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Argentine Political Outlook (Nov-23-15) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Nov-23-15 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. Macri's victory in the presidential runoff election has a significant meaning beyond marking the end of the Kirchnerite term. It is the first time in a century that a presidential election has been won by a non-peronist, non-radical party, although the UCR was an ally of PRO, but did not play a leading electoral role (only 4% of votes in the open primaries). It's the first time that a center-right coalition has come to power since the 30s (back then it was Concordancia composed by Anti-personalist radicals, conservatives and social independents). It's the first time that a symbolically rich man has won the presidential election since Marcelo T. de Alvear in the 20s last century. It's the second time that an engineer has been elected, as the first one was Agustín P. Justo in the 30s. He is the first president graduated from a private college in the entire history of the country. It's the first time that a non-lawyer has been elected president since the 60s (Illia, elected in 1963, was a physician). He is the first president who comes to power from the sports sector (he reached popularity at the Boca Juniors soccer club). He's the first Argentine president elected in a runoff election, although this was the eighth time the system was used. All these meanings claim the victory for Macri amid prospects of change, which go beyond twelve and a half years of populist Kirchnerite rule.

2. Although a runoff election is won by one vote, the difference was 2.8 points to Macri's favor. Based on this outcome, he must now face a pressing challenge: create a ruling coalition. He is both, a weak and strong president in territorial terms. His party rules only two districts (city of Buenos Aires and province of Buenos Aires) and the Radical Party, its ally, three governs three districts (Mendoza, Jujuy and Corrientes). Although it's only five out of twenty-four, they account for more than half of the national electorate, and almost two thirds of the GDP. The main problem lies in Congress: his alliance (Cambiemos) only has 15 of the 72 national senators and only 91 out of 257 national congress members. In the province of Buenos Aires, this alliance has only 15 of the 46 provincial senators and 23 of the 92 provincial congress members. However, Macri has given signs of seeking consensus. At the debate, he stated that if he won he would call Sciolo on the following day to discuss with him and seek consensus. Last week, he said he would look for a "governance pact". Massa and Stolbizer -the candidates who were left outside the runoff- got together to agree on proposals on corruption to submit to him, and the former said he would support the new government. Macri's idea is to seek agreement with the main opposing parties after the style of Mexico three years ago by Peña Nieto with his two adversaries, which allowed for advancing in important reforms in Congress without a coalition cabinet. Prior surveys and exit polls anticipated Macri's victory by 10 points, which was not the case, showing a result below expectations though not limiting Macri's victory.

3. The creation of political consensus proves vital for him due to the urgent political agenda he will face in the near future beyond the current economic challenges. The appointment of the authorities of Congress and its commissions in the first week of December will evidence the president's capacity to move in this field. With a Senate where the opposition will have the majority, he will try to fill the provisional presidency of the Senate -the third in the presidential succession- with a man from his party. It is essential for him to create a majority in the Lower House and that a man of trust (Monzó) presides the House. Whoever is appointed for the Senate Agreement Commission, Impeachment and Budget Commissions and Finance Commission of the House as well as the Bicameral commission which endorses the necessity and urgency decrees, will show the level of control and influence the Executive will have in Congress. However, the power of the new Administration will be measured in how the battles unfold in removing the Central Bank president and the Attorney General of the Nation as well as the intelligence service (AFI). Dealing with "street" situations like 2,000 families occupying the lands in Merlo for the past three weeks, will be a challenge. In foreign policy, the Mercosur Summit of Presidents gathered in Asunción in December 21 will be the first foreign policy challenge, where he will see Maduro, who will surely find himself amid a political crisis after a possible defeat in the legislative elections of next December 6.

4. The Peronist Party starts a path of reconsideration, which will bring about a new leadership after the legislative election of 2017. In the short term, Cristina's power is put to the test this same week: she has called on the Senate for Wed 25 to approve the promotions of the Armed Forces and the Diplomatic Corp and the new appointments of judges, and for Thursday, 26, on the Lower House to approve the bill on coal production for her province, and other bills as well. As for the Judiciary, the weakness of Kirchnerism is already evident. In just one day, on Friday, 20, a judge in administrative matters reopened the case against Moreno and Kicillof for threats against Papel Prensa executives; a judge from the same court suspended the appointment of two La Campora auditors of the National General Audit Office, who had been appointed by the Lower House; a federal judge stopped the government's decision to hamper the purchase of Nextel by Clarin, and a judge suspended the government's order that forces insurance companies to divest their dollars. The call for the K militancy to launch a farewell celebration for Cristina in December 10, has now been questioned. Whether Massa, Urtubey or the president will be leaders of the PJ will be solved after the outcome of the legislative election if 2017.

5. To conclude:

a) Macri's victory in the presidential runoff election of Argentina has meanings that go beyond the end of a twelve and a half rule of Kirchnerism.

b) Forward-looking, he will have to make political consensus -whether a pact or coalition- to reach governance, as he does not have majority in either of the two Houses of Congress.

c) His political power is put to the test right away with the appointment of the authorities of Congress, his plan to change the head of the Central Bank and the Attorney General and the head of AFI.

d) The meetings of Congress this week will put to the test the power Cristina has, since it has weakened in the Judiciary, and the legislative election of 2017 will define the future leadership of the PJ.

 
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