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Argentine Political Outlook (Sep-21-15) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Sep-21-15 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. Eighty days to go before the end of the presidential term and five weeks before the presidential election, Cristina continues operating effectively to 'hand in government but not power'. The Senate gave half approval to the bill that creates the national agency for state participation in companies (ANPEE), which will limit her successor's freedom of action since selling shares of companies controlled by Anses or privatizing all or part of any state company except YPF will require two thirds of the two Houses. The Lower House would give final approval this week as part of a 'fast track' process. The economy minister (Kicillof) presented in the Lower House the Budget bill for 2016 without including ‘economic emergency' -which was annually renewed in the Budget- so the next president will not have the ‘discretional spending' that the president had for the thirteen years of Kirchnerism in power to align policies. The minister has insisted that devaluation as well as the increase in utility fares will require changing the Budget with the majority of both Houses. For her part, last Friday, the president in her national broadcast n umber 38, insisted that she would submit to Congress a bill for the UN resolution that proposes regulating vulture funds -which has no operational effect- to become a ‘public order law' in Argentina. She did so on the day after the economic advisors of the three main candidates (Scioli, Macri and Massa) agreed on the need to solve this issue. With this new rule, any solution would be hard to find, since it will be necessary to annul this law and amend the so-called ‘lock law', in a Congress where nobody will have majority in the Lower House and Kirchnerism will retain its influence. The resignation of he Court dean (Fayt) as of December 10 gives the president the opportunity to try to change the composition of the court before leaving office, trying to negotiate with the opposition and eventually increasing the number of members as pro-government jurists propose (Zaffaroni and Carles).

2. The electoral conflict in the Tucuman election unravels one month before the presidential election. The provincial court in administrative matters declared the election null. In her last national broadcast, the president accused the ruling and the support to it from the opposition candidates, as ‘fraud' to annul the vote of the poor. A government spokesman (Kunkel) said that the Judiciary in Tucuman should be interceded -not the legislative or executive branches- and the removal of the judges who ruled against the ruling coalition was requested. The Supreme Court of Tucuman revoked the ruling, making the election valid. This would push the opposition to appeal before the Supreme Court of the Nation. For government, it'd be better to accept the nullity of the election and that the voting was held again with the same candidates as October 25 along with the national election. In this way, the issue would be removed from the electoral campaign, favoring Scioli. But Cristina thinks this is a sign of weakness and according to her character, she has opted for ‘doubling' the bet. The victory of the ruling coalition in Chaco is under tension. But it won by 13 points when in the primaries it did so by 23, 10 points higher. A greater control of the election has taken place. The meeting with the Pope in Cuba showed the relationship has cooled off. In the first five meetings, the Pope held long interviews with her whereas in the last two (Asuncion and Havana), it was just a greeting.

3. The differences between Scioli and Kirchnerism become apparent despite the attempt to curtail them. The BA governor attended rallies together with the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, who labeled the ruling party candidate as ‘revolutionary of the Great Nation', something that is not coherent with his background and proposals. But on Monday, Scioli met publicly with the US Ambassador (Mamet) in a gesture that differentiates him from the foreign policy of the Kirchners. This gesture adds to the definitions of Scioli's economic advisors in favor of solving the issue of holdouts. A truce seems to have been brokered with La Campora, containing the current tensions but failing to solve them. Regarding the two vacancies of the Supreme Court, the BA governor has voiced his support for increasing the number of members but after December 10.  In one of his addresses he called on radical party and socialist party supporters to vote for him in a sign of compromise with opposition sectors. Today, his electoral strategy not only aims at reaching 45% to win in first round -which is uncertain today- but also on the basis of 40% with a 10 point lead over Macri. If the voting was today, Scioli would win in first round with this edge, given the split in the opposition and the crisis caused by the allegations against Niembro among Cambiemos.

4. The opposition division entails a clear lead of the ruling coalition five weeks before the elections. The Niembro gate cannot be compared in entity to the corruption cases affecting Kirchnerism. But has a negative impact on Macri's voters, who expect a different behavior from their political party. Given the success obtained with this allegation -which the prosecutor upon request of Procelac has changed into charges of money laundering-, the ruling coalition has filed more and prepares others such as the one that could affect the entourage of the Cambiemos candidate for the BA province (Vidal), who disputes the governorship against Anibal Fernandez, although Scioli maintains 10 points ahead of Macri in the district. Against this context, Massa succeeds in resisting polarization with a harsher discourse and more precise than Macri's. This is why Scioli could win in first round with less than 45% today. The chances for Macri to come second are remote but in the case of a run-off he has more chances of winning over Scioli because almost all votes for Cambiemos vote for Massa against him but the same does not occur with the votes of the Dissident Peronism candidate. Macri's strategy now is to denounce an alleged deal between Scioli and Massa to prevent polarization and will criticize both. For his part, Massa dismisses this by saying that ‘he is going to put all Kirchnerism corrupts in jail', something Macri does not say for now.

5. To conclude:

a) Eighty days before the end of the presidential term and five weeks before the elections, Cristina remains effective to limit her successor's freedom of action, whoever that will be.

b) The electoral conflict unravels, considering the ghost of a political crisis if the outcome around a runoff was too tight, although the election in Chaco cooled off tensions.

c) Scioli shows gestures to differentiate himself from Kirchnerism, evidencing at the same time an underlying conflict.

d) The division of the opposition not only favors the ruling coalition as is obvious but may also allow it for winning in first round with less than 45%.  




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