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Argentine Political Outlook (Dec-29-15) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Dec-29-15 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. The 2015 political year has been centered on the presidential election with landmarks such as the open primaries (August), the first round (October) and the runoff election (November). In the first quarter of the year, opinion polls pointed to a triple tie among Macri, Scioli and Massa. It was not possible to make a firm projection of the outcome. In the second quarter, Massa started giving in some terrain and the election acquired two choices -Sciolo and Macri as the main alternatives. Almost half of the provinces held anticipated provincial elections. In some cases, provincial constitutions established it, in others, the provincial governments decided to hold elections for "tactical" reasons. The open primaries were a surprise with a Scioli reaching 39% versus Macri's 30%, and Massa resisting polarization with 20%. This allowed the former governor of Buenos Aires to confront the first round with winning chances, since he had obtained a 9-point edge, remaining only one point away from the 40% that marks the winner in first round as long as there's a 10-point lead over the second. Whoever gets 45% wins the election although there may be a one-point difference. In the first round, the surprise was that the 9-point difference of the primaries in favor of Scioli was reduced to only 3% over Macri, although Macri resisted polarization again, keeping his 20%. The victory expectations for the second round shifted to Macri's side, especially due to the triumph of his candidate (Vidal) in the BA province. The runoff election was won by only 2.69 points.

2. The other political highlight of the year was Cristina Kirchner's strategy to "retain power" and eventually return in 2019. In the second quarter of 2015 she said, "the next president had better govern well or I'll be forced to come back in 2019". She did an unprecedented full exercise of power until the early days of December. The year had started in a very unfavorable manner for the ruling coalition with the allegations and later death of Prosecutor Nisman in January. But in March, the government had managed to control the damage, taking control of both the case filed by the allegations of the former prosecutor as well as the case to investigate his death. In the second quarter, the president took the reins of the campaign, opting for Scioli as presidential candidate for having the highest vote intention, but appointing her unconditional figure (Zannini) for the vice presidency. Her electoral strategy had two setbacks: in June, the refusal of the Minister of Interior and Transportation (Randazzo) to run for the BA provincial government and in August, the allegations against her candidate for the province (Aníbal Fernández) filed one week before the open primaries, relating him to drug-trafficking. Cristina managed to appoint a considerable number of legal operators aligned to Kirchnerism, neutralize the cases affecting it, create independent agencies so that they would respond to her after Dec 10 and deploy a foreign policy focused on the alliance with China and Russia at global level and Venezuela, at regional level. In addition, the economy policy sought to transfer the problems to the new government, which was achieved.

3. Macri's electoral victory of Nov 22 has caused as many relevant events in the last weeks of the year as in the previous eleven months. The new president has had a positive balance dismantling the power structure that remained from Kirchnerism. He managed to take control of the Board of the Central Bank and took control of AFSCA (media) and AFTIC (telecommunications). Also, he was able to displace the officials who were in charge of AFI (former SIDE), UIF (money laundering), the public media, the National Film Institute (INCAA) and the National Securities Commission, among others. The head of AFIP (Echegaray) steps down as anticipated weeks before the election. In the Judiciary, several cases and lawsuits against Kirchnerism hastened as the Administration's pressure on the Judiciary cools off. But Macri was not able to remove the Attorney General (Gils Carbo), who has stability in office until she retires and is the backbone of the K power in the Judiciary. The government made a mistake trying to appoint two new members of the Supreme Court by decree, overlooking the parliamentary agreement, but had to take a step back in view of the coinciding opposition of its members and senators. In foreign policy, Macri criticized Venezuela at the Mercosur Presidential Summit, unleashing a pro-western shift in foreign policy. The successful removal of the dollar ban was a happy start in the economic policy.

4. In politics, Macri's pending task is to achieve a parliamentary coalition for governance. Although the line of succession in the Congress was secured with the election of PRO legislators in the Provisional President of the Senate (Pinedo) and the leader of the Lower House (Monzo), he has failed to yet articulate a permanent majority in the Lower House, or an agreement with the Governors to achieve the approval of their projects in the Senate. The FPV blocs are held together and the Senate bloc made public its opposition to the appointment of judges for the Court, and the Lower House bloc joined the first opposition mobilization of Kirchnerism against the same initiative. At the same time, the Governor of Buenos Aires from the PRO (Vidal), with great political effectiveness, reached an agreement with Massa to have simple majority in the two Houses of the provincial legislature and unlike Macri, called extraordinary sessions and submitted all of its most important bills. At the same time, he managed to split the FPV bloc of provincial senators in two, the mayors of this party in three and the lower house bloc could also be divided. It is possible to govern with a coalition cabinet but not without a parliamentary coalition when majority is not obtained as happens to the PRO.

5. To conclude:

a) The 2015 political year was centered on the presidential election, which had three landmarks: the open primaries (August), the first round (October) and the runoff (November).

b) The president was able to fully exercise power until December, managing to keep control of Congress and containing the Judiciary.

c) In the first weeks of government (December), Macri managed to effectively dismantle most of the K remnant power, making a mistake in trying to appoint Court members by decree.

d) In the political field, a parliamentary coalition should be created to gain governance, as was done by the Buenos Aires governor.

 
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