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Elections in Paraguay: uncertainty and continuity

The elections of April 22 in Paraguay showed the “most colored” face of the electoral geography in the country after the victory of the candidate of the National Republican-Colorado Party (ANR) for the presidency, Mario Abdo Benítez, and the obtaining of 13 departmental governments from a total of 17 territories in dispute. Nevertheless, the results are impregnated by the suspicions of electoral fraud as a result of the numerous denunciations that through social networks exhibited the proxies of the Win Alliance– led by the Authentic Radical Liberal Party(PLRA), and with the support of half a dozen formations of the center-left-, as well as other recent parties such as the Plurinational Indigenous Movement and Kuña Pyrenda .

The apprehensions about a possible electoral fraud – as happened a few months ago in Honduras with the elections that allowed the president, Juan Orlando Hernández, to tie his re-election – gain strength when the integrity of the elections organized by the Superior Court of Justice is questioned Electoral(TSJE), a highly politicized body. In this sense, in some cases the electoral records point to alleged errors in the registration of votes obtained by the NRA to the detriment of the Win Alliance and the minority parties. In the social networks, images of these “errors” have been disseminated in the minutes. But also, after consulting the minutes on the TREP website, some voters reported that their votes for minority parties did not appear in the corresponding minutes. Given this situation, both the Win Alliance and other small parties indicated that they would present challenges before the TSJE.

 

 

Red resistance and liberal immobility

The preliminary results of the general ones show some important data to take into account. First, a stable percentage of electoral participation (close to 60.6%), although there are voices that indicate that it has been the lowest since the transition. Second, the ANR as a party is very robust in the homogeneity of its electoral support, which has allowed it to be the party with the most victories in the national and sub-national arena. And third, an opposition that has grown very little in five years, despite the bad performance and unpopularity of the Chartist government. In this regard, the PLRA’s immobilism stands out, incapable of increasing by itself its electoral wealth and its power translated into seats for the fifth consecutive election, as regards the Senate.; remains to see the final results for the Chamber of Deputies .

 

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Although the difference between the winning candidate, Benítez, and the loser, Efraín Alegre , was only 3.7%, which represents around 96,000 votes, the Colorado Party achieved its best electoral performance since 1998. At that time the alliance between argañistas y oviedistas obtained 53.8% of the votes against 42.6% of the PLRA. In these elections, the ANR reached 46.44% against 42.74% of the Liberals and their allies. In the intermediate exercises, it should be noted that the ANR obtained 37.1% of the votes in the 2003 elections, while in 2008, when it went to the plain, it only reached 30.7%; and in the last elections of 2013 it obtained, by the hand of Horacio Cartes, 45.8%.

These figures show the gradual growth of the NRA after the defeat of 2008, and its ability to realign the Paraguayan electorate and increase its electoral wealth in the elections of 2013 and 2018. Much of this realignment of the vote is due to the return of many UNACE voters, once the most conservative and militarist wing of coloradismo, that after the death of their leader, Lino Oviedo, returned to the red fold. In these last elections they have welcomed the nomination of the son of the private secretary of the dictator Alfredo Stroessner .

Another important fact is that the PLRA has grown very little in electoral terms since 1993, since since then its consolidated voting percentages capture on average 25% of the electorate, while when it has gone to Alliance its performance has ranged between 36% and 42%. However, a fact that has been underestimated in the days following this last electoral process, and from which nobody takes responsibility, is that the PLRA has had the luxury of losing its only and most precious electoral bastion: the Central Department. Another preliminary conclusion of these elections is that the Win Alliance, despite the unpopularity of Cartes, failed to convince the undecided and non-militant electorate, perhaps because Alegre has been a bad candidate; that’s how they account for the two consecutive defeats that he has won in 2013 and 2018, in which it has not been able to capitalize on its favor the discomfort with the wear of the NRA. His figure fails to attract new voters even when the adversaries have shown obvious dialectical precariousness, discursive and argumentative. The main ally of PLRA, theFrente Guazú, whose main figure is former President Fernando Lugo, although he has obtained six seats in the Senate, most likely will not have representation in the Chamber of Deputies, which continues to indicate the enormous difficulties that the left has to win spaces of representation per se same

In the sub-national arena it is interesting that in the Central Department an outsider from the world of entertainment obtained an unusual victory in the Liberal bastion par excellence, after 25 years of PLRA primacy in this political demarcation. This example, together with the victories in other 13 departments of the total of 17, clearly shows that the great winner of the last elections has been the NRA. Only the departments of Concepción, Caaguazú, Caazapá and Amambay have been won by PLRA. In this sense, the self-criticism of the PLRA is necessary in this post-electoral context regarding its internal disputes, because not only is it a party incapable of growing nationally, but in the departmental sphere its territorial power is lower.

 

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Coerced power and gender gap

Another important fact is that the power of the next president of Paraguay will be constrained by the Chartist faction in the NRA and by the leadership of the outgoing president, a situation similar to that faced by Cubas Grau in 1998 with respect to the Argañista sector. And as for the legislative branch, the preliminary results indicate that the ANR will have lost three seats in the Senate and this will be made up of new parties like Hagamos and Movimiento Crusade Nacional .

Meanwhile, in the Chamber of Deputies, the ANR will have a majority of its own, the PLRA will once again be the second force and the third space will be disputed between minority parties such as the National Meeting, Patria Querida, Green Party, Hagamos and Partido Nacional .

Another detail not less in this year’s elections is the decrease in the descriptive representation of women in positions of popular election, both in the departmental governments (in which no women were elected in 17 departments) and the decrease in the number of senators with respect to 2013, when nine senators were elected; in 2018, only eight were elected. Also in the Chamber of Deputies, preliminarily, women will have lost a seat after electing only 11 in these elections, while in the 2013 elections they had 12 national deputies. This conformation of the legislative power opens a critical juncture for the democratic parity law project that is being studied in the Chamber of Deputies.

-SARAH PATRICIA CERNA VILLAGRA AND JUAN MARIO SOLÍS DELGADILLO

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