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La candidatura presidencial de Sarmiento

A lo largo del libro, se percibe como en la candidatura presidencial de Sarmiento, confluyen por un lado el proceso, por otro lado la voluntad y acción del protagonista y también las circunstancias e imponderables que siempre juegan un rol en el devenir político.  



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Argentine Political Outlook (Dec-17-18) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Dec-19-18, by Rosendo Fraga

1. According to the Social Debt Observatory of the Argentine Catholic University (UCA) poverty has reached 33.6% of the population, with a year-on-year increase of almost 5 points. This is a blow to President Macri in political terms, because three years ago, he set "zero poverty" goal as one of the three priorities of his Administration. The evolution of the dollar and inflation during 2018 and particularly since the financial credibility crisis that was unleashed in April, are the explicit causes of the negative evolution in this indicator. But in electoral terms it is relevant that in the Buenos Aires suburbs, poverty is almost 7 points above the national average. One quarter of the electorate lives in this area and is where Cristina Kirchner has highest support. The social plans and food assistance that have been addressed in this area from the national and provincial governments, contribute to explain why there have been no events of social violence despite the deteriorated situation. It has also influenced the main political and social actors, as the churches (Catholics and Evangelicals), have acted to contain the protest and prevent violence. The fact that the opposition believes that it can win the elections next year, also explains this attitude. 

2. But the poverty report also shows that the lower middle class is the social sector most affected by the developing economic crisis. Approximately one third of the total population belongs to this sector. Much of it, today is below the poverty level, having undergone a process of "impoverishment". In the low-income sectors, the aforementioned social assistance has made indigence or extreme poverty increase just 0.4, almost the same figure as a year ago. This low middle class is the one that will define the outcome of the 2019 presidential election. This class gave the victory to Cambiemos in 2015 and 2017, when it stopped voting for Kirchnerism. But it is disappointed due to its economic deterioration and this is the sociological reason why today Cristina Kirchner is the main candidate of the opposition against Macri, who she would confront in the second round. A mayor of Cambiemos, who admits this situation, prepares an allowance for one of every five students of the parish schools. In recent years, this social segment has opted for this alternative in the face of the deteriorated public education but abandoning the lower scale - in terms of cost - of the private education is their main concern at the moment. 

3. The "angry" lower middle class is a global phenomenon in the Western world, underlying the most relevant political changes and conflicts. It is behind the British Brexit and Trump's triumph. Both were nourished by the discontent of this segment. But the same sector also emerges in the triumph of xenophobic populism and anti-politics in Italy and in the protest of the "yellow vests" in France. With patronage policies, the government does not earn votes in the lower-income sectors, but it does manage to prevent looting and land occupation as factors of lack of governance. The middle to mid-high segments will continue to vote for Cambiemos, although the economic recovery of 2019 will be delayed. For this reason, the impoverished lower middle class will be the stage for the electoral dispute. In addition, poverty among young people between the ages of 18 and 24 is more than 10 points above the national average. (In the under 17, it reaches 51% of the total). This explains that youngsters' votes are today more in favor of Kirchnerism than Cambiemos. At the same time, although the social security/pension reform has affected the income of retirees, those over 60 largely vote for the government. In electoral terms, the central idea of the ruling party will be to seek the "no return to the past" vote and that of Cristina Kirchner will be that "everyone lived better" when she was in power. But the polarization -which until now matches the strategies of Macri and Cristina- can be attenuated if it manages to create a "third space" around the anti-K PJ, if the latter finds a competitive candidate, or if alternatives arise to the right of Macri, that although few votes may be obtained, they may be subtracted from Cambiemos or if the "hard" left manages to increase its votes by some points to the detriment of Kirchnerism. 

4. But the political electoral process can also be affected by "imponderable" events that produce political effects beyond any possible estimation. The Judiciary, which shows signs of taking some distance from government at the end of the year - possibly because of political uncertainty - is one of them. The recent rulings of the Court have not coincided with the interests of the government, as well as some of the first instance rulings in federal courts. The causes of corruption entail an area in which this can materialize and it is likely that in the coming months, the "Notebooks" case will have new chapters and advance the delayed investigation into the Odebrecht case. Elisa Carrió may be another imponderable in Cambiemos, given her growing tension with the government and her increasingly overt references to the ruling party corruption. The political impact of the Argentine "Metoo" can also be an imponderable factor that generates unforeseen effects. Social tension emerging after the December calm is something that cannot be ruled out. However, imponderable events derived from the world and the region, will also affect a country for which the so-called "country risk" is perhaps the most relevant daily news to design the future expectations. 

5. To conclude: 

a)  The increase in poverty is a blow to Macri, who seeks to reverse the situation by lowering inflation by half next year and gaining gradual economic recovery by the end of the year. 

b)  The low middle class is the social sector that will define the election, because it's the one that has deteriorated the most in 2018 and the one that may vote for Cambiemos or Kirchnerism. 

c)  Youngsters seem to lean towards Kirchnerism whereas older people opt for Cambiemos, amid a context where a "third space" or the emergence of sideline expressions may attenuate polarization. 

d) But imponderable factors can alter the status quo, prompting unforeseen political and electoral situations, including worldwide and regional events.

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