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Argentine Political Outlook (Oct-31-19) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Oct-31-19, by Rosendo Fraga

1. Alberto Fernández has clearly won in the first round with 48% of the votes and 8 points ahead of Mauricio Macri. This result is explained by two causes: the bad economic situation and the unity of Peronism, the main opposition party. Fernández has had a much greater victory than expected three months ago, but less than the expectation generated since the open primaries. In fact, the primaries worked as a sort of first-round and the first was in fact the second. The winning ticket won throughout the country, except in the City of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza, Corrientes, San Luis and Santa Fe (by one point). The lead obtained in the province of Buenos Aires was decisive for the national triumph, given that this district is almost 40% of the country in population and GDP. In the Congress, Cambiemos is left with more members than those obtained in 2015 and 2017. To reach the majority, Alberto Fernández will have to unify the different blocks of Peronist origin through an inter-block. In the Senate, he maintains the lead, provided he unifies the PJ through an inter-block. 

2. It is the tenth presidential election that Peronism wins in its history and confirms that this political part is "dominant" in Argentine politics. Between 1946 and 2019, the PJ has won 10 presidential elections and Radicalism 5, including that of Macri in 2015, given that it joined Cambiemos. This shows the survival of the PJ, which has ruled for half the time in which it has existed. It can be discussed whether it is a party, movement, doctrine, ideology or culture. But at this historical stage, it is a culture, which even reaches the still-in-power official coalition, as is the case of the candidate for Vice President (Pichetto). But for the first time in its history, Peronism in power will have a "two-headed" power: Alberto Fernández for one (President) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for another (Vice President). Something similar can happen within Cambiemos. The resounding victory in the first round of the city of Buenos Aires Mayor (Larreta) makes him an eventual leader of the opposition with projection to the presidential candidacy of 2023. It is possible that he will grow at the expense of Macri and Vidal. As for the Frente de Todos, articulated around Peronism, the celebration of victory showed Kirchnerism at the center of the scene, with a long speech by Kicillof and another by Cristina. They sought to show Alberto Fernández and ignored Massa. 

3. In the short term, the relationship between the President-elect (Fernández) and the outgoing president (Macri) will be key to lead a complex transition of 44 days until December 10. On Sunday night, President Macri congratulated the winner and invited him for breakfast together at the Government House. Fernández accepted and ratified his economic team for the transition: Todesca, Nielsen, Kulfas, Marcó del Pont and Mendiguren are heterogeneous in their direction. In this context, the Central Bank suspended the bank holiday that it had initially planned. It opted for a very specific measure: the $ 10,000 per month that individuals could buy, were reduced to only 200. It would be a consensus measure between them. But along with a very difficult economic situation, a tense social context appears. Already this week, the "hard" pickets who politically respond to the Workers' Left Front (FIT) will takes to the streets, although they got worse results than in the primaries. The crises in Ecuador and Chile in which two governments that applied "neoliberal" economic policies had to retreat in the face of large protests in the streets, repressed causing deaths and wounded, serves as a reference for the extreme left of this ideology. 

4. The Frente de Todos, with a clear but not overwhelming victory, has limits to its power, as the foreign policy marked its greatest ideological definitions. It will have no major problems to control the Senate, provided it maintains the support of the Peronist Governors, who will negotiate, closer to Alberto than Cristina, except for Kicillof. In the Lower House, the situation is somewhat more difficult, since they must unify in an inter-block and seek allies in the provincial parties. In the province of Buenos Aires, Kicillof must negotiate to obtain the approval of laws in the Senate. In foreign policy, the new government needs the support of the Trump Administration to negotiate the debt with the IMF and avoid default and also improve the relationship with Brazil regionally. But Maduro and López Obrador quickly congratulated Fernández, who along with Cristina backed Evo Morales, who with a challenged result, which the opposition accuses of fraud, resists pressure from the EU, the OAS, the UN, Trump, Bolsonaro and Duque among others, to accept the second round, claimed by the candidate who was second (Mesa) and who has his supporters protesting on the streets. On the night of the triumph, supporting the triumph of the Fernández-Fernández ticket were a former Socialist President of the Spanish government close to Maduro (Rodríguez Zapatero) and the "architect" of Lula's foreign policy (Amorim). This definition will be reinforced with the meeting of the "Puebla Group" in Buenos Aires, which will take place on November 8, composed of 30 center-left Latin American leaders from 10 countries in the region, which Alberto Fernández has been integrating for months. Despite this, Trump's Ambassador to the Argentine capital (Prado) congratulated the winner on his victory and expressed his willingness to work with the new Argentine government. 

5. To conclude: 

a) Alberto Fernandez has scored a clear victory in the first round with an 8-point lead, but not overwhelmingly as Kicillof did in the Buenos Aires province and Larreta in the city. 

b) This has been the 10th presidential election won by Peronism since it was founded in 1945, confirming it is the ‘dominant' party in Argentine politics since non-peronism has only won five times. 

c) In the short term, the relation between the president elect and Macri will be key in this difficult 44-day transition given the critical economic and social situation. 

d) Fernandez will find some limits to his power in the political system, and both he and Cristina have given signs of a center-left stand in the region.

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