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Argentine Political Outlook (Nov-16-15) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Nov-16-15 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. The presidential debate between the two candidates was an important step on the institutional front, but did not alter Macri's favorable electoral trend from the first round. The runoff of the presidential election which will take place on Sunday, November 22, is the first time such an election occurs. (It took place twice at the beginning of the 1970s and 6 times since the constitutional reform of 1994.) Also, it is the first time that a debate of this kind is carried out. The TV rating exceeded 50 points, something unprecedented. Although the two candidates avoided personal attacks, they were firm and incisive without eluding mutual criticism. The two candidates deepened their strategies without any changes. Macri insisted on his idea that he is the change and Scioli continued with his negative campaign that in case his opponent wins, he would launch a big devaluation and a spike in rates that will push real wages down. But this strategy prevents the pro-Government candidate from differentiating himself from Kirchnerism, which seems to be the condition required to win. To do so, he needs the vote of those who in the first round opted for candidates with strongly opposing positions. In the strategy of the Governor of Buenos Aires, a favorable outcome in the debate would be the opportunity to reverse the negative trend towards him and he does not seem to have succeeded in it. The surveys immediately after the debate showed that the majority of the public thinks that the candidate of Cambiemos won.

2. The last week of the campaign starts, as Macri is likely to stand as the victorious candidate. Out of the tens of surveys revealed after the first round, only one claims Scioli will be the winner and was performed by the National University of San Martín, which has publicly called its professors and students to vote for the FPV. The others claim Macri as the winner y differences range between 12 and 4 points. While polls have been limited instruments to anticipate results in the last elections, it is clear that the widespread perception even within the ruling party is that Macri will win. Scioli's negative campaign reporting that the purchasing power of workers will fall in a Cambiemos Administration may have some success in sectors of the low middle class. However, Scioli fails to overcome the political crisis affecting the ruling coalition. The unpopular Cabinet Chief, Aníbal Fernández, continues making statements that complicate the candidate; Hebe Bonafini has insulted judges, particularly the head of the Supreme Court; a philosopher who supports Kirchnerism (Feinman), said that the Governor-elect of Buenos Aires (Vidal) is more suitable for "trafficking in people" than for the post for which she was elected and a pro-Government actor (Roman) has said that a poor person voting for Macri, "is like a Jew voting for Hitler".

3. Less than a month to go before Kirchnerism steps down, it still seeks to retain power and anticipates a harsh opposition to the next Administration. The President has already convened Congress to session on November 25 and December 2, to continue approving ruling coalition bills to condition the future Government. In these sessions, she will seek to approve a final bill that creates a bicameral Commission to investigate the actions of employers during the military Government; also approve promotions in the Armed Forces, the Diplomatic Corps and more appointments of judges; the youth system which creates six new agencies, expected to be led by activists from La Campora; the special retirement scheme for scientists; the law of access to habitat and other bills. In addition, the President of the Lower House (Dominguez) ordered the General Audit of the Nation to put in functions before 10 December two new auditors appointed by the Congress and who are part of La Campora. The La Campora and Governors' struggle for the control of the legislative blocs, has already begun. But street protests have erupted, with Kirchnerism threatening to encourage them if the new Government confronts it. Not only the occupation of lands in Merlo continues, but it has spread across the districts and also in several areas of Greater Buenos Aires. In Tucumán, the mayor of Cambiemos that just took over in Concepción, had to go back on its decision to suspend 460 people hired, after being besieged by them for 16 hours at the Mayoralty; in Rosario, the 7 entrances to the city were blocked simultaneously by picket lines demanding an increase in subsidies.

4. From Cambiemos, actions are driven to neutralize the ruling party's strategy. It managed to make the court accuse the President of the Central Bank (Vanoli) in the case arising out of a complaint by congress members of Cambiemos for the handling of future dollars, which has fallen on judge Bonadío. This party also insists on asking for the resignation of the Prosecutor (Gils Carbó), who is key in the articulation of Kirchnerism to control the justice. It also urges the repeal of the criminal procedure code, which gives more power to prosecutors and in the province of Buenos Aires, it seems to have managed to avoid the designation of hundreds of judges, prosecutors and public defenders. In Congress, it intends to have the line of succession in the hands of the PRO, with a new Senator (Pinedo) - replacing Michetti, who would take over as Vice President- in the interim presidency and a congress member elect (Monzo) as the head of the Lower House. Both nominations are not only resisted by the FPV but also by Radicalism, which has more lawmakers than the PRO in both Houses. In the province of Buenos Aires, the FPV legislators - who will be first minority in both provincial Houses - have begun to coordinate with their mayors the stand to take against the discussion of the budget 2016, which will be dealt with after the December 10.

5. To conclude:

a) The debate between Macri and Scioli has been an institutional breakthrough but does not seem to have altered the electoral trend in favor of the former, which is evident from the first round.

b) While the candidate of the FPV's negative campaign may be successful among the lower middle class, its failure to align Kirchnerism prevents it from taking advantage of it.

c) For her part, the President still presses Congress to approve her bills until the last day, as conflicts on the street begin to condition the future Government of Macri.

d) From Cambiemos, actions have started to displace the Attorney General and the head of the Central Bank, but the appointment of Congress authorities will put the political power to the test.

 
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