Sunday, November 08, 2015

Argentina's elections

Javier Lewkowicz reports on the current Argentine Presidential election in Argentina’s runoff to be determined by a penalty shoot-out democraciaAbierta 10/27/2015.

Left-Peronist incumbent President Cristina Fernández is termed out after two consecutive terms, though she could run against in 2019. And she has said she plans to stay active in the politics of the Partido Justicialista (PJ), the main Peronist party.

The big contest in the current election is between Argentina's current version of Mitt Romney, Mauricio Macri, and the PJ candidate, Daniel Scioli. The final round of the election comes in two weeks, November 22.

There was a preliminary round on October 25. Argentina now has a law that forces a runoff in the Presidential election so that a candidate has to get a majority to be elected. National campaigns in Argentina tend to run as part of coalition parties. Scioli's alliance is the Frente para la Victoria (FPV).

Macri previously served as the Governor of Buenos Aires City, where he headed his own party, the PRO (Propuesta Republicana). The main opposition party, called the party of the oligarchy by the Peronists, is the Union Civica Radical (UCR). The Radicals are backing Macri under the electoral alliance called Cambiemos. Consistent with the name of Macri's party, anti-Peronists are starting to identify themselves as "republicans." The association with the US party of the same name is not lost on the Peronists. The UCR is an official party of the Socialist International. So is the smaller Partido Socialist (PS), currently headed by Hermes Binner. Since the days of Juan Perón's first Presidency, the PS has largely acted as an ally of UCR in national politics, including supporting the 1955 coup against Perón's elected government. The supporters of that so-called "Revolution Libertadora" in 1955 also identified themselves as "republicans," though their political practice was very different that what most people think of as a representative republican form of government.

For the November 22 election, the PS is officially neutral between Macri and Scioli. (Ni Macri ni Scioli para el socialismo) Página/12 29.10.2015. They backed a minor candidate, Margarita Stolbizer, in the October 25 round. Her electoral alliance is called Frente Amplio Progresista (FAP), of which the PS is a part. But since the PS largely supports the neoliberal policies of the Washington Consensus, as does Macri but not the PJ, it's unlikely that their voters would necessarily support Scioli over Macri in the final round. Their not a major force nationally. Their electoral alliance received on 3% of the votes on October 25. But in a very close race, those votes could be decisive. Stolbizer has also taken a neutral position for November 22 while making it clear that she's closer to Macri's pro-oligarchy positions than to Scioli's more genuinely social-democratic ones.

To further illustrate the complexity of the partisan and ideological alignments, there is a group of Congressional deputies who call themselves Unidad Socialista para la Victoria (USpV) and are aligned with the Peronist-led FpV currently headed by Scioli. (En búsqueda de coincidencias Página/12 31.10.2015) The USpV includes the deputies Jorge Rivas y Oscar González.

In the October 25 round, Scioli came out with 36%, Macri with 35%. Sergio Massa came in third with 21%. Massa had split from the PJ and was basically running as a conservative Peronist with an electoral alliance called Unidos por una Nueva Alternativa (UNA). Massa's own party is called the Frente Renovador. Massa opposed the main PJ and the left Peronists. But the Frente Renovador is still part of the larger Peronist movement. (Peronism as a political concept is exceptionally complicated!) So it's uncertain where his October 25 voters are likely go on November 22. But it's reasonable to expect that more would go to Scioli than to Macri, whatever Massa's personal leanings. He's been publicly neutral on the November 22 runoff, though some of his prominent allies have indicated a lean to Macri. (Miguel Jorquera, Massa, sin definición para el ballottage Página/12 26.10.2015; Fernando Cibeira, Scioli ganó por poco y va al ballottage con Macri Página/12 26.10.2015; Argentina Presidential Challenger Mauricio Macri Seeks Common Ground With Sergio Massa NDTVReuters 10/28/2015; Richard Lough and Maximilian Heath, Massa allies lean toward opposition challenger in presidential run-off Reuters 10/208/2015)

One of the wild cards is the Province of Buenos Aires, where Scioli has been the Governor since 2007. Macri beat him there in the October 25 round. Buenos Aires province, even with the City of Buenos Aires which is its own separate province, has around 40% of the Argentine population. That's why the affairs of the capital city and Buenos Aires Province figure so very prominently in national politics. Peter Prengaman and Almudena Calatrava report that various issues are important in the province, with crime being particularly prominent at the moment. (Sprawling BA province key to runoff AP/Buenos Aires Herald 11/08/2015) It can sometimes be a challenge for non-Argentines to keep up with what is meant exactly by "Buenos Aires," i.e., Buenos Aires City, Greater Buenos Aires (the city plus the suburbs in the province), and Buenos Aires Province.

It's also a bad sign that the pro-Macri opposition won the Governorship in Buenos Aires Province. "El impactante triunfo de María Eugenia Vidal en Buenos Aires marca el fin de la hegemonía del peronismo en el distrito más importante del país desde hace 28 años" ["The impressive victory " of María Eugenia Vidal in Buenos Aires {Province} marks and end to the hegemony of Peronism {that has held} for 28 years in the most important district of the country."] (Página/12 26.10.2015) But Scioli's Presidential ticket won significantly more votes than the provincial ticket of the FpV headed by Anibal Fernández.

Javier Lewkowicz characterizes the situation as follows. I wouldn't characterize the differences between the political groupings exactly the way he does. But this gives a good general idea of the situation:

But he did not pronounce them on Monday October 26, 2015, after his huge electoral performance the day before. Macri was evaluating his electoral victory on December 5, 1995, his first step into politics. At that moment, the runoff, Daniel Scioli, the alliance with the Unión Cívica Radical, his three successive victories as Buenos Aires City mayor, and the constitution of his own political party, the Republican Proposal (PRO), all belonged to an unpredictable future. By the end of 1995, Macri also won the elections to become president of the Boca Juniors football club. Popular sport magazines ran front page headlines saying: “Argentina’s Berlusconi”.

Last Sunday, the Macri-led Cambiemos (Lets’ change) alliance achieved what not even the most optimist militants would have dared to imagine. He got himself into the second round of the presidential election with a close-to-technical draw with Daniel Scioli, the candidate for the Front for Victory, the party in power in Argentina since 2003. Macri even managed to defeat Peronism in the elections for governor of the Buenos Aires Province, something that had not happened since 1983. The size of the electoral results, whatever happens in the second round, is gigantic. Kirchnerism’s political hegemony since the country’s way out of the 2000/2012 crisis is now hampered, and a bipolar scheme emerges.

Macri can be located in what is now called the new right, economically liberal but not fully anti-popular, democratic and sensible to changes in the public mood. Henrique Capriles, Aecio Neves and Sebastián Piñera, in Venezuela, Brasil and Chile respectively, also belong to this category. Scioli and Peronism, on their side, represent a relatively light version of Kirchnerism [Cristina Fernández' policies], with no great expectations and willing to mend broken bounds, from the IMF to the local corporate media.

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