Lúgaro: Independent Candidates not to Blame for PDP Defeat
SAN JUAN — Cataloging independent candidates as those responsible for the staggering defeat of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) or the victory of the New Progressive Party (NPP) in the Nov. 8 general elections represents an overly simplistic view of reality in Puerto Rico’s electoral system. Such is the opinion of former gubernatorial candidate Alexandra Lúgaro, who in the elections came third among the six candidates vying for the position, capturing a historic 11.11% of the votes. Lúgaro spoke in a Radio Isla 1320 interview Monday morning.
During the interview, Lúgaro, who clearly identified herself as a believer in Puerto Rico’s independence from the U.S., nevertheless said she didn’t feel represented by the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), adding she will continue her efforts toward fostering independent candidacies. The former candidate also reflected about the results from the recent elections, in which NPP candidate Ricardo Rosselló won by a small margin.
“There were big achievements in this election; we are seeing very interesting numbers. I know it’s much more simple to attribute the PDP’s loss to Lúgaro or [fellow independent candidate Manuel] Cidre and say some people just moved from one party to another. However, and based on these numbers, the erosion in both parties was the same. In the case of my candidacy, it was 26% PDP and 25% NPP, roughly the same percentage. The biggest bloc that voted for my candidacy was that of non-affiliated voters, who made up 41%,” Lúgaro indicated.
“We see the number of people who did not vote in 2012 [and voted in 2016] and see that those people hadn’t voted before or where first-time voters. They, [the main parties], must evaluate the internal reasons why, for example, David Bernier distanced himself from what being a popular [a PDP supporter] is, and how they weren’t able to find a true north for that party. I think saying that independent candidacies brought Ricky Rosselló victory or the PDP to lose would be too simple,” she added.
The former candidate said the environment that permeated during the campaign and on election day was that of total discontent with traditional political structures, which could explain the low voter participation despite a higher turnout by young voters.
“I know that’s what the parties felt on the street, a collective clogging. The people don’t trust institutions any more. They are tired of the same political, hollow promises. They are tired of politicking, and I believe parties must reinvent themselves. This is a strong message: 300,000 people voting against the two-party system; what that says to the traditional parties is they must transform or else they’ll disappear,” said Lúgaro, a lawyer who carried out most of her political campaign through social media.
“There are other scenarios that we aren’t contemplating. Not only are there people registering now who didn’t vote in 2012, but when it comes to first-time voters, we agglomerated 53% of the electorate between 18 and 34 years old. That is a big number. If we look at electoral simulations in schools, in which students from seventh to 12th grade are voting, what is emerging is young people focusing on a new way of voting outside of partisan lines,” she said.
Lúgaro, who previously held several contracts with the Department of Education, said she favors a second round of elections such as those that take place in other democratic systems around the world, in which it is necessary to obtain more than half of the total votes to take office. Such a scenario did not happen in the latest elections in Puerto Rico, where the elected gubernatorial candidate barely garnered 40% of total votes.
“We never saw a candidate win by such a low margin. In other words, not even half of the island supports him. That’s why a second go-round is so important, because in this system in which you either win or lose, you don’t always represent the people. There are now 300,000 people who do not feel represented by this two-party system. They don’t have any representation despite getting such a number of votes. That’s why a second turn is essential, so alliances can be established, and carry out negotiations for projects that could in turn lead to a larger project for the island. Puerto Rico has to have representation from these sectors that are a significant part of the voting bloc, so I believe that’s one of the main things to promote during the next four years,” she indicated.
Although Lúgaro didn’t answer if she is planning to launch a gubernatorial candidacy for the 2020 elections, she left the door open to continue working on independent candidacies on the island because she considers them essential in a democratic system.
“I’ve wanted to dedicate this time, first to celebrate this historic step that we achieved, reflect on what we fell short on, what could have been made and what is left to do. I think it’s premature to talk about a candidacy now. A new governor has just been elected, I think it’s time to go to work, for every one of us to contribute where each of us believes can achieve the biggest difference. I want to contribute to Puerto Rico from different angles such as education and economic development. I will continue on social media, informing and educating,” she said.
“Regarding the candidacy [for the 2020 elections], that remains to be seen. I must be responsible with those 174,000 people who voted without fear, who put their trust in me. If this were to be repeated, it would have to be carried out under new structures, with adequate financing, it must be extremely well planned…. I wouldn’t like to enter a party, but I want to strengthen independent candidacies by collecting endorsements, for instance. What I want is to serve any citizen who wants to become part of the decision-making process, [such as, for example] all the issues I had with the State Elections Commission, because the electoral law is designed to perpetuate those parties in power, and it makes things extremely difficult for an independent candidate. I believe the future lies in independent candidacies, like has happened in various other countries, but because the electoral law doesn’t give any tools to independent candidates, we need a movement that is able to bring the right tools to these candidates,” she concluded.