Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Prelate Tops the Polls

Turning toward prelate-presidents of the unsanctioned kind, Fernando Lugo, the Paraguayan bishop who resigned his office to run for the nation's presidency -- and was eventually barred from ministry by Rome -- enjoys a comfortable lead in the first polls before April's general election:
31.2 per cent of respondents would vote for Lugo of the Patriotic Alliance for Change (APC) in this year’s ballot.

Lino Oviedo of the National Union of Ethical Citizens (UNACE) is second with 25.3 per cent, followed by Blanca Ovelar of the ruling National Republican Association - Red Party (ANR) with 24.3 per cent, and Pedro Fadul of the Beloved Homeland Party (PPQ) with 3.5 per cent.

Nicanor Duarte won the April 2003 presidential election as the ANR candidate with 37.1 per cent of all cast ballots. The ANR has been involved in Paraguay’s government since 1947, even during the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner. Duarte is not eligible for a new term.

In 1996, Oviedo launched a failed coup against the government of Juan Carlos Wasmosy. He was convicted in 1998, and sentenced to ten years in prison.

In September 2007, Lugo oversaw the creation of the APC—which brings together seven opposition parties.
A priest of the Divine Word Fathers, Lugo, 58, was ordained bishop of San Pedro -- the landlocked country's poorest area -- in 1994.

Known among his supporters as the "bishop of the poor," he left office in January 2005 to aid in what he termed "the search for solutions to the country's problems." After declaring his run for the presidency in late 2006 -- at which time he said "[his] cathedral will be the nation" -- the Holy See suspended Lugo from exercising ordained ministry, but not dismissing him from the clerical state.

While the Paraguayan constitution bars clerics from seeking elected office and the candidate is, canonically speaking, still a priest and bishop, there have been few calls for Lugo's candidacy to be disallowed, given establishment fears of mass demonstrations should his campaign be blocked.

Often called the "Colorado Party," the National Republicans have dominated Paraguayan politics for six decades. Analysts have deemed the ex-bishop's movement the most formidable threat the governing party has seen in some time.