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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Argentine Political Outlook (Jan-09-19)

Argentine Political Outlook (Jan-09-19) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Jan-09-19, by Rosendo Fraga
 

1. Even during the holidays, Macri has once again made evident his "permanent campaign" style, when the fall in the country-risk rate has been the best news in the year's first week. The photos and images have been the tool of this "permanent campaign". The President has been present in the media almost every day, although official activities have been reduced, just limited to meetings with the governors of Río Negro (Weretilneck) and Gutiérrez (Neuquén). But without photos, the Chief-of-Staff (Peña), was left in charge of the Executive branch in the Administration, taking decisions and calling Ministers to meet with him. This is not new, since at the beginning of last year, this role was discharged by the then Deputy Chief-of-Staff (Quintana). But this fact gains political significance, since some months ago, when on an agitated weekend a failed cabinet reshuffle took place, Peña lost his role as the second man in power, remaining in charge of the electoral campaign only. Now, he seconds Macri again in government administration. This was reinforced at the end of the year, with the appointment as Secretary of Energy of Mr. Lopetegui, who had been until that time one of his Cabinet secretaries. For the government, the economic key to win the election will be to keep the dollar stable rather than economic growth. And although the country-risk rate does not have the same impact on the public opinion, is the key variable for the economic future and is where Macri started the year with a significant drop, partly as a result of the positive effect of Bolsonaro in the markets. 

2.. Meanwhile, whether or not to advance the election in the province of Buenos Aires, is the most important political decision that the ruling party has to make in the coming weeks. The plan to anticipate the municipal elections, which had the support of Massa and other sectors of the PJ, seems to have been ruled out by Cambiemos for now. The discussion now is whether the provincial election should be held earlier or not, as 17 provinces will do between March and June, of which 9 already have a precise date. This is a risky move. The election date might be June, at the end of the provincial elections and before the closure of national alliances on June 12. The advantage would be that a victory in this decisive district would allow the ruling party to neutralize the adverse climate that the 17 provincial elections are likely to create, as 16 are governed by opposing parties. In addition, it may influence the outcome of the national open primaries scheduled for August 11, as they would be held two months earlier. But on the other hand, this decision, which will be made in March in agreement between Macri and Vidal, can be seen in the political arena as a sign that the Governor avoids to link herself to the presidential candidacy, thinking that such idea could affect her. Secondly, the expected economic recovery for June will not have taken place yet, or at least in terms of people's perceptions. Finally, no one today has a secured election victory and if it were lost, Macri's reelection chances would decrease significantly. 

3. But this move forces Kirchnerism and the anti-K PJ to consider this alternative by now, the start of 2019. The initiative, which entails calling off the provincial primaries, requires a provincial legislation with a qualified majority, which will involve negotiating with a sector of Peronism, as Vidal to get the borrowing authorization approved. The corresponding Legislature committees have already convened to discuss the matter. Most of the Buenos Aires PJ leaders do not favor anticipating the elections, but if that decision is made, the level of unity or division of the Peronist vote will be the political key to defining the outcome. The best candidate in the Peronist world is Cristina Kirchner, whose voting preferences are mostly in the suburbs, where unemployment and poverty surpass the national average. The 2017 election showed that if the Buenos Aires PJ had been united, it would have won the election, which Cristina lost by some points. But the response from Cambiemos is that back then the former President defeated Esteban Bullrich whereas now she will compete with Vidal. However, it is also true that the victory should now be reached amid tougher economic conditions. Cristina, on the other hand, works on lowering her rejection level, reducing her confrontational attitude. For its part, the anti-K PJ moves forward though not yet organized. Massa campaigns throughout the country; Urtubey focuses in the province of Buenos Aires and Lavagna takes subtle actions that keep him like a possible candidate. 

4. At the same time, the social protest begins in the early days of the year, with an increase in bills as the main cause. Social organizations linked to Kirchnerism launched a pot-banging protest in towns the last Friday of December, to protest against the hike in bills, organized from social media. On December 28, only eight corners of the City of Buenos Aires were the stage for protests. On January 4, they took place in fifteen corners, spreading to the City of Cordoba, Rosario, Mar del Plata and several points in the suburbs. Regardless of whether or not this protest escalates, the lower middle class, which is the social sector that will define the election, is the protagonist. Moyano and the two CTAs, representing militant unionism, have called for legal actions against the increase in bills and will launch protests in the streets, demanding that the CGT take direct action. The workers' confederation believes that the climate of social protest that did not burst out in December might do so in March. On the other hand, the Social Movements (pickets) will gather on January 15 at the CTEP venue to organize a fight plan, which will have the protest against the fare hike at the core. In a concrete conflict that took place at the end of the year involving the teachers of the Buenos Aires province against the shutdown of secondary schools, the City government was forced to take a step back. 

5. To conclude: 

a) Despite his holidays, Macri has kept on with his "permanent campaign" strategy, using his family pictures for that, while Peña has proven to be the second man in power once again. 

b) The decision to move the election forward (or not) in the province of Buenos Aires is the most relevant political theme at the start of the year, both for the ruling coalition as well as for the opposition, but will only be definitive in March. 

c) Cristina carries out her campaign in silence to lower her rejection level; some of her advocates do not rule out her candidacy for governor in case the election is anticipated, while the anti-K PJ moves on unorderly. 

d) In the early days of January, the social protest gets organized around the increase in bills and the CGT thinks the climate of social protest that did not break out in December, might be transferred to March.

 
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