Paraguayans focus on term-limit rules as election buzz mounts.

Author:Gaudin, Andres
 
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Even though there are still 17 months to go before Paraguayans head to the polls to choose a new president, 45 senators, 80 deputies, and governors for the 17 departments into which the country is divided, the electoral campaign is already front-page news and a source of debate in family gatherings and office meetings.

With the exception of former President Fernando Lugo (2008-2012), who was ousted in a coup a year before finishing his constitutionally guaranteed term (NotiSur, July 13, 2012), the candidates have yet to spell out their platforms. Instead, the discussion has centered around the issue of rekutu, a Guarani term meaning "return," in allusion to the possibility of reelection at the executive level. There are clear reasons for the focus on rekutu. Presidential reelection is prohibited in Paraguay, at least according to one interpretation of the Constitution's imprecise Article 229. And yet the early favorites to compete for the position are the current head of state, Horacio Cartes, and two former presidents, Lugo and Nicanor Duarte Frutos (2003-2008) (NotiSur, May 2, 2003, Aug. 29, 2003, Feb. 6, 2004).

The general situation has grown increasingly tense since the beginning of the year and produced a deep division in the governing Partido Colorado--the Asociacion Nacional Republicana (National Republican Association, ANR), as it is officially known--to the point even of hindering the process of governance.

Complicating matters is how ambiguous President Cartes has been regarding his interest in a second term. With the objective of running again, he first asked Colorado lawmakers to push for a change to the Constitution. Later he talked about the possibility of introducing an amendment. But then he asked the party leadership to withdraw from consideration any legislation aimed at helping him seek a second term. "I'm not interested in reelection, and with the authority I wield as head also of the party, I say that any Colorado member who strays from the party line will be punished," he angrily declared on Oct. 31. That day, however, the ANR decided in a party convention to push for reelection, albeit without conveying which mechanism it would opt for.

Finally, on Nov. 29, Cartes, for the first time, openly--"shamelessly," wrote the daily ABC Color, a dogged critic of the president--expressed an interest in serving a second term as head of state and raised the possibility, as a way of skirting the country's election rules, of stepping down...

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