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Argentine Political Outlook (Sep-28-15) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Sep-28-15 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. In the fifty days after the open primaries, a runoff election is still uncertain. Scioli has moved away from the 45% that prevents the second round regardless of the difference over the second candidate. Problems such as the electoral scandal in Tucuman, his conflicts with Kirchnerism, the negative image of his Buenos Aires candidate (Aníbal Fernández) and doubts about the economy have all contributed to this. That is why he now focuses his strategy in getting 10 points ahead of the second, which would prevent the runoff election based on a 40%. Since the open primaries, 16 surveys have been published on the voting for President. Scioli wins in all, but with a percentage ranging between 42% and 35%. He keeps the votes of the open primaries, today he is around 40%, but with 39.99% with a difference of one vote, there will be second round whatever the difference with the second candidate is and this is the risk that must be resolved now with priority. His refusal to participate in the debate is obvious: he does not want to risk the advantage he has and while not debating does not entail any electoral cost in his voters and little in the undecided electorate. The vision of Kirchnerism was publicly stated by an important human rights leader aligned with the ruling coalition (Carlotto), who said Scioli will be "a good transition to bring Cristina back in 2019", while her opinion was not unauthorized by any relevant figure of the Government. The Governor of Buenos Aires for his part had a clear and simple public definition on the weekend that keeps him away from Kirchnerism: "I'm neither leftist nor rightist".

2. The opposition vote shows some changes with a slight transfer from Macri to Massa. The last reserved Poliarquia poll - published in the online journal Infobae on Saturday - gives a difference between Scioli and Macri of 9 points - but without the former getting to 40% - and one between the city mayor and Massa of only 6 points. Half of the votes are in dispute among them. Fifty days ago, the Pro strategy was to polarize the vote with Scioli, but this has not occurred. The three polls on scenarios of second round known show that Macri would lose against the official party candidate, but that Massa would win over him. It has a simple explanation: 9 every 10 voters of Cambiemos in the second round vote for Massa against Scioli, but those who vote for the former Mayor of Tigre, in second round are divided approximately into halves. The most dangerous stage now for the Government is that Scioli does not reach 40% and Massa surpasses Macri by a vote. It is unlikely but not impossible today. The city mayor has not been able to handle the complaints about alleged cases of corruption within his ranks, that the ruling party has unleashed in relation to Niembro. Massa has instead hardened his criticism to the ruling party and has been presented with Lavagna and De la Sota as his key men in an eventual Government. An important intellectual from the entourage of Stolbizer (Beatriz Sarlo) happened to say that Massa and Solá are the ones with the best teams and experience to govern.

3. Meanwhile, the President exercises power in an unprecedented manner less than a month to go before the first round and less than 80 days to complete her tenure. The Executive branch, with the vast majority in both Houses, obtained the final approval of the bill that creates the national agency of State involvement in enterprises (ANPEE), which requires for any sale of shares in the ANSES or privatization of public companies, two-thirds in both houses of Congress. This week, the 2016 budget designed to undermine freedom of action of the next President, would have clearance of the commission and even the fast track for moving on to the Senate next week after half approval in the Lower House. Last week, the House received a bill to transform into law of public order the nine points of the recommendation approved at the UN to regulate the so-called "vulture funds". This rule prevents the agreement with the holdouts and if the new President does it, he will have to repeal it with the necessary majorities in Congress. This week the Senate receives the "Promotion of Youth" bill, which will make into law the 60 programs for young people, with a half-yearly update of the amount, which today reaches 51 billion pesos and that includes the "Progresar" Plan with one million recipients. Also the Senate received last week the request for agreement so that the two new directors of the Central Bank be appointed until 2021. In addition, there's the autonomous administrative power structure that has been mounted: the AFSTIC - which manages telecommunications with a stand-alone Board until 2018 - rejected the purchase of Nextel by Clarin and the AFSCA - which also has a Board until the end of 2017 - refused to give Perfil group one of ten channels of digital television awarded to like-minded groups. The talks to fill the two vacancies on the Court has begun with the radicalism that would agree to designate them between the election and the end of the mandate.

4. The Government's foreign strategy deepens as the end of term gets closer. Cristina posted on Facebook photos with the Castro brothers, which she took last weekend, and on the occasion of the UN Assembly she only met with two Presidents: her Venezuelan and Chinese counterparts. The risk for the exchange-rate to get out of control makes the Government today be on alert about the extension of the swap with China -which has already been used in its entirety - to strengthen reserves. A currency crisis is an imponderable that may electorally favour the opposition. In Buenos Aires, Kicillof presided over a Congress on "New economic thinking in Latin America", where economists from several countries criticized developed countries. In her speeches at the UN, the Argentine President insisted on her criticism against "vulture funds", the Argentine claim for sovereignty in the Falklands and gender inequality, a topic that she has recently incorporated. Without having achieved a meeting with the Pope in Cuba, the attempt of an interview in the UN also failed. Differences with Francis would have deepened due to Cristina's support to the candidacy of Aníbal Fernández in the province of Buenos Aires. But the Pope would give an interview before she steps down from office, when it can no longer have a political effect.

5. To conclude:

a) Less than a month to go before the election, there's no doubt that Scioli is the leading minority and has over 10 points ahead of the second; however, with one vote less than 40%, the runoff will be held for sure.

b) In the opposition, some shifts from Macri towards Massa are taking place and shortening their difference by 2 or 3 points. In a runoff, Massa could win over Scioli but not Macri today.

c) Cristina is effective in Congress with the approval of relevant bills to cut freedom of action from her successor and project her influence beyond December 10.

d) She expands partnerships with Cuba, Venezuela and China, on which she increasingly depends for exchange rate stability, confirming some distancing with the Pope compared to prior months.

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