’s Incumbents Will Have a Good 2024. Democracy Won’t
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele gestures while speaking during a public appearance in San Salvador, El Salvador, June 15, 2023 (Sipa photo by Camilo Freedman via AP Images).

Starting in 2018, with the victories of populists Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO, in Mexico and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Latin America has been on a historic anti-incumbent streak. Since then, 21 out of the past 22 competitive presidential elections have gone against the ruling party, with opposition candidates Javier Milei in Argentina and Daniel Noboa in Ecuador winning the final two elections of 2023.

In 2024, that trend is likely to hit a brick wall. Of the six presidential elections in Latin America scheduled for 2024, the incumbent party is currently favored in four—in El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela. A fifth election, in Uruguay, is a toss-up. Only Panama seems almost certain to continue the region’s clear anti-incumbent trend.

Yet, this isn’t as clear a break in that trend as the numbers suggest; by no means is the region now characterized by strong presidents who can easily win reelection. To the contrary, a quick glance at approval ratings around the hemisphere shows that nearly every current national leader is heavily disliked and likely to lose the next election campaign. Instead, by luck of the draw, the elections in 2024 will be the pro-incumbent exceptions amid a continuing period of weakness for ruling parties. And three of the four elections where the incumbent is favored offer examples of the challenges that democracy faces in the hemisphere.

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