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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Argentine Political Outlook (Feb-09-21)

Argentine Political Outlook (Feb-09-21) PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Feb-09-21, by Rosendo Fraga
 
 

1. The postponement of the open primaries is the center of political activity in February, although it is a minor or even irrelevant issue. Last year Chile held its constitutional referendum and Bolivia a presidential election while maintaining high levels of pandemic. This year, Ecuador has just held its presidential election, Peru will hold it in April, Chile in November and Nicaragua in December. Legislative elections will also be held in Mexico and El Salvador, as well as in Argentina. Although in this list of countries, all have reported had a high number of deaths and infections, in none was the election postponed, nor is it planned to be so, despite the difficulties with vaccination. Only Argentina appears like this with a bill to postpone electoral dates, arguing the pandemic and in particular the uncertainty regarding vaccination. The first idea was to suspend the primaries that requires two successive, one-time electoral acts. It was promoted by almost all of the governors and the President, but the opposition of Cristina and La Cámpora prevented this project from moving forward. Later, two radical congress members proposed to postpone the August primaries to September and thus shorten the time of the internal elections and the national election, which is the last Sunday in October. Faced with a new insistence by the governors to suspend the primaries, Máximo Kirchner, leader of La Cámpora, has proposed a complex alternative: hold the primary and the election on the same day, assigning the electoral result to the slate that obtains the highest number of votes within each party. In fact, it would work as a double simultaneous voting. The Constitution says that any modification of an electoral type requires the absolute majority of Congress (half plus one of the legislators), which would be necessary in any of these alternatives. The opposition is opposed to changing the electoral schedule, and its various sectors agree on this. 

2. The reason for this dispute is the political control of Greater Buenos Aires between La Cámpora and the mayors. The governors prefer to suspend the open primaries because in this way they reduce electoral risks when facing a first election in August and a second in October, based on the premise that as more time goes by, the better the electoral conditions will be for the ruling party. The political objective of La Cámpora is to use the primaries to contest the municipalities of traditional Peronism, gaining space with its own councilors in the mid-term election and finally obtaining a victory in the municipal elections of 2023. Without mandatory primaries, the electoral power of mayors is strengthened; otherwise, it weakens. For this reason, Máximo Kirchner's proposal to hold the primaries on the same day as the election aims to allow the growth of La Cámpora in 2021 as an intermediate step to obtain municipalities in 2023. This discussion - not resolved - motivated the "summit meeting" at the Government House on Thursday, February 4, in which the President of the Nation participated; the Minister of the Interior, Wado de Pedro; Maximo Kirchner; the Chief of Cabinet, Santiago Cafiero; and Sergio Massa. But the underlying problem in this power struggle is that the assumption of Máximo as president of Buenos Aires Peronism next March remains unsolved. In mid-December, the President, the Vice President, the Governor of Buenos Aires and the Speaker of the Lower House announced that the president of the Frente de Todos bloc, Máximo Kirchner, would assume as president of Buenos Aires Peronism. But for this, it is necessary to declare the party's lack of a leader, whose terms expire only in December 2021. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to resign two-thirds of the members and nearly 1,000 members of Congress. The reality is that the president of the party, the mayor of Esteban Echeverría district, Fernando Gray, maintains his refusal to resign, a position that has so far accompanied the entire provincial party structure. It is an unexpected limit for the ruling leadership. 

3. Meanwhile, Vice President Cristina Kirchner continues with her systematic "power-building strategy." The judicial field is a priority in this regard. In the first working week of Congress, consensus was reached for Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla, aligned with the ruling party, to occupy Federal Court No. 1 of La Plata with electoral jurisdiction throughout the province of Buenos Aires, where the aforementioned resistance to the arrival of La Cámpora to party power has emerged. Vacancies in the Federal Chamber are being filled with judges related to the ruling party. In the Council of the Magistracy, a Kirchnerist would take the presidency in the coming weeks, after some changes of position favorable to the ruling party of some of its members. The President accompanies this progress and on Sunday, February 7, said regarding the Supreme Court in a report that "today it is a court that is very poorly qualified socially" and regarding the judicial situation of Milagro Sala, he maintained that "it is a case of lawfare par excellence ", coinciding with the line of Kirchnerism. The offensive to displace the Attorney General of the Nation (Eduardo Casal) is accelerating and there are changes in the trial court that is expected to try him. The debate over Justice was sharpened when the trial of the public works in Santa Fe that involves the Vice President resumed this week. This idea of "power building" extends to the economic area. The Senate, in its first session of the year, established that the state authorities in charge of regulating competition require the agreement of this House, which implies greater control of Kirchnerism, which has a large majority in the Senate. In foreign relations, the Vice President wants to reach an agreement for three ambassadors where she places militants: China (Vaca Narvaja), Cuba (Ilarregui) and Bolivia (Basteiro), who will hold the position for a second term. In Russia, the new ambassador (Zuain) is already in office, and has played an important role in the efforts to acquire the Sputnik V vaccine. 

4. This week, the Government tries to implement a price and wage agreement to contain inflation, while the problems with vaccination continue and the police conflict may emerge. The increase in food inflation in January has put the government on alert in the election year. Between February 9 and 10, the CGT, the trade union movement led by Hugo Moyano and the different factions of the CTA will be received at the Government House. In principle, they will agree to participate in this agreement but will avoid committing to an increased percentage for the entire year, which the government intends to stand at 29%. As of February 11, business leaders will be summoned, starting with the Argentine Industrial Union. In this area, there is resistance to the agreement because the Government maintains that there are prices that are already rising above what is allowed. The intention of the President is to present the results of this agreement on February 24. As for vaccination, it is carried out in a disorderly manner and without anticipation - as happens in many parts of the world - in terms of the flow of vaccines. The truth is that vaccination as an "epic" has given rise to vaccination as an "electoral risk." A new salary protest is called for Feb 11 involving the 95 thousand members of the Buenos Aires police. They are summoned from an internet page ("Complaining Police") that has 50,000 visitors. Regardless of what happens that day, it is clear that it is the reappearance of an unsolved problem and that it is key for security and also for politics, as seen in September last year.

 

5. To conclude: 

a.    The postponement of the open primaries has become the central political issue at the beginning of February, although it is an instrumental issue when no country in the region alters its electoral schedule due to the pandemic. 

b.    The truly central issue is the political and territorial control of Greater Buenos Aires and the conflict between La Cámpora and the mayors for this reason, as a significant level of resistance to Máximo Kirchner has emerged. 

c.     For her part, the Vice President continues with her "power building" approach: advances in Justice, control of economic regulation and foreign relations. 

d.     The Government will launch a price and salary agreement to contain inflation in the electoral year, vaccination goes from an "epic" to "electoral risk" and the Buenos Aires police conflict is of uncertain evolution.

 
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