Yet, the presidents of all four Pacific Alliance countries have at least one major opposition party to their ideological right, as it is traditionally defined. Mexico's Peña Nieto has the PAN; Colombia's Santos has Uribe's Centro Democratico; Peru's Humala has Keiko Fujimori's Fuerza Popular; and Chile's Bachelet has a coalition of several rightwing parties in her opposition including the UDI and RN.
What are the implications of that observation?
1. If you're going to divide this hemisphere on a left-right axis, then the current Pacific Alliance should be defined as centrist. It's ridiculous to define an organization as conservative when all four leaders face conservative opposition.
2. Once you realize that all four presidents in the Pacific Alliance face a rightwing opposition, you can see one reason the countries individually and the organization as a whole gets along well with President Obama in the United States. The current ideological makeup of the countries is fairly well aligned with the moderate end of the US Democratic Party.
2b. Given that ideological mix, would the current Pacific Alliance get along as well with a very conservative US president post-2016? A lot of commentators simply assume a Republican promoting free trade would have better relations with the Pacific Alliance than a Democrat. Given the current ideological makeup of the region's presidents, I disagree.
3. However, that analysis could change as the Pacific Alliance could be a whole lot more conservative in coming years. The current incumbents cannot run in the upcoming presidential elections (Peru 2016, Chile 2017, Colombia and Mexico in 2018), and the right wing will put up a significant candidate in each of the four countries. They could easily win 2, 3 or even all 4 countries.
3b. As I've written before, all the Pacific Alliance presidents currently have approval ratings well under 50%. For all the hype in the international media as an alternative to the "leftist" models, none of the "centrist" leaders (as I've defined them) are particularly popular at home right now. To me, that suggests that the countries are posed to to tip one way or the other in the coming elections. Remaining in the center will be tough when the current centrist incumbents aren't popular.
4. So who are the rightwing presidents of the hemisphere (at least as we traditionally define left-right)? I'd say there are three solid conservatives among the current group: Honduras's Juan Orlando Hernandez, Paraguay's Horacio Cartes and Argentina President-elect Mauricio Macri. A few others (like Jimmy Morales) are tougher to define.
4b. But wait! That means two of the five presidents inside Mercosur are further to the ideological right than any of the four current Pacific Alliance presidents. That means the region is one leadership change away from Mercosur being the more conservative of the South American economic integration organizations, a complete flip flop from where we are today. The current Pacific Alliance would appear progressive in comparison if a rightwing opponent took power in Brazil, Uruguay or Venezuela (though presidential elections are not scheduled in any of those countries until 2018-19). If Bolivia, in the process of joining Mercosur, has a change at the presidency, it's also more likely to move right than left as well. Given that ideological map, I'd say there is a very likely potential that Mercosur moves to the right as an organization in the next five years.
5. While many commentators and recent articles are focused on the decline of the region's left and potential rise of the right, I worry about the potential decline of the region's center. Every president in this region who I would define as "centrist" or "pragmatic" currently has a low or very low approval rating, all of them under 40%. Meanwhile, in contrast, Ecuador's Correa and Paraguay's Cartes are above 40% while Honduras's JOH and Bolivia's Morales are above 50%. Today, if you want to worry about the region's ideological makeup, the most important question isn't whether the political "left" is collapsing (though I know everyone loves to obsess over Venezuela) but whether the political center is about the fall and what happens when the left-right coin is flipped again in each country.