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Argentine Political Outlook (Ene-06-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Ene-06-20, by Rosendo Fraga

1. It will be a year without elections. Only in October 2021 will the mid-term parliamentary election take place. This allows the new government presided by Alberto Fernández to move forward in solving the country's problems, without the urgency of an electoral campaign, which in Argentina is increasingly longer, despite the legal provisions. It will be an economically difficult year. The IMF expects a fall in GDP close to 2% and annual inflation close to 40%. This implies that poverty, unemployment and inequality, - a triad that confirms the social situation, - will continue to worsen. This is how 2020 will be the third consecutive year of recession (2018, 2019 and 2020). All this takes place amid a stagnant economy of Cristina's second term (2011-2015) and another in decline in the Macri government that has just ended (2015-2019). Not only will 2020 be difficult in itself, but it is preceded by eight years of stagnation and setback, with negative social indicators. 

2. Then there is the political issue per se. The October election defined who will rule the country for the next four years: the Fernandez-Fernandez ticket. But it has not defined leaderships. We need to see how coexistence and cooperation will evolve amid a ‘two-headed' Peronism in power, with Alberto and Cristina representing the two faces of leadership. However, in Cambiemos, things are not so different as both Macri and Larreta seem to have chances of taking on the opposition leadership. In 2020 already, politics will see this struggle. But this should not prevent governance. Conflicts always exist in politics. But they can escalate, burst, get reduced or even get solved. The point is that amid this political and economic context, the new government must fix and solve one of the three most serious economic crises since democracy was restored in 1983. 

3. The idea to manage both the economic policy as well as the social crisis through a ‘Social Pact' is key to the new president. It is a political, economic and social plan at the same time. The political-institutional framework for this Pact would be the Economic-Social Council. An idea suggested by Roberto Lavagna, where he will play a role, as creator, advisor and even protagonist. This is not a new initiative but one that collects the experiences of Peronism from the past, and also has some roots in the European politics of the XX century. In an election-free year with serious economic woes, the role of institutional players will intensify. The Supreme Court is expected to be on better terms with Fernandez than it was with Macri, due to the fact that the Court was more of a source of conflicts and problems than an instrument of agreement and solutions for Macri and not due to the political background of its members. It will be the other way around with Alberto Fernandez. His political experience as Chief-of-Staff under Nestor Kirchner's administration allowed him to be part of the Parliamentary nomination and approval process of two out of five members and his experience under Kirchner also allowed him to negotiate with three of the current five members of the court. 

4. The relationship between the Executive branch and the governors will be another key issue. Surely, most PJ governors will be on better terms with the president than with the vice president. However, the governor of the province of Buenos Aires -Axel Kicillof- will be aligned to her. The district accounts for almost 40% of the population and the GDP of Argentina. Political conflicts and struggle over the distribution of public resources are certainly expected. From the Senate, the Vice President will surely support Kicillof's claims to the Administration. The Congress will have to pass laws and validate emergency decrees to contain and solve a crisis-hit economy, and for that, the president will have the powers granted by Congress. At the Senate, the new ruling coalition has a simple majority. It will not need to negotiate to pass laws but to reach the required two-third majority for the appointment of judges, ambassadors and promotion of military ranks. In the Lower House, the party ratio is more even. But it will not be that hard for the ruling coalition to reach the majority with the dissidents of Peronism and the legislators from provincial parties Beyond the stances on abortion, the Vatican and the local Episcopate are slated to keep on fostering dialogue, agreement, overcoming the ‘social crack' and reaching more social justice. The Administration will be listening to the bishops' suggestions. But the main challenge will be the foreign policy: good terms with the White House and better dialogue with Brazil while the governments of Cuba and Venezuela will keep on praising Kirchnerism. It all comes down to a dilemma, which is up to politics to solve in the end. 

5. To conclude: 

a) Year 2021 will be a year without elections, and this will allow the new president to prioritize the administration and pay the cost to fix the critical problems the government has inherited. 

b) The leaderships will be defined along the way: Alberto and Cristina in the ruling coalition and possibly Macri and Larreta on the opposition side, but the mid-term elections of 2021 will show concrete definitions. 

c) The idea of ‘Social Pact' will be key to the new President, seeking deals between the government, business people and trade unions -including social movements- in parallel with the economic policy. 

d) The relationship between the government and the power and pressure groups will be important, such as the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church, the media and the farming sector as the foreign policy is key.

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