(El Nuevo Día)

The year ahead marks the beginning of a new electoral cycle with unprecedented characteristics that will test the soundness of the candidates´ plans for public office in Puerto Rico. These processes, far from weakening confidence in our governance, should strengthen our democratic institutions.

For the first time, the person in the governor's seat will face primaries to decide who the New Progressive Party candidate for governor will be.

Wanda Vázquez's electoral aspirations materialize months after she took office following the Supreme Court's decision establishing the constitutional order of succession after former governor Ricardo Rosselló was forced to step down.

Puerto Ricans will be watching the government´s commitment and integrity closely as the administration faces big fiscal challenges, while the governor jumps into the demanding primary race. Vázquez took office following the summer protests triggered by the outrage from citizens that now see her as a figure of stability. It would be logical to include in the analysis of her electoral aspirations how her administration would have broken with long rejected past government practices.

The bar is also high for the other candidates, including Pedro Pierluisi, who tried to succeed Rosselló in a controversial and failed effort.

The fact that the Popular Democratic candidate will be decided on a primary is no less significant. It is only fair that voters primaries allow voters to evaluate the candidates for such an important position. Candidates and parties going to primaries must show voters their transparent and concrete visions for the island.

Primaries must be instruments that enrich democracy. They allow the electorate to directly vote for the candidates so that the decision regarding who will run is not exclusively in the hands of the party machinery. This transparency test for all those who want to win the elections must be infallible.

Meanwhile, the emergence of two new parties, the Movimiento de Victoria Ciudadana - Citizens Victory Movement, described as pluralist - and the Proyecto Dignidad- which brings together a part of the religious sector - could be seen as a sign that a certain part of the electorate is looking for electoral options outside the traditional parties.

Last summer protests have clearly expressed that most Puerto Ricans demand a better Puerto Rico. They not only called for an immediate change of governor but for a thorough transformation towards social justice, transparency, and healthy coexistence. Each candidate, new and old ones, cannot avoid the unequivocal call of the people.

We, therefore, call for candidates to be responsible when drafting their plans and visions and for voters to be responsible when exercising their right to vote. Candidates´ major responsibility is to ensure that Puerto Rico takes real steps towards its recovery and growth. Personal and partisan ambitions should not interfere in public decision-making. On the contrary, the principle of merit and collective well-being must be a priority.

And voters must wisely choose those whom they genuinely consider best qualified to strengthen democracy and undertake the urgent tasks that Puerto Rico faces, mostly fiscal and economic ones. Puerto Rico will be tested over this crucial year for our society.

The end of 2019 and the beginning of a new decade is a good time to reflect on our collective responsibility to set goals for a new decade of social and economic growth. It´s the dawn of a new decade, a new opportunity to build a better Puerto Rico using our strength.

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