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Argentine Political Outlook (09-12-20) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Dic-09-20, by Rosendo Fraga

1.  On December 10, Alberto Fernández celebrates one year in power, as his relationship with the Vice President has been the central political problem. The issue has been power, and over the months it became clear that the "arbitrator president" that Fernández expected gave way to a Vice President with growing expressions of power. When the quarantine began on March 20, the President made it a priority to maintain the positive image that due to the pandemic was between 65 and 70 points. At the same time, Cristina Kirchner focused on ‘power building', a term that in Peronism implies placing militants in powerful positions and offices. This phase of his strategy ended on August 29, when for the first time since December 10, 2019, she appeared at the Government House to present the debt agreement. In that period, she was effective in accumulating power, while during the same period the President saw her positive image diminish. In the two months that elapsed from that date to October 26, she focused on imposing her agenda on the government. That is to say, that the President and his team assumed the issues of interest to Kirchnerism. Largely, this goal was achieved. The third stage begins on October 26, when Cristina's letter made public the expression of her power. From then on, her efforts focused on getting the issues on her agenda to advance and become the government's management. 

2.  Within this framework, the issues on the Kirchners agenda have advanced in recent weeks. The first is the influence on Justice. Out of the various actions implemented, the reform of the Attorney General's powers that grants him greater control over prosecutors and reduces the number of senators required to appoint him from 48 to 37, is the most relevant action, which has already achieved half approval in the Senate and will probably do so in the Lower House before the end of the year. The questioning of the Court to confirm the sentence against former Vice President Amado Boudou worsens the conflict. The President yielded positions in recent weeks regarding the objectives of the Vice President on this issue. Second is the control of the media. The regulation of rates for audiovisual services, the observatory to verify "false and hateful" news and the recent ruling by federal judge Martínez de Giorgi demanding a journalist from the newspaper La Nación to disclose his source in an information that affects the Vice President are actions in this direction. The third point is the policy against "the rich." There is no support in public opinion for illegal settlements and expropriations, but, on the other hand, there is consensus to increase taxes on large estates. The bill promoted by the president of the president of the Frente de Todos Lower House bloc, Máximo Kirchner, has already received approval from this House and will have it in the Senate before the end of the year. Fourth is the rupture of the dialogue between the Administration and the opposition and the offensive against the Buenos Aires Mayor to prevent it from becoming a competitive option by 2023. The law that reduces the co-participation for the City of Buenos Aires already has half approval of the Lower House and it will surely have it in Senators during December. Finally, the Vice President has taken responsibility for managing three international relations of a bilateral nature: China, Russia and Cuba. While the President opened the dialogue with Biden and Bolsonaro, the Vice President's position forced him not to question the result of the Venezuelan legislative election. 

3. In this context, in the first month of the second year of the Fernández presidency the Congress will be decisive in the parliamentary sphere. The extension of the ordinary sessions until January 3 and the calling of extraordinary sessions until February 28 shows the Government's intention to use Congress intensively during the next quarter. The final approval of the "tax on the rich", the reduction of the Buenos Aires co-participation and the reform of the powers of attorney, as said, will have final approval before the end of the month. It would also have the law that changes the coefficient for the pension increase in retirees, which the Executive had to make more flexible based on the requirements of the Vice President, "softening the tightening measures." The debt "sustainability" bill will also be approved. On the other hand, the bill to legalize abortion has a more complex situation. On December 10, the Lower House is slated to discuss and approve it, as happened in the Lower House two years ago. The President intends to also have this bill passed before December 31, but some senators are missing to achieve it. Only if the Vice President exerts her influence over them will the approval in the Upper House be possible, but until now Cristina has decided to stay out of the matter. Undecided legislators are also influenced by the active position assumed by Pope Francis on the matter. In the power game between the president and vice president, if Senators do not approve the bill, it would be evident that without the Vice President, the Government cannot move forward. Regarding the agreement with the IMF, the consensus required by the entity would force a law. Here again the position of the Senate would appear dependent on Cristina's decision. 

4. Added to this is the problem of the pandemic, which seems to translate into the political problem of vaccination, the image of the Government when it completes one year in power, and the increase in poverty and unemployment. The decline in the number of infected and deaths favors the Government, which wants to make vaccination an "epic" event, as the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero, says. But the situation about it is uncertain. Even the Minister of Health of the province of Buenos Aires stated "we have to see if the vaccine will be available before the end of the year." In the context of the confrontation with the Buenos Aires Mayor, the Ministry of Health has reported that the district with the highest number of deaths per million inhabitants is the City of Buenos Aires, which is right. The so-called social "crack" also reaches opinion polls. One published by the daily Perfil on December 6 shows that the approval of Alberto Fernández's job is 42% and disapproval stand at 53%. In this regard, since the beginning of April, the former fell 21 points and the latter increased 21. On the contrary, a poll published in Página/12 on December 7 shows the approval of the president at 55% and the disapproval at 42%. According to the Observatory of Social Debt of the Argentine Catholic University, poverty in the last quarter of the year accounts for 42.2% of the population and indigence, 14.2%. But social assistance (Plan Alimentar, IFE, extension of the AUH) prevented poverty from reaching 53.1%, while in the case of extreme poverty, it would reach 28.5% without the assistance.


5. To conclude: 

a.  After one year since the Fernandez-Fernandez ticket took office, the trend has shown an advance of the vice president towards power. 

b.  Cristina has managed to impose her agenda in the Judiciary, the media, the increase in the tax on wealth, avoid dialogue and eventual alliances with the opposition and in foreign policy, in the US-China option, approach the latter. 

c.   Congress in December will ratify its influence with the approval of key bills such as the reform of the general attorney, the tax on large assets, the change in the retirement adjustment coefficient and the reduction of the Buenos Aires co-participation, among others, but abortion seems not to be on the Vice President's agenda. 

d. The Government now in the pandemic is giving priority to vaccination, the surveys show a decrease in approval but with different percentages according to those that are near or far from it, and the measurement of poverty and extreme poverty of the UCA shows very high levels that would have been worse if government social assistance had not existed, but it will be difficult to maintain it in the future.

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