Category Archives: Argentina
Midterm legislative elections were held in Argentina on October 27, 2013. Open, simultaneous and mandatory primaries (primarias abiertas, simultáneas y obligatorias, PASO) had previously been held on August 11, 2013.
One half (127) of the members of the Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados) and one third (24) of the members of the Senate (Senado) were up for reelection. Members of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, serve four year terms: those elected in 2013 will serve until 2017, while those elected in 2011, alongside the presidential election, will serve until 2015. Members of the Senate serve six years term and are renewed by thirds every two years.
The seats in the Chamber of Deputies are roughly apportioned based on each province’s population, although each province is entitled to a minimum of five seats. Although the lower house is supposed to reflect the distribution of the population between the various provinces, the aforementioned minimum of 5 deputies per provinces and a constitutional provision stating that the number of seats may only be increased has meant that there is pretty severe misapportionment. The smaller provinces are overrepresented, while the largest provinces tend to be underrepresented. For example, the province of Buenos Aires, which contains 39% of the Argentine population, elects only 27% of the members of the Chamber of Deputies.
The 23 provinces and the city of Buenos Aires serve as the 24 electoral districts in which deputies are elected, using the d’Hondt method of proportional representation with a 3% threshold. The lower house has exclusive powers to levy taxes, raise troops and to accuse public officials (President, Vice President, cabinet ministers, members of the Supreme Court) before the Senate.
In the Senate, each province and the city of Buenos Aires is represented by three senators. The party/coalition list which won the most votes in the province win two seats, while the last seat is given to the party/coalition list which placed second; at least one of the three seats must be held by a woman. Not all provincial senators are elected at the same time. In this election, only the provinces of Chaco, Entre Ríos, Neuquén, Río Negro, Salta, Santiago del Estero, Tierra del Fuego and the autonomous city of Buenos Aires elected senators.
The Senate has exclusive powers to ratify international treaties, approve changes to constitutional or federal criminal laws, confirm or impeach presidential nominees to the cabinet, the judiciary, the armed forces, and the diplomatic corps, initiate federal revenue sharing laws and authorize the President to decree a state of siege.
The open primaries (PASO) were created in 2009. These primaries are open and mandatory: all citizens eligible to vote must vote in the primaries and, later, in the general elections. Each political movement runs one or more lists in these primaries, and all movements which win over 1.5% of the valid votes are qualified for the general election. In some (admittedly limited) cases, a given party/coalition may have more than one list competing against one another in the primaries: in this case, voters who wish to support said party/coalition will choose between that party/coalition’s various competing lists; and the list which won the most votes is the only one qualified for the general election (provided the sum of all the party’s competing lists is superior to 1.5%). Some parties/coalitions which had ‘internal primaries’ of this kind apparently had pre-electoral agreements agreeing to combine names from the competing lists for the general elections.
The PASO were designed to democratize the electoral process by allowing voters a greater say in the electoral process (by choosing between various competing lists/candidates within one movement) and to limit the proliferation of parties in the general election. However, Argentina’s party system is not very conducive to competitive internal primary elections like those seen in the United States or some European countries: parties remain very much artificial, oftentimes personalist, shells and coalitions very much ephemeral and unstable. As such, only a few parties/coalitions standing the PASO had ‘internal’ primaries between competing lists.
The major change to the electoral process this year is the extension of the franchise to people aged 16 and over (previously 18). Voting is voluntary, however, for new voters aged between 16 and 18 (it is also voluntary for voters older than 70).
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – CFK – was reelected to a second term in office in October 2011 with 54% of the votes; one of the largest margins of victory for an Argentine President (only Hipólito Yrigoyen and Juan Perón won by larger margins). Since then, however, CFK has seen her popularity declined as the country’s economy hit roadblocks and her government ran into controversy. CFK’s populist, re-distributive and nationalist policies; as well as various moves to shore up her authority and centralize power in the executive branch have been the matter of much controversy and have polarized domestic and foreign public opinion.
When CFK was reelected in 2011, Argentina’s economy was performing very strongly, with annual growth of around 9% in 2010 and 2011. However, the country’s economy suffered a sharp slowdown in 2012, with the country’s economy (allegedly) growing by only 1.9%. The Argentine economy, however, seems to have recovered nicely now and growth is expected to pick up a bit in 2013 (+3.5%).
Subsidization of fuel imports, soaring public spending, steep interest rates on external credit and the Central Bank’s expansionary monetary policy have increased inflation. According to widely discounted government estimates, the consumer price index was up 10.5% on the previous year in September 2013. However, the government has been widely accused of manipulating inflation and other economic data to downplay rising prices (and to save billions in payments on index-linked debt), and independent private estimates peg inflation at 25%. The Secretary of Internal Trade, Guillermo Moreno, has been criticized for having intervening in the national statistics agency (INDEC) beginning in 2007 and manipulating inflation statistics. In September 2013, he was indicted for dereliction of duty and abuse of authority.
In February 2013, the IMF took the extraordinary step of sanctioning Argentina for misleading reporting of statistics and gave Buenos Aires until the end of last month to take ‘remedial measures’. The government has announced that it is developing a new CPI, but it is unclear when it will be rolled out or if it will be any more trustworthy than the government’s current doctored numbers.
In 2012, as part of a program of fiscal austerity, the government imposed foreign exchange controls, tightened import and export rules and introduced financial restrictions on travel to prevent capital flight. For example, those wishing to buy dollars to travel abroad must explain where, when and why they are travelling to the revenue agency (AFIP). These limits on the purchase of US currency have not discouraged Argentines to travel abroad or acquire foreign currency (they may still get US dollars by withdrawing cash from their credit accounts at the official rate, although the government recently increased the tax on credit card purchases made abroad to 20%) but it has created a thriving black market which offers US dollars at nearly double the official exchange rate. These measures successfully reduced capital flight $21.5 billion in 2011 to $3.4 billion in 2012, while profits and dividends sent abroad have also been slashed significantly. However, the measures have reduced consumer and investor confidence, annoyed importers and angered middle-class consumers facing scarce or overpriced foreign goods. Furthermore, with high inflation, many Argentines are seeking to convert their savings into US dollars.
CFK’s economic and fiscal policies since taking office in 2007, following in the footsteps of her predecessor and late husband Néstor Kirchner, have largely been aimed – ostensibly – at redistributing wealth and reducing poverty. These policies have clearly been successful as far as reducing the poverty rate in the country, which peaked following the 1998-2002 economic and social crisis in Argentina. It is hard to say by how much the poverty rate has dropped; the INDEC, in late 2012, placed the poverty rate at 5.2% but private estimates in 2010, reported by the CIA World Factbook, place it much higher at 30%. Once again, the official statistics have been a matter of debate: last year, the INDEC’s announcement that it considered 6 pesos ($1.3) per person per day to be sufficient for an entire day’s food was widely derided by Argentines. But at any rate, poverty has fallen dramatically since the Kirchners took office in 2003.
CFK created, in 2009, the Asignación Universal por Hijo (AUH), a conditional grant given to each child under 18 (or any child with disabilities) whose parents are unemployed or are employed in the informal economy, conditional to school attendance and keeping up to date with vaccinations. It was expanded to pregnant women in 2011. The allowance is now 460 pesos per month, or US$88.
CFK has been criticized by some foreign investors and proponents of liberal economics for her penchant towards economic nationalism. In April 2012, the government announced that it would renationalize YPF, an oil and gas company privatized by President Carlos Menem in 1993 and sold to Spanish oil and gas company Repsol in 1999. Repsol YPF in 2012 operated about half of the nation’s refinery capacity, accounted for 57% of the national market share in gasoline and other motor fuels and its share of oil and gas production was 34% and 23% respectively. CFK accused Repsol of not investing enough in oil exploration; Repsol blamed the decline in exploration and production on the government’s export controls and local price controls on oil and gas. The government’s move was strongly criticized by Repsol and the Spanish government, and Repsol is still demanding US$10.5 billion for its stake in YPF.
Some accused CFK of backtracking from “economic sovereignty” when, in May 2013, YPF announced a deal with Chevron for a joint exploratory venture in the new unconventional oil field of Vaca Muerta in Neuquén Province. CFK announced a tailor-made deal which allows energy companies which invest $1 billion to sell 20% of their production abroad without paying export taxes or being forced to repatriate profits (after five years).
Energy remains a headache for the government; since 2011, Argentina is a net importer of energy, badly eroding the country’s foreign currency reserves.
The government faced large anti-kirchnerista protests in 2012, with large protest marches in major cities across Argentina on November 8 (8N) 2012.
One of the most marking episodes of her second term has been the conflict between kirchnerismo and the Grupo Clarín, the largest media conglomerate in Argentina which owns the most popular daily newspaper in the country (Clarín), cable TV operator Cablevisión and several free-to-air and cable TV stations. The Grupo Clarín, unlike the other main private newspaper La Nación, had generally been neutral or favourable to the government under Néstor Kirchner’s presidency. However, it grew critical of Kirchner in 2007 and sided with the opposition against CFK in the 2008 agricultural crisis.
The government responded by passing an anti-trust law (Ley de Servicios de Comunicación Audiovisual) in October 2009. The law limits the number of television and radio licences any one company can own, mandates that all licences be apportioned equally between the public, private and non-governmental outlets, and that no company can own both free-to-air television or radio channels and cable ones. Companies may hold no more than 24 cable television licenses and 10 free-to-air radio and television licenses. The government claims that the Grupo Clarín has more than 240 cable licenses, while the group says it has only 158.
The Grupo Clarín appealed the law in courts, and won a three-year injunction which expired on December 7, 2012 as per a Supreme Court ruling in May 2012; an injunction which blocked application of an article which allowed for divestment of licenses. The Supreme Court upheld the December 7 limit in November 2012, but a lower court ruling on December 6 extended the injunction until a court issued a definite ruling on the constitutionality of the law. The government said that the judge who issued that ruling was under investigation for gifts and bribery, including a trip to Miami paid for by a company owned by Clarín.
In December 2012, a federal court ruled the law to be constitutional, but an appeals court ruled in April 2013 that it was unconstitutional. Finally, on October 29, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled the law to be constitutional and order the immediate and effective application of all articles of the law.
The law has polarized public opinion. The government and its supporters, some of the more left-wing opposition groups as well as human rights groups have argued that the law intends to democratize the media, increase media pluralism and break monopolies held by powerful economic interests. The slogan Clarín miente (‘Clarín lies’) has become a popular rallying cry for the government’s supporters. The Grupo Clarín, free speech advocates and other parts of the opposition consider the law to be an attempt to stifle dissent and freedom of expression. The Grupo Clarín considers that the law is biased against them; others worry that the government is trying to limit critical media and place the media in their hands.
In April 2013, the government announced a major judicial reform which it presented as a democratization of the Argentine judicial system. Two aspects of the law were particularly controversial: one would limit the use of injunctions against the state (with some exceptions) to a maximum time limit of 6 months; the other creating direct partisan elections for 12 of the 19 members of the Council of Magistrates (Consejo de la Magistratura), the body which nominates judges and supervises the administration of justice. The law was passed by Congress in April 2013, but in June 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that several articles – including the more controversial ones – were unconstitutional.
There are persistent rumours that CFK wishes to amend the constitution to allow her to run for a third term in office. Such a reform will be hard to pass, given that it would require a two-thirds majority. However, the idea lingers over everybody’s heads and both the government and the opposition have made use of that idea.
CFK’s government has irked the United Kingdom by reasserting Argentina’s claims to the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), after the British started offshore oil exploration. Buenos Aires barred British vessels from using Argentine ports. Argentina’s position – attempting to acquire the islands through peaceful diplomatic means – is backed by the MERCOSUR, UNASUR, ALBA, the African Union, Russia and China. In March 2013, voters on the Falkland Islands quasi-unanimously (1,513 vs. 3) confirmed their desire to remain an Overseas Territory of the UK. Given that Argentina has little hope of success, many have seen CFK’s reassertion of Argentina’s claim to the contested islands as little more than nationalistic saber-rattling.
CFK has also been hurt by concerns over declining public services, the poor state of infrastructure (highlighted by a 2012 rail disaster in Buenos Aires) and rising criminality. Corruption remains a major challenge to the government (and the opposition). Vice President Amado Boudou, once seen as a potential successor to CFK, has been hurt by a influence peddling scandal in 2012.
Days before the election, CFK was forced to put aside her official duties as she recovers from a cerebral hematoma. She will rest for 30-45 days, and her embattled Vice President will be in charge.
Argentine politics can be extremely confusing for outsiders (and even insiders!). The party system in Argentina is certainly far less stable and clear-cut than in other countries. Things are further complicated by the division of the dominant ‘Peronist’ camp (Peronism has long been devoid of actual substance, and can now mean just about anything – both the Kirchners and the right-leaning Carlos Menem, for example, were/are Peronists) and the Peronist Justicialist Party (Partido Justicialista, PJ); the large numbers of political parties; the changing and unstable electoral alliances; the differing electoral alliances and party alignments from province to province; the importance of provincial parties (especially in the smaller provinces) and various other uniquely Argentine oddities.
Ideology is not dead in Argentine politics, but traditional Western ideologies have had little place in post-1946 Argentine politics (the emergence of Peronism, that uniquely Argentine ideology which confounds all definitions) and politics, especially since Carlos Menem’s presidency (1989-1999) and the 1998-2003 economic crisis, have become even less driven by ideology and more by personality (and personal squabbles amongst the elites). For example, kirchnerismo is more or less accurately described as left-wing and placed into a broader Latin American context, but kircherismo does not unite the entire Argentine left: a significant portion of the left, both of the ‘Old Left’ social democratic tendency and the ‘New Left’ ecosocialist/post-materialist left variety, are strong opponents of kirchnerismo (which in turn is allied with some more conservative leaders…).
The Frente para la Victoria (FPV) is an electoral alliance composed of small parties and various factions of the Peronist PJ; in short, the FPV is the kirchnerista party (it is also referred to as oficialismo; the governing party). Kirchnerismo is often identified as left-wing Peronism and kirchnerismo is associated with themes such as advocacy for human rights issues (persecuting those responsible for the crimes of the Dirty War), opposition to neoliberalism, support for MERCOSUR and South American unity, opposition to free trade (FTAA), progressive attitudes on societal issues (same-sex marriage, abortion) and nationalism. The Economist called CFK a Chavista-lite while others generally consider Argentina to be equidistant between more ‘radical’ socialist/leftist South American leaders like Chávez/Madura, Correa and Morales and ‘moderate’ centre-left leaders such as Bachelet or Lula/Dilma.
However, even if the national direction of kirchnerismo in federal government is populistic and leftist, at the provincial level things are less clear-cut. FPV governors, often known as the local ‘barons’ of kircherismo, tend to be more conservative and pragmatic. A number of left-wingers and progressives disliked kirchnerismo, which remains closely associated with paternalist, clientelist and opportunistic Peronism. Some criticize the FPV’s anti-poverty policies, for example, arguing that they are clientelistic programs designed to keep reliably Peronist voters in poverty rather than actually relieving poverty.
Néstor Kirchner was able to deal deftly with Peronist governors. However, CFK has appeared to be a brasher leader, whose personality and behaviour have alienated many Peronists and former allies. For example, Hugo Moyano, the powerful leader of the major trade union in Argentina (the CGT) has turned against CFK, accusing her of acting like a “goddess”. She also sidelined a number of her husband’s allies and has difficult, cool relations with some FPV governors, notably Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires since 2007 and national leader of the PJ.
Instead, CFK has become more reliant on a group of left-wing Peronist young activists, La Cámpora, a movement led by her son Máximo. La Cámpora, which gained prominence just around the time of CFK’s original victory in 2007, has grown in power and influence under CFK’s presidency. Mariano Recalde, a secretary-general of La Cámpora, is the CEO of Aerolíneas Argentinas, the state-owned airline. CFK has also actively encouraged the promotion of La Cámpora members on the FPV’s electoral lists, and it is no secret that she likely has a greater political role planned for her son, Máximo Kirchner, in the upcoming years.
Critics of kirchnerismo consider La Cámpora to be a disateful group of obnoxious hooligans. They consider the broader movement to have become arrogant, autocratic and intolerant in recent years, and often regard kirchnerismo as a personality cult worshipping the late Néstor Kirchner (died in 2010) and CFK, similar to the broader Peronist worship of Juan and Evita Perón.
The anti-kirchnerista opposition is hopelessly divided, something which has been a great boon to the Kirchners – no matter how unpopular they might become, they can always count on the opposition being divided and lacking a strong leader.
More on the right and within the broader Peronist/Justicialist family, dissident or federal Peronism (Peronismo Federal) is made up of more conservative and right-leaning Peronists who oppose kirchnerismo and oficialismo. The Peronist family has always been fractious and prone to nasty divisions, but it became even more hopelessly divided during the Argentine economic crisis in 2001/2002, culminating in the 2003 presidential election, where the PJ fielded three presidential candidates: Néstor Kirchner (backed by incumbent President Eduardo Duhalde), former President Carlos Menem (known for his neoliberal economic reforms while in office) and San Luís Governor Alberto Rodríguez Sáa.
It has always been unclear where dissident/Federal Peronism ends and where kirchnerismo begins: a number of politicians, Argentine politicians being notorious flip-floppers and opportunists, have shifted allegiances from one side to another – often depending on which way the wind is blowing. Eduardo Duhalde broke with Kirchner in around 2005, and ran against CFK in the 2011 election. Other PJ leaders or governors have also drifted in and out of kirchnerismo, swelling the ranks of federal Peronism in tough times for kirchnerismo. Federal Peronism itself is divided: Eduardo Duhalde and Alberto Rodríguez Sáa, two figures of federal Peronism, both ran in the 2011 presidential election.
Federal Peronism’s alliances have also varied from election to election and from province to province. In the 2009 midterm elections, in the province of Buenos Aires, Colombian-born businessman Francisco de Narváez – a dissident Peronist and leader of his own party (Unión Celeste y Blanco)- allied with Mauricio Macri, the chief of government of the city of Buenos Aires; forming an alliance between dissident Peronism and Macri’s liberal-conservative Propuesta Republicana (PRO). In 2011, however, de Narváez allied with Ricardo Alfonsín’s centrist Radical Civic Union (UCR) to run (unsuccessfully) for governor of Buenos Aires (in his 2007 gubernatorial run, he was allied with Macri’s PRO).
Mauricio Macri’s PRO, founded as a coalition in 2005, is the most vocal defender of economic liberalism and liberal conservatism in Argentina. It is, however, fairly marginal party. The party’s base remains the city of Buenos Aires, where Mauricio Macri has been chief of the government (jefe del gobierno) since 2007. The party also has some support in the province of Sante Fe, thanks to Miguel Torres del Sel, a former comedian who won 36.1% in the 2011 gubernatorial election (placing a close second).
The non-Peronist opposition is hardly more united. Historially, the Radical Civic Union (Unión Cívica Radical, UCR) has tended to be the main opposition to the PJ, since 1946. The UCR is Argentina’s oldest political party, and one of the few parties which has managed to be more than an empty personalist machine. Founded in 1891, the UCR was the vehicle of Argentina’s urban middle-class, which was excluded from power by the conservative landowning elites until 1916. Following the advent of universal suffrage in 1912, the UCR governed Argentina several times (1916-1930, 1958-1962, 1963-1966, 1983-1989, 1999-2001) with some success, but the UCR has long been dogged by internal squabbles or unfavourable external circumstances (the collapse of the economy and hyperinflation under Raúl Alfonsín in the 1980s, the economic crisis at the turn of this century).
Since 2001, the UCR is a fairly pathetic shadow of its former self, divided and badly lacking strong leadership. Its presidential candidate in 2003 won only 2.3% and it did not run one of its own in 2007 (it supported Roberto Lavagna). At the provincial level, a large number of Radical governors were radicales K, pro-Kirchner Radicals: Mendoza Governor Julio Cobos was CFK’s running-mate in the 2007 presidential election. The era of radicales K ended with the 2008 agricultural crisis, when Vice President Cobos famously broke with CFK. Since then, the UCR has been slightly stronger and less internally divided, although still rather weak. Many saw Ricardo Alfonsín, the son of late President Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989), as the UCR’s great hope in 2011, but he ran a poor campaign and tacked too much towards the right for some Radicals’ tastes. Alfonsín won only 11.1% of the vote.
Alfonsín’s 2011 alliance with the right (de Narváez) has been broken since, and a number of major UCR branches in the provinces have allied with centre-left forces in this election. However, a lot of people on the centre-left or on the left distrustful of the UCR and the ‘old politics’ it symbolizes (bad memories of the disastrous presidency of Fernando de la Rúa between 1999 and 2001, old Radical ‘barons’ in the provinces) and the UCR’s willingness to ally with the right, PRO included, at a local level.
The Progressive, Civic and Social Front (Frente Progresista, Cívico y Social, FPCyS) denotes a centre-left alliance between the UCR and centre-left parties, notably including the Socialist Party (PS) in a number of provinces. A Radical-Socialist alliance, known as FPCyS, has governed the province of Santa Fe since 2007 (led by the PS) and similar alliances have been formed in other provinces, including Buenos Aires and the city of Buenos Aires (although it is known as UNEN).
The Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS) is another party with a long history, having been founded in 1896. The PS, which was quite successful at organizing working-class voters and became a major player in trade unions, saw its long years of hard work and efforts frustrated by Juan Perón, who coopted the working-classes and transformed Argentina’s main trade union confederation (the CGT) into a corporatist union close to the Peronist movement. As such, the PS has always had a poor relation with Peronism. In 1946, the PS and the communists allied with the right and the Radicals in an anti-Peronist front backed by the US and in 1955, numerous Socialists welcomed the military coup which overthrew Perón. After Perón’s first election, the PS never regained its former strength, wracked by numerous internal divisions (some sectors attracted to revolutionary/left-wing Peronism, others to Trotskyism).
Since the restoration of democracy, the PS has slowly gained ground. The Socialists have governed the city of Rosario, the largest city in the province of Santa Fe, since 1989. Hermes Binner, a doctor and former PS mayor of Rosario (1995-2003), was elected governor of Santa Fe in 2007, in an alliance with the Radicals.
In 2011, Binner formed the Broad Progressive Front (Frente Amplio Progresista, FAP), a left-wing progressive coalition with smaller leftist parties. As the FAP’s candidate, Binner did fairly well in the 2011 presidential election, placing a distant second in the general election with 16.8%. The FAP attracted a largely urban and middle-class electorate, voters who are traditionally opposed to Peronism but supportive of ‘modern’ progressive and social democratic politics. The FAP’s 2011 platform emphasized morally/socially liberal positions combined with more social democratic and leftist position on economic issues, not all that different to kirchnerismo. The FAP did not really participate as such in this election, the coalition being divided by those who seek a more centrist alliance with the UCR and those who want left-wing alliances.
The Movimiento Libres del Sur, a leftist alliance, is a component of the FAP whose most famous member is federal deputy Victoria Donda. The movement opposes neoliberalism and criticizes kirchnerismo from a more left-wing and progressive angle (corruption, mismanagement, human rights, inequality), and also places a large emphasis on human rights issues. Victoria Donda, a former FPV supporter, was herself born in captivity to two desaparecidos and usually focuses on human rights issues.
The Generación para un Encuentro Nacional (Partido GEN) is another component of the FAP, based out of the province of Buenos Aires and led by Margarita Stolbizer, a former UCR member and lawyer active on human rights and women’s rights issues. Stolbizer left the UCR and founded GEN in 2007, opposing the UCR’s decision to endorse the ex-kirchnerista Roberto Lavagna (she supported Elisa Carrió).
Outside the FAP is the Movimiento Proyecto Sur (PSur), a leftist party led by filmmaker Pino Solanas. PSur was founded in 2007 and is a left-nationalist party, similar in ideology to chavismo (Pino Solanas praised Hugo Chávez several times in the past). PSur supports the nationalization of all natural and mineral resources (including oil) and an investigation of the country’s foreign debt (what is ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’). Pino Solanas’ PSur, which is relevant only in the city of Buenos Aires, won 24.2% (second place) in the city in the 2009 midterm elections. In 2011, PSur refused to join the FAP. PSur is similar to Martín Sabbatella’s Nuevo Encuentro (a small party in Buenos Aires province now allied with the FPV) and some sectors of the FPV; however, like the Libres del Sul, Solanas is extremely critical (from a leftist standpoint) of kircherismo, particularly on issues such as corruption or human rights.
Civic Coalition for the Affirmation of an Egalitarian Republic (Coalición Cívica para la Afirmación de una República Igualitaria, CC-ARI) is a vaguely centre-left and social liberal party of varying strength. The CC-ARI finds its roots in the Argentinos por una República de Iguales (founded 2000/2001), a group of centre-left dissidents from the ruling Alianza who opposed President Fernando de la Rúa’s right-wing economic policies. The ARI participated in the 2001 legislative elections and was founded as a party, led by UCR dissident Elisa Carrió, in 2002. Carrió, very active on corruption issues (she gained notoriety by investigation corruption in the privatizations under Menem’s administration), ran for President for the first time in 2003, winning 14.1% – placing fifth in a hotly contested race. In 2006, Carrió formed a broader coalition with smaller parties (including GEN), styled Coalición Cívica. Carrió’s aim of forming a big tent anti-K coalition (including, potentially, the PRO, Radicals and dissident Peronists) annoyed several leftist members of ARI and was criticized by some parts of the PS. Carrió’s personal social conservatism (pro-life, anti-gay marriage) and her alliance with personalities reputed to be more right-leaning (Alfonso Prat Gay, María Eugenia Estenssoro) was also criticized by some on the left. Right after the 2007 election, a group of left-leaning ARI deputies left the party to form their own group, criticizing what they perceived as a right-wing shift in the CC/ARI.
Carrió’s CC (allied with the PS) nevertheless emerged as the main opposition to kirchernismo in 2007, when she placed second (23%) behind CFK in that year’s presidential election. In the 2009 election, Carrió successfully formed an electoral alliance with the Radicals and the PS, known as the Acuerdo Cívico y Social (ACyS). The ACyS won the most votes nationally and became the strongest anti-K opposition force in Congress. However, as always in Argentine politics, alliances are short-lived. All three main components of the ACyS went their own ways in 2011: Carrió embarked on an ill-advised trainwreck of a presidential campaign (she placed last in the general election with 1.8% and the CC-ARI was decimated in Congress), the UCR tacked to the right with Ricardo Alfonsín’s equally disastrous campaign and the PS tacked to the left with the FAP.
CC-ARI’s ideological direction is rather vague; combining bits and pieces of social democracy (Carrió has been a vocal advocate of a universal basic income grant to all children under 18), anti-corruption moralism, all-encompassing anti-kircherismo and centrism. Carrió’s opposition to abortion (which is strictly regulated and illegal under most circumstances) and same-sex marriage (most of CC-ARI voted in favour, though) has been criticized, as was her support for the rural sectors in the 2008 agricultural crisis and her vague position on the government’s re-nationalization of Aerolíneas Argentinas and pension funds.
The 2009 electoral reforms, the PASO and the 1.5% threshold to qualify for general elections has catalyzed Argentina’s weak and fractious (of course) far-left Trotskyist groupings to unite, which they did in 2011 as the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT). The FIT is an alliance of three parties, the largest and oldest of which is Jorge Altamira’s Workers’ Party (Partido Obrero). In 2011, Altamira, as the FIT’s presidential candidate, won 2.3% of the vote in the general election (doing better, you will notice, than Elisa Carrió!).
Local media coverage of Argentine midterm elections usually focuses heavily on the largest provinces, particularly the largest of them all: the province of Buenos Aires (not to be confused with the separate autonomous city of Buenos City/CABA), with a population of 15.6 million (9.9 million in the 24 suburban municipalities in the Gran Buenos Aires), or about 39% of the entire country’s electorate. The race in the province of Buenos Aires attracts, by far, the most attention by the domestic and foreign media (indeed, the foreign media’s coverage of Argentine midterms just pretends the rest of the country doesn’t exist!) but also by the politicians themselves. After all, Buenos Aires is often key to winning presidential elections, so politicians and coalitions tend to be particularly concerned by their performance in the province.
In the 2009 midterm elections, for example, Buenos Aires (BsAs) drew all the coverage because it featured a hotly contested battle between a dissident Peronist-PRO alliance (Unión-PRO) list led by Francisco de Narváez and a FPV list led by former President Néstor Kirchner and Daniel Scioli. De Narváez’s list won, with 34.7% against the FPV’s 32.2%, and the dominant narrative became that the Kirchners had suffered a huge defeat. Which was, to an extent, true and replicated in other major provinces. In 2005, a senatorial contest in the province between a FPV list led by CFK (then the First Lady) and a dissident PJ list led by Hilda Duhalde (Eduardo Duhalde’s wife) marked the break between Duhalde and Kirchner, his erstwhile ally (CFK won 45.8% to 20.4%).
It is no different this year. The new icon of dissident Peronism this year is Sergio Massa, the young (41) mayor of the suburban town of Tigre and CFK’s former Chief of Cabinet (2008-2009). Massa’s political career highlights the contradictions inherent to contemporary Peronism and its general carelessness towards coherent ideology: Massa began his political career in Álvaro Alsogaray’s right-wing UCeDé in the 1980s, before becoming an enthusiastic supporter of Peronist President Carlos Menem’s policies (menemismo) in the 1990s. After 2003, Massa became a kirchnerista (elected as a federal deputy on FPV lists in 2005 and 2009). Between 2002 and 2007, he served as head of the National Social Security Administration (ANSES). The same year that he featured on Kirchner’s FPV list in BsAs, however, he resigned as Chief of Cabinet and broke with the Kirchners. According to a 2010 U.S. Embassy WikiLeaks cable, Massa described Néstor Kirchner as “perverse” and “a psychopath,” “a monster,” and “a coward” whose bullying approach to politics masks a deep sense of insecurity and inferiority (the cable also mentioned Massa’s presidential ambitions).
In June 2013, Massa founded the Frente Renovador (FR), a big-tent anti-kirchernista/dissident Peronist movement. Massa has recruited his candidates and supporters from a wide variety of angles. The base of the FR is formed by a ‘G8’ of eight (including Massa) anti-kirchnerista Peronist/FPV mayors from BsAs province (mostly in the conurbano bonaerense); seven of whom (including Massa) were reelected under the FPV label in 2011. The Peronist mayors of the working-class and low-income municipalities (partidos) of the conurbano bonaerense, widely known as the barones del conurbano, are powerful and influential powerbrokers and local bosses, at the head of large (and electorally important) clientelistic networks. They are key to all Peronists, anti-K or pro-K, which aim to win in BsAs.
Sergio Massa’s FR list was seconded by Darío Giustozzi, the FPV mayor of Almirante Brown (a poor industrial suburb, which voted 64% for CFK in 2011). His other candidates included Clarín journalist Mirta Tundis (3rd), the former Peronist governor of BsAs province Felipe Solá (broke with Kirchner in 2008, 4th), the former president of the Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) José Ignacio de Mendiguren (5th), incumbent PRO deputy Soledad Martinez (6th) and Elisa Carrió’s 2011 running-mate Adrián Pérez (7th).
Ideology or ideological coherence isn’t Massa’s top priority – far from it. It is very unclear where he actually stands on the relevant issues and he was criticized for his lack of concrete stances; most of the FR’s priorities are vague goals such as job creation, fighting criminality and narco-trafficking, fighting inflation, improving education or promoting judicial independence. The most substantive part might be his strong opposition to a constitutional amendment allowing CFK indefinite reelection. Otherwise, Massa, like most Peronists, is first and foremost a pragmatist who will do whatever it takes to be elected and govern with the prevailing winds. He presents himself as a reformist, centrist and moderate and states that he is economically Keynesian.
Massa’s team included Alberto Fernández, ‘the guru’, who had served as Chief of Cabinet between 2003 and 2008 before he too broke with the Kirchners and Roberto Lavagna, Duhalde and Néstor Kirchner’s economy minister between 2002 and 2005.
Massa’s FPV opponent was Martín Insaurralde, the mayor of Lomas de Zamora (another impoverished conurbano town) since 2009. His second candidate was Juliana Di Tullio, an incumbent FPV deputy and social psychologist well known for her advocacy of feminist and social progressivism (she introduced the gender identity law, backed the same-sex marriage law and supports decriminalizing abortion). Di Tullio, also reputed to be an ‘ultra-kirchnerista’, became president of the FPV’s parliamentary faction in May 2013.
The FPCyS list, made up of the UCR, PS, GEN, CC-ARI and Libres del Sur, was led by Margarita Stolbizer (GEN) and Ricardo Alfonsín (UCR), both of them incumbent deputies.
Francisco de Narváez, the winner of the 2009 elections in BsAs, ran as the head of a strange alliance, United for Freedom and Work (Unidos por la Libertad y el Trabajo), which was backed by Hugo Moyano, the powerful leader of the truckers’ union and the CGT (or a faction of it); whose man on the list was incumbent deputy Francisco Omar Plaini, elected for the FPV in 2009 (2nd). After a poor result in the PASO (10.5%), the list’s general election campaign was marred by constant pressures, notably by Clarín (which was probably behind Massa), for de Narváez to drop out (while the FPV and governor Scioli likely maneuvered to keep him from dropping out, to split the anti-K vote). Moyano apparently dropped his endorsement of de Narváez late in the campaign, not wanting to continue backing a dead horse.
Seemingly, de Narváez’s excuse for not withdrawing from the race was that he felt that Massa was a ‘Trojan horse’ for CFK, although this argument sounds a bit silly.
One of the most closely contested ‘internal’ primaries in the PASO was in the city of Buenos Aires (CABA), a stronghold of anti-kirchnerismo politics. The UNEN alliance, basically a local version of the FPCyS-type centre-left coalitions extended to Pino Solanas’ Proyecto Sur (which is very strong in CABA), had four competing lists in the PASO: Coalición Sur, Juntos, Suma Mas and Presidente Illia. The Coalición Sur was led by Elisa Carrió (CC-ARI) for the lower house and Pino Solanas (PSur) for the Senate, with Solanas seconded by former federal deputy María Fernanda Reyes (CC-ARI). The Juntos list was led by Ricardo Gil Lavedra, the president of the UCR faction in the Chamber of Deputies (he is also known for having been a judge in the Trial of the Juntas in 1985, and briefly served as justice minister under de la Rúa). For the Senate, the list was made up of incumbent federal deputies Alfonso Prat-Gay (CC-ARI) and Victoria Donda (Libres del Sur, actually federal deputy for BsAs, not CABA). The Suma Mas list for the Chamber was led by Martín Lousteau, an independent economist who served as CFK’s economy minister between 2007 and April 2008 who was forced to resign following the 2008 agricultural crisis (held responsible for the increased levies on soybean exports). Lousteau, who was not a FPV loyalist, had also been criticized by CFK’s inner circle/the FPV and was allegedly at odds with Guillermo Moreno, the Kirchner loyalist and internal trade secretary. Rodolfo Terragno (UCR), former Senator and Chief of Cabinet in de la Rúa’s administration, ran for Senate on the Suma Mas slate. The weakest candidate was Leandro Illia (Presidente Illia list), the son of former President Arturo Illia (UCR, 1963-1966).
For the Chamber of Deputies, Carrió’s list won 48.5% of the votes cast for all UNEN lists, placing first ahead of Lousteau’s list (35.9%) and Gil Lavedra (12.8%). Illia won only 2.8%. The Senate primary was closer, with 41.5% for Solanas’ ticket, 32.8% for Terragno’s ticket and 23.7% for the Prat-Gay-Donda ticket. For the general election, the final UNEN list included names from both the Carrió-Solanas coalition and the Lousteau-Terragno coalition: Carrió (CC-ARI) and Lousteau as the top two candidates for the Chamber; for the Senate, however, Solanas and Reyes, both from Coalición Sur, formed a ticket.
The PRO list in the capital was led by Gabriela Michetti (Senate) and Sergio Bergman (Chamber). Michetti, a federal deputy since 2009 and formed vicejefa of the CABA government (2007-2009) under Macri, was a close friend and supporter of Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis). The Chamber list was led by Sergio Bergman, a Reform Judaism rabbi, and Federico Sturzenegger, a banker.
The FPV list for the lower house was led by Juan Cabandié (born in captivity under the military regime, adopted by a police officer and only discovered his true identity/parents in 2004), a human rights activist and prominent member of La Cámpora. Senator Daniel Filmus, who ran and lost against Macri in 2007 and 2011, ran for reelection.
The races in other provinces will be covered in the results section.
Aggregate national results, both in terms of votes and seats, are difficult in Argentina because the composition of coalitions and the attitude of national parties vary from province to province. Besides, a national snapshot is not all that instructive for those same reasons. For national results, I refer to Andy Tow (who has put together the best archive/atlas of Argentine election results on the web), the government (Ministry of the Interior’s election department) and the newspaper La Nación.
Chamber of Deputies
PJ-FPV and provincial allies 33.13% winning 47 seats > total 130 seats
Dissident Peronism (including FR) 25.03% winning 26 seats > total 31 seats
FPCyS/UNEN, UCR, CC-ARI, PS etc 24.44% winning 36 seats > total 62 seats
PRO and allies 7.24% winning 10 seats > total 14 seats
FIT and far-left 6.46% winning 3 seats > total 6 seats
Provincial parties 2.66% winning 2 seats > total 6 seats
Compromiso Federal/PRO 1.04% winning 3 seats > total 8 seats
PJ-FPV and provincial allies 33.15% > total 132 seats
FPCyS/UNEN, UCR, CC-ARI, PS etc 23.95% > total 61 seats
Dissident Peronism (including FR) 21.39% > total 24 seats
PRO and allies 9% > total 18 seats
FIT and allies 5.11% > total 3 seats
Others 7.4% > total 18 seats
PJ-FPV and provincial allies 33.27% winning 47 seats > total 130 seats
Dissident Peronism (including FR) 24.75% winning 26 seats > total 37 seats
FPCyS/UNEN, UCR, CC-ARI, PS etc 24.68% winning 36 seats > total 61 seats
PRO and allies 8.04% winning 12 seats > total 17 seats
FIT and allies 6.40% winning 3 seats > total 6 seats
Others 2.87% winning 3 seats > total 6 seats
Senate (seats only)
PJ-FPV and provincial allies 14 seats > total 40 seats
FPCyS/UNEN, UCR, CC-ARI, PS etc 3 seats > total 19 seats
Dissident Peronism (including FR) 2 seats > total 5 seats
Provincial parties 3 seats > total 3 seats
Compromiso Federal 0 seats > total 3 seats
PRO and allies 8.04% 2 seats > total 2 seats
Kirchnerismo suffered a setback in the midterm elections, but nevertheless retained a narrow absolute majority; the end result being that the composition of both houses of Congress changed only minimally. According to La Nación‘s calculations, the FPV gained two seats in the Chamber (127 seats to 130) from the pre-election composition while dissident Peronism and the non-Peronist centre-left opposition lost seats (-2 and -4) and the PRO and far-left gained seats (+3, +1). In the Senate, the FPV lost 3 seats. The lack of significant changes in the makeup of the Chamber of Deputies (in overall, nationwide terms) is likely due to the fact that these seats were last up in 2009, another midterm in which the kirchneristas suffered losses (losing their absolute majority).
The magnitude of the defeat seems to be similar to 2009. As in 2009, but unlike in 2011 (CFK’s landslide), the FPV was defeated by the opposition in Argentina’s five largest provinces/cities: Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Santa Fe, CABA and Mendoza. In 2011, the FPV’s lists had topped the polls in all five of these provinces/cities, even the anti-Peronist stronghold of Buenos Aires (city). Given that these provinces elect 56% of the members of the lower house of Congress and are the country’s most populous provinces/cities, and that the elections in those provinces (especially BsAs and CABA) monopolize the bulk of media attention, the elections (like in 2009) have broadly been painted as a defeat for CFK and kirchnerismo, by domestic and international media alike. On the other hand, the FPV and its allies generally maintained the upper hand in the smaller, rural provinces which have long been reliably Peronist (with some local exceptions).
Since CFK’s landslide reelection in 2011 over a divided, hapless and demoralized second-tier opposition, some voters have soured on Kirchner and the government. High inflation (and the falsification of official statistics related to inflation), unpopular restrictions on the purchase of foreign currencies (US dollars, seen as a safer bet for savings than the peso), corruption, criminality, infrastructure problems, a widespread perception of kirchnerista arrogance and controversial reforms (judicial reform, media law) have all had an adverse impact on the government’s popularity. On the other hand, it must be pointed out that despite all this, kirchnerismo does retain a solid base in Argentine society. A number of voters credit the Kirchners (particularly CFK’s late husband) with the successful recovery from the 2001 catastrophe and, as such, no matter how unpopular they might get, some voters will remain reluctant to abandon ship given how the kirchernista decade began and how the country has improved since then. Secondly, while some opponents might style it as clientelism and asistencialismo, many poorer voters appreciate the social programs created by the Kirchners, notably CFK’s AUH. And regardless of the desirability of these programs, they have almost certainly played a huge role in reducing poverty in Argentina from the highs of the turn-of-the-century economic crisis.
The FPV is also slightly better organized or better entrenched in society than the disparate opposition forces. The FPV controls government, and as such it can put the government and its resources to its use, through clientelism, patronage or just the usual ‘goodies’ and policy changes (tax cuts followed the PASO in August). Public advertising is a good example of how the Kirchners have put public resources to partisan/electoral usage. Néstor Kirchner distributed public advertising on the basis of political affinity. In 2009, the government created the Fútbol para todos (football/soccer for all) program; the true intent of the program was not really to allow football-crazy Argentines access to all football matches on free TV, but perhaps rather to allow the government to gain control over the broadcasting of football matches on state-owned TV. Between 1991 and 2009, through an agreement with the football federation (AFA), Televisión Satelital Codificada (TSC), a joint-venture between Grupo Clarín and a sports communications firm, held exclusive rights over broadcasting of all football matches in the country. Taking advantage of an economic crisis hurting many Primera División clubs (and a spat between the AFA and TSC when AFA demanded more money from TSC), the government stepped in and signed an agreement with the AFA, breaking the agreement with TSC and giving the government the right to broadcast all Primera División matches (and second division matches in 2011, and third division matches in 2013) on the free, state-owned Canal 7/TV Pública. Above all, the creation of Fútbol para todos means that the government controls advertising during the program. Therefore, the apparently innocuous program has turned into a major political issue: some in the opposition argue that the program is a propaganda tool for the government, because the advertising is allegedly biased and partisan. In the 2013 campaign, FR candidate Mirta Tundis (an employee of the Grupo Clarín) said that she would like the program to be privatized (Massa took no position); her comment sparked controversy. The FPV jumped on the matter, accusing those who opposed the program of neoliberalism and subservience to monopolies and big corporate interests (eg Clarín).
The FPV can also count on some support within the CGT, from most of the barones del conurbano and now from the increasingly powerful La Cámpora. In contrast, the opposition – particularly the non-Peronist parties (except perhaps the UCR, but even then) – have little ties to powerful union bosses or local party bosses; further complicated that they’re always squabbling amongst themselves, so whatever resources they have are split between the different contenders.
A bit ignored by media coverage, the far-left forces (mostly the FIT) had a good election, with some very good (even double digit) results in some provinces and a total of three seats won.
Argentina is very much a federal country, this is especially true when it comes to parliamentary elections (and provincial-level elections, of course). In France, it is often said that the legislative elections are ‘577 local elections’ (577 constituencies) rather than a single national election; but nowhere is this phrase truer than in Argentina. Each province had different candidates, different party alliance and strategies and different local circumstances. Therefore, any analysis of Argentine legislative elections must be done at the provincial, rather than national, level. And provincial means, if we want to be accurate and thorough (as I do), all provinces – not only BsAs!
Note: you can find PASO results here.
In Buenos Aires, Sergio Massa’s FR handily defeated Martín Insaurralde’s FPV, 43.9% to 32.2%. In the PASO, the FR had won 35.1% and the FPV had won 29.7%. Therefore, although both the FR and the FPV increased their support from the PASO (the FR more so), the gap between Massa and Insaurralde widened, doubling from about 5% to nearly 12 points. Insaurralde’s result in the general was similar to Néstor Kirchner’s result at the helm of the FPV list in 2009 (32.18%), but Massa did much better than De Narváez had done in 2009 (34.7%). In a distant third place, Stolbizer’s FPCyS won 11.8%, marginally more than in the PASO (11.1%); in 2009, Stolbizer-Alfonsín’s ACyS list had won 21.5% of the vote.
The biggest loser from the primaries was Francisco de Narváez (FULT), whose support fell from 10.5% to 5.5%, benefiting Massa. Néstor Pitrola’s far-left FIT list won 5% (up from 4% in the PASO), winning one seat.
This result gives Massa 16 seats against 12 for the FPV, 4 for the FPCyS and two for De Narváez. Compared to the results of the PASO, the FR ‘gained’ two seats, both of them coming from De Narváez’s list.
The race was in good part decided in the conurbano bonaerense, where over 60% of the province’s population is concentrated. Compared to Kirchner’s defeat in 2009, Massa made major inroads in the conurbano, a largely working-class/low-income and industrialized hinterland where the FPV has traditionally been very dominant. Massa did best in his hometown of Tigre (65.5%), a socially mixed town north of Buenos Aires (the proliferation of new ‘Miami’-like gated communities with canals and mansions contrasts will villas miseria/shantytowns and older lower middle-class/blue-collar areas). He also did similarly well (62.2%) in San Fernando, located just north of Tigre (but outside the conurbano).
Massa’s alliance with several dissident Peronist barones del conurbano proved quite beneficial at the polls. Generally, the FR did best in those partidos (the BsAs name for municipalities) where the mayor supported him. For example, he won Malvinas Argentinas (a low-income industrial area) with 59.5%, he was supported by the powerful longtime mayor of Malvinas Argentinas, Jesús Cariglino (mayor since 1995). In Almirante Brown, governed by Massa’s second candidate Darío Giustozzi, Massa won 48.4% – his best result in the southern half of the conurbano. In General San Martín municipality, governed by another FPV dissident, Massa won 51.7%. Even outside the conurbano, the FR did best in partidos where the local mayor were backing Massa: for example, he won 53.4% in General Villegas and 49.7% in Ollavaría.
However, Massa even won partidos where the FPV mayors have remained loyal to kirchnerismo. He won working-class and lower-income municipalities such as José C. Paz (46.2%), Moreno (47.9%), Pilar (53.8%) and Tres de Febrero (49%) even if their mayors had not endorsed Massa. Therefore, Massa’s success was not only the product of using the clientelistic networks of pro-FR barones, it was also the result of an anti-K vote in FPV strongholds. Massa even won Morón (44%), supposedly the stronghold of Nuevo Encuentro‘s Martín Sabbatella (who was mayor until 2011). In the conurbano, Insaurralde only won La Matanza (43.8%), Florencio Varela (46.7%), Berazategui (43.5%) and his hometown of Lomas de Zamora (48%).
Massa also won the upper middle-class anti-K strongholds of Vicente López and San Isidro, with 49.9% and 57.5% respectively. The FPCyS, however, did well in Vicente López, placing second with 20.3% of the vote. By and large, however, the FPCyS did terribly in the rest of the conurbano (single digits).
In the city of Buenos Aires, the PRO – unlike in the PASO – topped the field over UNEN in the race for both the Chamber and the Senate. In the lower house contest, Sergio Bergman’s PRO list won 34.5% against 32.2% for Carrió-Lousteau’s UNEN list. The FPV, led by Juan Cabandié, placed a distant third with only 21.6%. In the PASO, the combined total of the UNEN lists had been 35.6%, against 27.5% for the PRO and 19% for the FPV. It is likely that some UNEN voters who had backed losing candidates in the PASO switched their support to the PRO or the FPV. In seat terms, the PRO and UNEN both took 5 seats while the FPV won 3 seats. The far-left FIT, led by Jorge Altamira, won 5.7% of the vote.
In the race for Senate, the PRO’s Gabriela Michetti won 39.3% against 27.7% for UNEN and 23.2% for Daniel Filmus’ FPV. In the PASO, again, the combined total of the UNEN (32%) had been marginally stronger than the PRO (31.4%). With the PRO and UNEN splitting the three senate seats, incumbent FPV senator Daniel Filmus will return to academic life at the end of his term. The PRO’s stronger performance in the senatorial contest certainly owes to the qualities of the candidates: Gabriela Michetti is a well-known politician in the city, having served as federal deputy since 2009 and deputy head of the government prior to that. On the other hand, rabbi Bergman is not as well known or prominent.
The PRO and UNEN both did best in the city’s middle-class and upper middle-class neighborhoods, while the FPV’s support remained concentrated in shantytowns and the lower-income neighborhoods in the southern end of the city (33.4% in commune 8 – Villa Soldati, Riachuelo and Lugano). The PRO’s best result (Chamber), 41.6%, came from commune 2, which includes the very affluent Recoleta neighborhood. It also did well in commune 13 (Belgrano, 38.9%), 13 (Palermo, 38.1%) and 1 (Puerto Madero, 36.7%). The UNEN performed well in almost all the same places as the PRO, but won low results in the low-income southern neighborhoods.
Half of the seats (30) in the city legislature were also up for reelection in Buenos Aires on election day. The PRO, with 33.6%, won 12 seats against 8 for UNEN (24.7%) and 6 for the FPV (17.1%). The far-left FIT won one seat, while the last two seats went to local parties I don’t know anything about. This gives the PRO a total of 28 seats, out of 60, in the city legislature.
In Córdoba, the Unión por Córdoba (UPC), a dissident Peronist local movement led by governor and local Peronist strongman José Manuel de la Sota (governor 1999-2007 and since 2011), won 26.5% and 3 seats. The UPC list was led by former governor Juan Schiaretti (2007-2011), a loyal delasotista. José Manuel de la Sota, like a lot of Peronist leaders in Córdoba (the country’s second largest province), has had a love-hate relationship with the Kirchners. In 2011, when CFK’s profile was up, De la Sota was seen as fairly close (or at least on good terms) with the Casa Rosada. However, he has since broken with the President and aligned himself with dissident Peronism once more (de la Sota also had ambivalent, love-hate relationships with past Peronist bigwigs such as Menem and Duhalde). The UPC’s result, despite placing first, was seen as a major setback for the governor (who might have presidential ambitions for 2015). The UPC’s support fell by nearly four points from the PASO, when two competing lists for the UPC had won a total of 30.1%. A narcotrafficking scandal involving the provincial police seems to have hurt the governor’s party; the dispersion of votes for mayor Martín Llaryora’s list in the PASO (22.3% of the UPC’s PASO votes) also appears to have hurt the party.
A UCR list (by itself), led by federal deputy and 2011 gubernatorial candidate Oscar Aguad, placed second 22.7% (more or less what it had won in the PASO) and 3 seats. The main winner, from the PASO, was the FPV list led by Carolina Scotto. The FPV list saw a significant increase in its support, from 10.9% in the PASO to 15.3% in the general election, giving them 2 seats.
The PRO list, led by former football referee Héctor Baldassi, won 14.5% and one seat, up from 12.1% in the PASO.
Aguad’s UCR list topped the poll in the city of Córdoba, where the Radicals (and anti-Peronist forces in general) have generally been rather strong. Schiaretti’s UPC placed third with 15% of the vote in the provincial capital, behind the PRO (16.6%) and the UCR (20.1%).
The major losers were Olga Riutort (De la Sota’s ex-wife), whose support fell from 6.8% to 4.6% since the PASO; and a FPCyS list (basically the PS and Senator Luis Juez’s personal party) which won only 3.7% of the vote. Luis Juez, a former mayor of Córdoba and incumbent senator, is a sworn enemy of the governor (they were allies until 2001, when Juez started accusing de la Sota of being corrupt, and broke completely in 2007, when Juez narrowly lost the gubernatorial race to Schiaretti, and cried fraud). The FPCyS’ terrible result is a huge setback to Juez, and might mark the end of his political career. Fortunately for him, the UPC’s mediocre result also throws cold water on De la Sota’s potential 2015 presidential ambitions.
In Santa Fe, former governor and 2011 presidential candidate Hermes Binner (PS), leading a broad FPCyS coalition with the UCR and CC-ARI, handily triumphed with 42.4% and won five seats. Miguel Torres del Sel (PRO), a former comedian who placed a close second in the 2011 gubernatorial election, placed second with 27.2% of the vote (3 seats), leading an alliance of the PRO with some dissident Peronist forces. The oficialista FPV list, led by former governor Jorge Obeid (2003-2007), placed a poor third with only 22.6% and 2 seats.
Santa Fe, governed by a Socialist-Radical alliance since 2007 (an alliance which Binner would like to replicate nationally), is something of an opposition stronghold where the FPV has never enjoyed uncontested political hegemony (far from it).
In Mendoza, the big winner was former governor (2003-2007) and CFK’s former Vice President Julio Cobos (UCR), whose Radical list won 47.7% (up from 44% in the PASO) and 3 seats. The FPV, which currently governs the state, suffered a very heavy defeat, winning only 27% of the vote and a single seat. The far-left FIT, with 14% of the vote – double what it won in the PASO – took the last seat. The local right-wing Democratic Party, in alliance with the PRO, won one of its worst result in decades, with only 5.2% of the vote (in 2009, for example, the PD-PRO list had won one seat with some 14% of the vote).
Cobos’ landslide opens the door to a presidential candidacy in 2015, perhaps in coalition with Hermes Binner’s Socialists. However, a lot of Radicals remain fairly suspicious and uneasy with Cobos, in good part because of his past trajectory as a ‘radical K’ and his (short-lived) alliance with kirchnerismo in 2007 (broken during the 2008 agricultural crisis, in which Vice President Cobos clearly sided with the opposition/ruralists). Even in his own state, Cobos will have to deal with internal opposition from rival Radicals – senator Ernesto Sanz, former governor Roberto Iglesias and Mendoza mayor Víctor Fayad – who have yet to digest Cobos’ past transgressions. In the PASO, Roberto Iglesias’ dissident list, the ‘Federal Party’, was soundly trounced (4.6%) and he was forced to announce his withdrawal.
Tucumán, the smallest province but the fifth most populous, was the largest province in which the FPV was victorious. The province is a kirchnerista stronghold (CFK won 65% in 2011). The FPV list, led by health minister Juan Luis Manzur, won 46.9% and two seats. An ACyS (UCR-PS-Libres del Sur etc) list won 34.7% and two seats. In third place, the Fuerza Republicana party of provincial legislator and former senator Ricardo Bussi, won 8.2% of the vote. Despite the FPV victory, the result is a setback for term-limited incumbent governor José Alperovich, given that the FPV had taken three seats against only one for the ACyS in 2009.
The FPV was also victorious in Entre Ríos, winning 46.6% and 3 seats against 23.4% and 1 seat for the Unión por Entre Ríos. The latter is a coalition of the PRO with a local party led by former PJ/dissident Peronist governor Jorge Busti (1987-1991, 1995-1999, 2003-2007) – the slate’s top candidate was incumbent federal deputy Cristina Cremer De Busti, Busti’s wife. Their top candidate for Senate was Alfredo de Angeli (PRO), a well-known agrarian leader (extremely critical of CFK) who stood out as one of the hardline ruralist leaders during the 2008 agricultural crisis.
A Radical list placed third with 21.1%, also winning one seat. In the race for Senate in the province, the overall results were similar: 46.2% for the FPV and 25.7% for Unión por Entre Ríos, giving oficialismo two seats against one seat for Alfredo de Angeli. The UCR won only 19.8% of the vote in the senatorial contest, marginalizing the party which had traditionally been fairly strong in the province.
The FPV’s triumph is good news for governor Sergio Uribarri (in office since 2007), who would fancy a presidential candidacy in 2015. Uribarri is very popular in the province, although CFK is perhaps less so.
The result in Salta was quite a mess. In the race for the Chamber of Deputies, the Frente Popular Salteño (a dissident Peronist/PRO alliance) won the most votes, 20.6%, and one seat. The Trotskyst Workers’ Party (PO) placed second, with 19.1% of the vote and one seat; the far-left even topped the poll in Salta, the provincial capital, with 28.4% of the vote. The kirchernista PJ list won 19% of the vote, closely followed by Salta Somos Todos (18.1%), a personal vehicle for 2011 gubernatorial candidate and outgoing federal deputy Alfredo Olmedo, a controversial ‘soy king’ and got some attention for his strong opposition to same-sex marriage. The kirchnerista Partido de la Victoria won 7.6% of the vote, in fifth place, while the conservative Partido Renovador de Salta (allied with the PJ-FPV, I believe) won 6%.
The senatorial contest was far more high profile in Salta, whose governor, Juan Manuel Urtubey (FPV), is another potential presidential candidate for 2015. The governor’s brother, Rodolfo Urtubey, topped the FPV’s senatorial list (with incumbent federal deputy Cristina Fiore Viñuales as his running mate). Former governor (1995-2007) and incumbent senator Juan Carlos Romero, a dissident Peronist and noted rival of the incumbent governor, ran for reelection at the helm of the helm of the Frente Popular Salteño list. The governor’s FPV list won 29.1% against 24.5% for Romero’s list; in 2007, Romero’s dissident PJ list had beaten the PJ-FPV list.
In Misiones, a kirchnerista stronghold (67% for CFK in 2011), the pro-Kirchner local Frente Renovador de la Concordia, formed by pro-Kirchner Peronists and dissident Radicals by former governor Carlos Rovira and the dominant party in provincial politics, remained the largest party with 43.3% of the vote and 2 seats. The UCR did fairly well, winning 26.7% and one seat. A dissident Peronist/PRO list led by former governor and incumbent federal deputy Ramón Puerta (1991-1999) won 14.6%, down almost ten points from the PASO when it had been a close third with 23%. An official FPV list won 11.2%.
In Santiago del Estero, an ultrakirchnerista province (82% for CFK in 2011!), another local pro-Kirchner party, the Frente Cívico por Santiago (FCS) was triumphant – with 76% of the vote, winning all three seats. The party was founded in 2004/2005 as some kind of local version of the UCR, led by Gerardo Zamora, a Radical whose victory in the 2005 gubernatorial election marked the end of a five-decade long dominance of local politics by the Peronist caudillo Carlos Antonio Juárez (his wife, elected governor in 2002, was removed from office by the federal government in 2004). Zamora was a ‘radical K’, and remained loyal to the Kirchners even after the 2008 crisis (which marked the end of ‘radicales K‘), transforming the FCS into a local version of the FPV. It has been absolutely dominant in provincial politics, often winning upwards of 70% of the vote (71% in the 2011 legislative elections, 85% for Zamora in the 2008 gubernatorial election). Zamora was due to win reelection to an (illegal) third term on October 27, but the courts delayed the election and blocked his candidacy (a new constitution adopted in 2005 limits the governor to two successive terms, but Zamora was originally elected under an old constitution, so he argued that the term limits could not yet apply to him). His wife will succeed him when the gubernatorial vote is held on December 1.
In a province used to caudillismo in its politics, the FCS has effectively replaced the old PJ Peronist elites which had dominated provincial politics since 1948 (except for the periods of military rule) under Carlos Antonio Juárez.
In the Senate race, the FCS effectively won all three seats: they ingeniously got around the electoral law by running a proxy list, the Frente Popular, led by provincial CGT leader and FCS provincial legislator Gerardo Montenegro, which placed second (28.5%) behind the FCS (48.3%). Zamora has, according to La Nación, decided to take a seat in the Senate – he featured on the FCS’ senatorial list as the lead suplente (replacement) candidate. Senator Emilio Rached, who broke with the FCS and realigned with the Radicals in 2008, led the FPCyS list, which won 14.1% of the vote in the senatorial contest.
In Chaco, another poor and rural Peronist/Kirchnerist province, the FPV handily won the races for the lower house and the upper house, winning 59% of the vote and 3 out of the 4 seats in the lower house and 60.6% in the senatorial contest. This is a strong result for term-limited governor Jorge Capitanich, an ally of the federal government who does not hide his presidential ambitions for 2015. On the other hand, the Unión por Chaco (basically a local FPCyS) did poorly, losing one seat in the lower house to the FPV (36.2% of the vote). In the PASO, the FPV and the centre-left had been more closely matched, 46.4% to 40.9%.
In Formosa, the poorest province in Argentina located in the remote north, the dominant FPV, led by governor and local strongman Gildo Insfrán (in office since 1995, with no term limits) triumphed with 60% against 36.7% for the Frente Amplio Formoseño (again, a local version of the FPCyS led by the UCR). The only silver lining for the Radicals here is that they did better than in 2011, when it won only 19%. With Governor Insfrán taking centre stage after the PASO, the FPV’s support increased from 53.6% since the PASO.
It was ‘3 to 0’ for the Radicals in Corrientes, who defeated the FPV for the third time this year after the PASO in August and a gubernatorial election in September. The province is rather poor and solidly kirchnerista in presidential politics (68% for CFK in 2011), but the UCR remains a dominant force in provincial politics – it is the last province to be governed by a Radical governor, Ricardo Colombi. The Encuentro por Corrientes (ECO) list, a broad alliance joining the UCR, centre-left (PS, CC-ARI, Libres del Sur), dissident Peronists and the centre-right PRO, won 47% and 2 seats against 42.7% for the FPV, which won one seat; this gap is smaller than that of the PASO, in which ECO’s four lists totaled 47.7% against 38.7% for the FPV’s three lists. A third list led by incumbent UCR senator Nito Artaza won 10.3%.
The results in Corrientes are a strong vote of confidence for UCR governor Ricardo Colombi, himself reelected in September with 50.9% of the vote. Colombi, who was elected governor in 2009 defeating his cousin, the erstwhile ‘radical K’ governor Arturo Colombi, in a closely disputed contest, has had a very tense relationship with the Casa Rosada – which did everything in its power to marginalize Colombi’s provincial government. The FPV suffered a major defeat in the September gubernatorial election when its candidate, Corrientes mayor Carlos Manuel Espínola, heavily promoted by the federal government, lost to Colombi with 45.8%. Ricardo Colombi had already won a personal triumph over his estranged cousin in the PASO, when the oficialista ECO list led by a provincial cabinet minister handily defeated a rival ECO list led by Arturo Colombi, which placed a poor third.
The results in the province of San Juan were heavily impacted by an helicopter crash on October 11 in which a federal deputy (running for reelection) was killed and the FPV governor, José Luis Gioja, badly injured. The FPV list, which had placed second in the PASO with 37.2% of the vote, saw its support skyrocket to 55.4%. On the other hand, the Compromiso Federal list – an alliance of dissident Peronists (presumably close to Rodríguez Sáa), maverick Radicals (the local UCR bloquista) and the PRO – won only 22.9%, down from 42.5% and first place in the PASO. In third place, Nancy Avelín, the daughter of late governor Alfredo Avelín (impeached in 2002), won 10.6% – the best result for the family’s party since her father’s impeachment.
The FPV suffered a damaging defeat in Jujuy, a poor northern province which gave 64% support to CFK two years ago. The Frente Jujeño, a Radical-Socialist alliance led by incumbent federal deputy Mario Fiad, won 40.2% against 38.9% for the FPV. In the PASO, the FPV list had won 32.8% to the Frente’s 31.1%. The Frente Primero Jujuy, a dissident Peronist list, saw its support fall considerably since the PASO, from 9.4% and third place to 5.2% and fourth place (behind the FIT, 7.2%). The FPV’s defeat in this Peronist stronghold is bad news for governor Eduardo Fellner, who had handily defeated the UCR’s Mario Fiad in 2011. The Radical victory emboldens Radical senator Gerardo Morales, who would like to contest the governorship in 2015.
In the race for the provincial legislature, a new party – Frente Unidos y Organizados por la Soberanía Popular – the political arm of the Peronist and indigenista asociación barrial Túpac Amaru led by Milagro Sala, won 13.6% and 4 seats, placing third.
In Río Negro, the FPV list, led by María Emilia Soria, the daughter of late governor Carlos Soria (FPV, 2011-2012, died on New Years 2012 after being killed by his wife), won easily with 50.8% – taking both of the seats up for grabs. She had been described as her later father’s ‘princess’, sheltered, protected and favoured over her brother. Her nomination irritated many old-timers, who saw her as an inexperienced and empty-suit dynastic candidate, but she was heavily backed by the powerful FPV senator Miguel Pichetto (who is also the FPV faction leader in the Senate). In the senatorial contest, Pichetto’s FPV list won 50% of the vote. The major loser in the province was the UCR, which had dominated provincial politics between 1983 and 2011. In the senatorial contest, former UCR (‘radical K’) governor Miguel Saiz (2003-2011) won only 15.9% of the vote, placing third and thereby conceding the third seat to an alliance between the PS and CC-ARI (26.3%). In the PASO, the UCR had placed second behind the FPV, with about 25% of the vote; the party had contested ‘internal primaries’, notably a battle for the senatorial nomination between Saiz (the eventual winner) and former governor and 1995 presidential candidate Hector Massaccesi (the ‘Robin Hood of Patagonia’, who had famously seized $17 million from a bank account belonging to the Central Bank). I wonder if potential post-primary bad blood might explain why the UCR’s support fell of by so much, to the benefit of the progressive alliance of the PS and CC-ARI (16.7% in the PASO, 25% in the general).
In Neuquén, a local party with a long history – the Movimiento Popular Neuquino (MPN) – remained the dominant force. The MPN was founded in 1961 by local Peronist caudillos, whose political activity was circumscribed by the proscription of Peronism after the 1955 coup. The MPN became a neo-Peronist party, promoting the idea of “Peronism without Perón”. The MPN became the dominant party in provincial politics as early as 1962, with the figure of Felipe Sapag, the leader of a politically and economically powerful local clan who served as governor five times (1963-1966, 1970-1972, 1973-1976, 1983-1987, 1995-1999). After 1991, the MPN has become torn between two factions, one led by the Sapag clan (Jorge Augusto Sapag, the nephew of Felipe Sapag, has been governor since 2007) and the other led by former governor and current party chairman Jorge Sobisch (1991-1995, 1999-2007). The MPN has traditionally been the strongest party in provincial politics, although the FPV won more votes than the MPN in the 2011 legislative elections.
The PASO had seen a very nasty fight within MPN ranks. The winning list was that of Guillermo Pereyra, the leader of the CGT oil workers’ union and a close ally of dissident CGT (anti-K) leader Hugo Moyano (I believe he was also supported by Sobisch, but I have seen contradictory information on that). Pereyra is very critical of Kirchner, governor Sapag and the YPF-Chevron deal. With about 56% of the votes cast for the MPN in the PASO, he easily defeated the oficialista list led by Vice Governor Ana Pechen, a close ally of governor Sapag, who is also fairly close to the Casa Rosada. In the PASO, the MPN’s two rival lists had totaled 54.5% (Chamber) and 58.2% (Senate) respectively. While the MPN still won the most votes on October 27, it only won 40.2% and 41.9% respectively, down quite considerably from the PASO. This is almost certainly as a result of the post-primary turmoil which saw governor Sapag refuse to endorse Pereyra (who had been very critical of Sapag) and indeed called on voters not to vote for the MPN. All parties benefited from the MPN’s poor showing in October, above all the FPV – which increased its results to 21.3% and 20.6% respectively (11.7% and 9% in the PASO). Placing second, the FPV won one seat in the Chamber (on the PASO’s results, the MPN would have won all 3 seats) and one in the Senate.
In third place, the Compromiso Cívico Neuquino (CCN) coalition, made up of Neuquén mayor Horacio Quiroga’s Nuevo Compromiso Neuquino and the Radicals, CC-ARI and PRO, won 11.5% of the vote. I believe that the list backed by Quiroga’s party, which is critical of CFK and opposes her potential reelection, won the PASO. The CCN had placed second behind the MPN in the senatorial contest during the PASO.
In the Patagonian province of Chubut, former governor and Duhalde’s 2011 running mate Mario Das Neves (dissident Peronist), running as the top candidate for the Partido de Acción Chubutense, easily defeated the FPV list with 52.7% of the vote to the FPV’s 23.2% – allowing Das Neves’ list to win both seats. Das Neves, who served as governor of Chubut between 2003 and 2011, was a very popular governor (reelected in 2007 with over 76%), something which allowed him to have serious presidential ambitions in 2011. However, his preferred candidate, Martín Buzzi (who has since joined the FPV and is now a kirchnerista), only won the 2011 gubernatorial election by a hair over the FPV (40.43% vs 40.28%) and Das Neves dropped out, becoming Duhalde’s running mate. In second place, the FPV, led by agriculture minister Norberto Yauhar, won 23.2%, a major setback for the federal governor and governor Martín Buzzi. Yahuar questioned Buzzi’s leadership following his defeat.
Another former governor was victorious in Catamarca. The Frente Cívico y Social list (UCR-PS-PRO), led by former UCR governor Eduardo Brizuela del Moral (2003-2011) narrowly defeated the FPV list, 40% to 38.7% – taking 2 seats against the FPV’s one. Eduardo Brizuela del Moral, first elected in 2003, was another ‘radical K’, being reelected in 2007 with the FPV’s support against the arch-corrupt Luis Barrionuevo, a dissident Peronist CGT leader. However, when he broke with CFK in 2008, his Vice Governor, Lucía Corpacci (the cousin of the old Peronist caudillo Ramón Saadi), broke with his government and she ran against him in the 2011 gubernatorial election. Brizuela del Moral was widely expected to win a third term, but he surprisingly lost to Corpacci, the FPV’s candidate, 49.5% to 45.6%. This year’s victory is a major setback for governor Corpacci and a major victory for Brizuela del Moral, who might want to run for governor in 2015. In third place, the corrupt and gangsterish Luis Barrionuevo’s dissident Peronist list won 18.8%.
As usual, in San Luis, the Rodríguez Saá brothers’ Compromiso Federal (dissident Peronism) easily won, with 53.9% of the vote against 23.6% for the FPCyS and 17.9% for the FPV. However, the result is nevertheless a small setback for the Rodríguez Saá clan and their party, which lost one seat (from 2009), conceding it to the Radicals (FPCyS).
In the province of La Rioja, best known as being Carlos Menem’s native province (Menem is still a senator for the province), the FPV – which had lost the PASO – narrowly defeated the Fuerza Cívica Riojana (UCR/PS/CC-ARI) alliance, 47.1% to 46.5%. The FPV list, led by provincial cabinet minister Teresita Madera and backed by Governor Luis Beder (who defeated Menem in 2007), had placed second in the PASO with 37.8% – the first defeat for Peronism in the province since 1983. Yet, despite finally narrowly defeating the Radical list, the FPV has little to cheer about with the results. They placed first with less than 1,000 votes separating them from second, and the poor showing complicates the governor’s intention to amend the constitution to allow him a third term in office. In third place, the Frente Nuevo Pacto Federal, led by dissident Peronist (ex-FPV) federal deputy Jorge Yoma (the brother of Zulema Yoma, Carlos Menem’s ex-wife turned enemy), placed a distant third with 2.9%, down from 10.2% in the PASO.
The elections in the province of La Pampa were won, narrowly and with a mediocre result, by a pro-Kirchner PJ list led by former provincial cabinet minister Gustavo Fernández Mendía. In the PASO, Fernández Mendía, who had the support of the Casa Rosada and the kirchnerista governor, Oscar Jorge, narrowly defeated (43.7% vs 35.6% of the PJ’s votes) an anti-kirchnerista list backed by former Peronist governors Rubén Marín (1991-2003, senator until 2009) and Carlos Verna (2003-2007, now senator) and led by Rubén Marín’s son Espartaco (‘Taco’). Marín and Verna, former rivals (Verna has been anti-K since 2003, when he won with Menem’s backing, Marín’s shift only dates from 2008) turned allies of circumstances, had opposed the formation of a FPV coalition in the province, much to displeasure of CFK and Governor Jorge. In the general election, the PJ list won only 35.2% against 34.4% for the Frepam (Frente Pampeano Cívico y Social, the local Radical-led alliance with the PS), led by the former UCR mayor of Santa Rosa Francisco Torroba. In the PASO, the PJ’s lists had totaled 50% of the vote against 31.8% for the Frepam. Seemingly, the closely fought primarily battle between the kircheristas-jorgistas and marinistas-vernistas left some scars, even if Taco Marín got the third place on the final PJ list. The main winner of the general election was the Frente Propuesta Federal, a PRO-led alliance headed by Carlos “el Colorado” Mac Allister, a former football player (he notably played for the Boca Juniors in the 1990s, when the club was owned by Mauricio Macri). In the PASO, backed by the PRO and ‘intransigent’ supporters of Carlos Verna who did not want to back Rubén Marín, he had won 9.9%. On October 27, he won 19.3% and won one seat for himself.
The PJ’s mediocre result is a poor result for the Casa Rosada and for the governor, who is fairly isolated within his own party against the two local caudillos. Furthermore, the UCR’s strong result makes them – and their new federal deputy – strong contenders for the provincial governorship in 2015, in a province governed by the PJ since 1983. Before that, however, Torroba will likely need to deal with the opposition of UCR Senator Juan Carlos Marina, who did not support his list in the PASO.
The opposition, led by Radical businessman and incumbent federal deputy Eduardo Costa, triumphed in the southern Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, a symbolic province for the Casa Rosada given that it was Néstor Kirchner’s native province and political breeding ground (he served as governor between 1991 and 2003 before becoming President). Costa’s list, the Unión para Vivir Mejor (formed by the UCR, a local party and the CC-ARI – whose local leader is Costa’s wife), placed first with 42.1% and two seats. The oficialista FPV list, led by provincial legislator and local La Cámpora boss Mauricio Gómez Bull, ranked second with 24.7% and one seat. The main loser of the election was governor Daniel Peralta, a former ally of the Kirchners who broke with the Casa Rosada last year when he was alleged to have spied on CFK at her family residence in the province. The PJ list, led by provincial cabinet minister Nieves Beroiza, placed third with only 20% of the vote and fell short of a seat. Peralta’s only motive for satisfaction was that
While the UCR’s result is unquestionably good news for Eduardo Costa, who has his eyes set for a third (third time the charm?) run at the governorship in 2015, his list saw its result fall a bit from 44.5% in the PASO, where he had successfully held back a dissident Radical list led by Facundo Prades, a young ‘renovador‘ critical of Costa’s allegedly autocratic and ‘business-like’ leadership of the local UCR.
Finally, in Tierra del Fuego, the FPV list led local La Cámpora leader Martín Alejandro Pérez won the top spot, with 27.3% of the vote, splitting the southernmost province’s two seats in the Chamber of Deputies with the Movimiento Solidario Popular (MSP) taking the other seat with 21.2%. The pro-Kirchner MSP is led by Oscar Martínez, the longtime boss of the CGT metalworkers unions, who was not selected for the FPV list by local FPV leader Rosana Bertone. In third place, the local Movimiento Popular Fueguino (Mopof) won 17.1%, with the endorsement of governor Fabiana Ríos (in office since 2007, ex-ARI), whose small party finds itself isolated and moribund (it didn’t run in this year’s election). The Unión Federal, an alliance of dissident Peronists (led by incumbent federal deputy Liliana Fadul), backers of CGT leader Hugo Moyano and the PRO, placed fourth with 10.3%. The Partido Popular, a pro-K slate led by incumbent senator and former governor Jorge Colazo won 9.5% of the vote. For some reason, the PJ (dissident Peronists), who had a contested primary in August, saw their vote fall from 9.7% in the PASO to only 3.6% in October.
The senatorial contest was more hotly contested. The FPV senatorial list, led by incumbent federal deputy and 2011 gubernatorial candidate (narrowly defeated by Ríos) Rosana Bertone, won 34.4%. Her strong results places her as the early favourite to win the governorship in 2015, when isolated governor Ríos is term-limited. The minority mandate went to incumbent federal deputy Jorge Garramuño (Mopof), who won 22.4% of the vote. Garramuño supported some government initiatives in the past, although he attracted controversy when he admitted that he had backed a deal with Iran in return for government funding for his province. Incumbent senator and former governor Jorge Colazo (2004-2005, impeached) lost reelection, with his Partido Popular placing third with 15.1%. Incumbent federal deputy Liliana Fadul, running for the dissident Peronist Unión Federal, won only 13.8% and fourth place.
Midterm elections in Argentina serve as mood indicators for the federal and provincial governments, and as early tests for potential presidential and gubernatorial candidates in the main elections, held two years later. In this sense, these midterm elections are particularly important because the 2015 elections will probably be highly contested. Lacking a two-thirds majority for constitutional changes and in a more fragile position after these generally mediocre midterms, President CFK is unlikely to be able to amend the constitution to run for an unprecedented third term in office. Her husband’s death in 2010 badly messed up the former presidential power couple’s alleged plan to circumvent term limits by alternating in power (Néstor Kirchner would probably have run for President in 2011 had he not died). However, with her husband dead, CFK and kirchnerismo now finds itself lacking any clear favourite for the presidency in 2015. That being said, we should not write kirchnerismo‘s obituaries just yet – CFK was weakened and considered as dead on arrival in any presidential race after the 2009 midterm elections, but seizing on the division and haplessness of the opposition, she roared back to win a phenomenal landslide in 2011.
As noted above, a number of FPV governors in the provinces have open presidential ambitions and a few others would probably like to at least be running mates on a kirchnerista ticket in 2015. The most likely oficialista candidate for 2015 is BsAs governor Daniel Scioli, who was also Néstor Kirchner’s Vice President. Scioli is more conservative and a ‘traditionalist Peronist’ rather than a kirchnerista, and his relations with the Casa Rosada and the kirchnerista milieu (notably La Cámpora) have been cooler as of late (Scioli described himself as a fellow traveler rather than kirchnerista). However, Scioli might find himself weakened by the FPV’s heavy defeat at the hands of Sergio Massa in BsAs. Other potential oficialista candidates include provincial governors such as Jorge Capitanich (Chaco), Sergio Uribarri (Entre Ríos) and José Manuel Urtubey (Salta), all of whom appear to be ‘respectable conservatives’ similar to Scioli.
Meanwhile, Sergio Massa has undoubtedly emerged from these midterms as the main winner and he is now seen as dissident Peronism’s rising star and potential 2015 candidate. It is rather obvious that Massa’s political ambitions do not stop at provincial boundaries and that he is seriously considering a presidential candidacy in 2015. The ragtag Peronist opponents of kirchnerismo might at long last have found their star in Massa, a presentable, respectable and charismatic politician whose priority is winning power rather than ideological coherence and who is able to appeal to a diverse crowd using an inoffensive, ‘reformist’ and non-confrontational discourse. A lot of Peronist leaders, including some soft supporters of the FPV and kirchnerismo, are interested in backing the winning horse (governor Urtubey, for example, has good relations with both Massa and Scioli). Massa might be their guy.
Massa’s first priority will be to build up a national profile and form alliances with provincial caudillos – a must for any serious presidential candidate, especially within Peronism. Massa has already successfully attracted the public support of some provincial leaders, including Chubut’s Mario Das Neves, former governor Jorge Busti (Entre Ríos); these two men’s supporters in Congress will grow the FR’s base. In May, before the PASO, a number of dissident Peronist leaders including Córdoba governor José Manuel de la Sota, anti-K CGT leader Hugo Moyano, Francisco de Narváez and Roberto Lavagna (who later backed Massa), signed a deal to form a common opposition front in 2015. De la Sota, who might have presidential ambitions but who is unlikely to go far in a presidential campaign, might ultimately join Massa (especially as the UPC’s poor result in Córdoba means that he will likely focus on the gubernatorial office in 2015 rather than the presidency). Massa was also in talks with Santa Fe senator and former F1 driver Carlos Reutemann, a dissident Peronist leader who might back Massa in the Senate.
Outside the Peronist family, the centre-right and the centre-left opposition parties are all placing their top leaders as potential presidential candidates. On the centre-right, Mauricio Macri (PRO) seems quite determined to run for President (unlike in 2011), despite a tactical alliance with Massa in BsAs (where the PRO by itself is weak). Macri had a good election in Buenos Aires, but his party might be increasingly divided as he lacks a clear favourite succeed him as head of government in Buenos Aires when he retires in 2015. Macri is unlikely to perform well in a nationwide presidential election, firstly because his brand of politics (widely seen as neoliberal) is unpopular in Argentina since the 2001 crisis and because he lacks a strong network of alliances in other provinces. The PRO by itself remains very much a porteño party, with its limited bases in other provinces (Santa Fe, now Córdoba, La Pampa and Entre Ríos) being largely dependent on famous celebrity candidates. He has already made some alliances with dissident Peronist leaders in other provinces, but these Peronist caudillos might be more interested in supporting Massa in 2015. The UCR, PS and minor left-wing parties are all rather strongly opposed to the idea of an alliance with Macri’s PRO.
The centre-left, largely made up of the Radicals and the Socialists (they are the only two parties in the FPCyS coalition which have a national reach), would like to run a common candidate in 2015. However, they will first need to figure out their differences and find a single candidate. Afterwards, they will need to try to form a coalition which includes some of the smaller centre-left forces such as Stolbizer’s GEN, Victoria Donda’s movement or Elisa Carrió’s potentially rejuvenated CC-ARI; would these parties be willing to support a Radical presidential candidate, especially an old politico like Julio Cobos. Former Vice President Julio Cobos, who won a landslide for the UCR in Mendoza, and former Governor and 2011 contender Hermes Binner, whose Socialist-Radical alliance won by a big margin in Santa Fe, were both strengthened by the midterms. Binner and Cobos are both clearly interested by the presidency, although it is likely that only one of them will actually make it all the way to the finish line in 2015. Could either stomach losing to the other in a potential primary/PASO? It is well known that Argentine politicians hate losing more than anything.
I hope this post helped you understand the confusing, but secretly so fascinating, world of Argentine politics a bit better. Latin American politics will headline this blog in November, with Chilean elections next week (November 17) and Honduran elections at the end of the month. Before Chile, however, I might take a detour through the world of Quebec municipal politics (November 3 municipal elections).
Presidential, congressional and provincial elections were held in Argentina on October 23, 2011.
The President of Argentina is elected to a four-year term, renewable immediately once. Argentina’s runoff rules are a bit strange: a presidential candidate must win over 45% of the vote or win over 40% of the vote and lead his/her closest opponent by a margin of at least 10%.
The Congress has two chambers; the 257-seat lower house (Chamber of Deputies) and the 72-seat Senate with 3 members for each one of the 23 provinces and the Federal District (the city of Buenos Aires). This year, 130 members out of the 257 members of the lower house were up for reelection in all 24 provinces+DF. The elections are played out by party-list PR. 24 out of the 72 senators were also up for reelection in the provinces of Buenos Aires Province, Formosa, Jujuy, La Rioja, Misiones, San Juan, San Luis and Santa Cruz. The party list winning the most votes wins two of the three seats, the runner-up takes the last seat.
Gubernatorial elections were also held on October 23 in the provinces of Buenos Aires, La Pampa, Entre Rios, Formosa, Jujuy, Mendoza, San Juan, San Luis and Santa Cruz. Earlier this year, a whole series of provinces had held gubernatorial elections. In the end, only Corrientes and Santiago del Estero did not hold gubernatorial elections.
Argentine history and politics have been marked by Peronism, a “unique” ideology whose influence has outlived its creator, Juan Perón. Peronism is a diverse movement, and it stretches from the right to the left. Some Peronist Presidents have embraced neoliberalism, others have been mortal enemies of neoliberal dogma. Thus it is hard to give one single definition of Peronism besides saying, pretty obviously, that is a populist movement with a traditionally statist view of the state’s role in the economy. Juan Perón was a charismatic (demagogic?) populist army officer who deftly expanded his base outside the army (where he had many rivals) to capture the sympathies of Argentina’s poor working-classes, shunned by all politicians. His social policies won their support and turned Perón into a working-class hero. While Peronism was definitely born on the left, under Perón himself the movement slowly emerged towards populist conservatism. In his second stint in power, Perón turned against the revolutionary left and his successor, Isabel Perón was influenced by the right-wing Peronists. It didn’t keep her from running the country into the ground and forcing the military to overthrow her in favour of one of South America’s most thuggish military regimes. Peronism returned to power in 1989, when Carlos Menem was elected President (and reelected in 1995). Menem broke with the cherished statist principles of the movement when he fully embraced neoliberalism.
Despite the success of Menem’s neoliberal policies in cutting inflation and boosting economic growth, spending remained high and Argentina’s debt kept growing. It all exploded during the economic crisis between 1999 and 2002, which led to Argentina defaulting on its foreign debt. The President who took office following a tumultuous 2001, Eduardo Duhalde slowly restored the country’s economy. In 2003, Duhalde backed little-known Santa Cruz governor Néstor Kirchner to replace him, and Kirchner was elected after Menem dropped out before the runoff which would have opposed him to Kirchner, a left-wing Peronist. Kirchner took advantage of the gradual economic recovery in Argentina and cemented his power, to the dismay of Duhalde who had wanted to use Kirchner as a tool to plot his return in 2007. Instead, Kirchner had the upper hand over Duhalde and imposed his choice of successor, namely his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who won by the first round with 45%. In office, Kirchner built a ‘party’ of his own, the Front for Victory (FPV), officially a faction of the Peronist Justicialist Party (PJ). Kirchnerism or left-wing Peronism rejects the Menem-era neoliberalism (which hasn’t kept Menem, now a Senator, from opportunistically backing the Kirchnerists when the wind is nice), instead favouring industrial developmentalism. It also opposes multilateral and bilateral free trade with the US and the FTAA agreement.
Cristina’s presidency has been marked by some ups and downs. Shortly after taking office, Cristina ran into a major conflict with the agroexport sector and right-wing factions of her Peronist majority when her government increased export taxes on soybeans and sunflowers (before reversing course). Her majority divided between the left-wing Kirchnerist FPV and the right-wing Peronist ‘Federal Peronism’, the FPV lost its congressional majority in 2009. But since then she has remarkably rebounded, thanks in large part to Argentina’s impressive economic growth (8% in 2011). She also benefited from an outpouring of sympathy after the death of her husband Néstor Kirchner. He had been said to be eyeing a return to the presidency this year.
The opposition to Kirchnerism is divided. One the one hand, there are the conservative right-wing Federal Peronists whose most prominent leader is former President Eduardo Duhalde. Duhalde has been at war with the Kirchners since 2005 or so, when it became clear that Kirchner was cementing his power and wasn’t looking to Duhalde to succeed him in 2007. But Federal Peronism itself is not united. Duhalde does not have full control over the right-wing of the PJ. His main rival in this field is Alberto Rodríguez Saá, the PJ governor of San Luis since 2003 and 2007 presidential candidate (7.6%). His brother Adolfo had run in 2003 and had served as President for a few days in 2001 and has served as Senator since 2005. Rodríguez Saá is insanely popular in San Luis, which is very much their personal fiefdom. Alberto Rodríguez Saá had won 68.2% of the vote there in the 2007 presidential election.
The other opposition to Kirchnerism is the liberal Civic Radical Union (UCR), Argentina’s oldest party founded in 1891 as the political vehicle for Argentina’s urban middle-classes in opposition to then-dominant rural landowning conservatives who ruled Argentina until the UCR’s Hipólito Yrigoyen won the 1916 elections. The UCR has managed to survive the tumults of Argentine politics in all that time since 1916, which is pretty remarkable. It has always been an opponent of Peronism, because Peronism is poorly received by Argentina’s wealthier urban middle-classes which the UCR is allegedly the party of. The UCR’s Raúl Alfonsín was the first democratic President of the country following the military junta, in office between 1985 and 1989. But since that time, the UCR as an opponent to Peronism has been wracked by its own string of dissensions, internal squabbles and a general lack of talent. In 2009, the UCR formed a short-lived electoral alliance with Elisa Carrió’s liberal urban Civic Coalition (CC), which fell apart because everybody hated Carrió, the runner-up in the 2007 presidential elections with over 20% of the vote. This year, the UCR nominated congressman Ricardo Alfonsín, the terribly uncharismatic son of former President Raúl Alfonsín. Alfonsín has had trouble deciding whether he should attack the Kirchner machine from the left or the right, finally opting for the right.
The opposition to Kirchnerism is also left-wing. The Socialist Party (PS) has never been a fan of Peronism despite the ideological similarities of the two. The PS had unsuccessfully worked to create a working-class base for itself to sneak up the middle between the UCR and the conservatives, but Perón totally destroyed that when he took the votes of the working-classes for himself and turned them into Peronists. These are the historical roots for the enmity between the PS and Peronism. These days, the PS is basically a socially liberal and economically centrist party whose actual ideological differences with the FPV are scarce (as are ideological differences between the FPV and any other of the opposition parties). The PS’ candidate was Hermes Binner, former governor of Santa Fe and mayor of Rosario. Binner was a popular and competent governor of Santa Fe and had the best image of any of the main opposition candidates.
A novelty in this election was the organization of “simultaneous, open and mandatory primaries” on August 14 for all offices up for election on October 23. The theory behind the primaries was to get the parties to have an internal contest to nominate their candidates in the style of a traditional primaries, in the style of Washington state’s “jungle primary”. But Argentina’s political parties are empty shells and not actual political parties. A lot are ephemeral personal vehicles and politicians in Argentina couldn’t stomach losing a primary, so the August 14 primaries were “mock elections” because the main candidates for president and other offices had no opposition. In the primaries, covered here, Cristina won 50.1% against 12.2% for Alfonsín, 12.2% for Duhalde and 10.3% for Binner. The result had been a huge victory for Cristina, whose reelection was never put in doubt after that. It was also a striking blow for the whole opposition, which failed to get one of its contenders to truly step out of the pack as the most credible contender against Kirchner in order to create some sort of anti-K opposition coalition. The presidential election thus wasn’t much of a race because Cristina, after her primary landslide, was ensured reelection unless she was caught killing a baby or something.
The race was more interesting on the sidelines, with the opposition candidates moving around in the polls. Duhalde collapsed, Binner stepped out of the pack and moved upwards a bit, Alfonsín and Rodríguez Saá fell back a bit. It would have been hard for any of these main candidates to drop out like Elisa Carrió (3.2% in the primaries) did, because in Argentina each party has its own single, separate ballot paper with its candidates for president, Congress and other downballot offices all listed. Therefore, if a voter wants to vote for one party for president but doesn’t support its congressional slate, he play origami with his ballot and cut out the congressional list from that party’s ticket cut out the congressional list from another party’s ballot and so forth. A presidential candidacy thus boosts a party’s chances of downballot success, and a lack of a presidential candidacy hinders the party’s downballot chances.
The results are as follows for President with 98.25% reporting:
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (FPV) 53.96%
Hermes Binner (Progressive Front-PS) 16.97%
Ricardo Alfonsín (UDESO-UCR) 11.85%
Alberto Rodríguez Saá (ACF-Federal Peronism) 7.98%
Eduardo Duhalde (FP-Federal Peronism) 5.89%
Jorge Altamira (FIT) 2.31%
Elisa Carrió (CC-ARI) 1.84%
As expected, Cristina won reelection by a massive landslide. Since her husband’s death and the 2009 midterm setback, Cristina has managed to impose her authority over her coalition and has benefited a lot from Argentina’s very favourable economic situation. With nearly 54% of the vote, she has won one of the biggest victories in Argentine electoral history, ranking up there with Perón in 1951 and 1973, or Yrigoyen in 1928. Cristina did best in the poor, rural, conservative and reliably Peronist isolated northern provinces where she won upwards of 60% in most cases and up to 82% in Santiago del Estero. She also did well in Patagonia, most specifically in her husband’s province of Santa Cruz where she won 74.8%. She was weaker in wealthier central Argentina, winning only 37% in Córdoba for example. However, a good part of her victory comes from the province of Buenos Aires which is Argentina’s most populous province and a key political prize for anybody who wants to win. Much had been made of the defeat of the FPV list led by Néstor Kirchner in the province back in the 2009 midterm elections, because Buenos Aires had been since 2003 a key political base for the FPV which performs strongly in the poor working-class hinterland surrounding the capital. Apparently that 2009 result wasn’t any long-term trend, because Cristina did very well in the province: 56%. And she truly destroyed her opponents (60%+ showings) in the Peronist hinterland of the capital.
Hermes Binner did well, winning nearly 17% of the vote, which is up from the 10.3% he had won in the primaries. He was the most well-liked of all the opposition candidates, he had a good record as governor of Santa Fe and he was the most credible of the opposition candidates. Binner did best in Santa Fe, where he won 39% to Cristina’s 42%. He won his hometown of Rosario by a narrow margin. He also did well in neighboring Córdoba, Entre Rios, the province of Buenos Aires and the federal capital. He was the strategic choice of the affluent urbanites of Buenos Aires and the capital’s affluent northern suburbs, voters which had voted for Duhalde in the primary but who chose Binner in the general election. Binner won the three very affluent comunas of northern Buenos Aires, but in the city as a whole, traditionally very anti-Peronist, Cristina repeated her primary exploit by winning the capital with 35.1% to Binner’s 27.8%.
Ricardo Alfonsín did only slightly poorer than in the primaries, 11.9% versus 12.2% in August. He had the widest base in terms of geographical distribution of support, polling a distant second to Cristina in a lot of the more rural and conservative (but hugely Peronist) provinces in the far north or in the wealthier rural areas of central Argentina. But Alfonsín’s candidacy never really took off. He is totally uncharismatic and, as is usual for the UCR, has had trouble deciding where he stood on the issues. He sought to ally with the left while running with some neoliberal economist as his running mate, which backfired rather badly. The UCR is dead at a presidential level because it has no politicians with talent and national ambitions.
Rodríguez Saá won 8.2% in the primaries and 8% in the general election. As expected, he won big in San Luis, with 51.5% to Cristina’s 31% in the only province which has never voted for a Kirchner. But in his home province, his support has declined a whole lot since 2007, when he won 68% in his home province (and 7.6% nationally). This means that his loses in San Luis were compensated by stronger showings outside there, mostly in the provinces which neighbor San Luis. His biggest gains came in Mendoza, where he won 20.3%, up from 4% in 2007. Cristina’s running-mate in 2007, Julio Cobos, had been the governor of Mendoza and he brought a big personal vote on the ticket in 2007 (60.9% in 2007 for Cristina, 50.8% this year) which disappeared this year, in part because Cobos broke with Cristina’s government and aligned with the opposition forces.
Eduardo Duhalde collapsed. From 12.2% to 5.9%. His primary showing had been considered very weak for a guy who was widely perceived by most of the opposition as the only one who could defeat Cristina. After his weak primary showing, his artificial support from the anti-Peronist sectors totally collapsed. He only reallt saved face in Chubut, where he won 16.5%, because it is the home province of his running mate, former Chubut governor Mario Das Neves. His vote in Buenos Aires, both the city and province, seems to have flowed in large part to Binner who won, as I said, those affluent neighborhoods of the capital which Duhalde had won in the primary.
It is hard to break down legislative elections in Argentina because coalitions and parties are very loose and they differ from election to election and from province to province. This being South America, a lot of politicians are whores who will back whoever it is in their best interests to back, regardless of ideology. This means that, for now, Kircherism is a good thing for them to support. However, if like in 2009 Kircherism isn’t so profitable, then they’ll drop them without any second thoughts.
The bottom line is that the FPV have won back their congressional majority, lost in 2009. Don’t ask me the detail by party, because I have no clue. This website has broken down the 130 new legislators and 27 new senators by the candidate they backed. Kirchner (FPV) allies won 85 seats, Alfonsín (UCR) won 15 seats, Binner (PS-progressives) won 14, Rodríguez Saá (PJ dissident, right) won 6, Duhalde (PJ dissident, right) just 2 and Carrió’s CC just one. 7 did not back any candidate, 3 of whom are apparently 3 PRO (right-wing liberals) member in the capital and the rest being provincial parties which probably were close to Kirchner or will be close to her in the future. In the Senate, her allies won 15 seats against 3 apiece for Alfonsín and Rodríguez Saá, 1 for Binner and 2 others (including Menem, who ran on a provincial slate in La Rioja which supports Kirchner without being FPV). La Nación has given us the following numbers:
Kirchnerism (FPV) and allies 135 seats
UCR 41 seats
Federal Peronism 29 seats
FAP (PS) 21 seats
PRO 11 seats
CC 7 seats
Others 13 seats
Kirchnerism (FPV) and allies 38 seats
UCR 17 seats
Federal Peronism 10 seats
FAP (PS) 4 seats
Others 3 seats
A majority in the Chamber is 129 seats, and 37 seats (or 36) in the Senate. While the FPV itself has 116 deputies, but there are 19 official FPV allies which are from provincial outfits which are the FPV by another name. The FPV and its allies have won in pretty much every province besides San Luis and Tierra del Fuego. In the province of Buenos Aires, with its 35 seats and traditionally the most symbolic congressional contest, the FPV won a landslide with a bit less than 57% of the votes. In 2009 in the same province, the FPV list led by Néstor Kirchner had been dealt a symbolic blow by placing second with 32.2%.
In the Senatorial contests, the most interesting race was in the province of Buenos Aires where the defeat of Duhalde in the presidential contest led to the defeat of his wife and incumbent Senator Hilda Beatriz González, whose list placed fourth with 7.4%. In the primaries, her list had placed second with 13.3%, which would have ensured her reelection if those had been the final results. In La Rioja, Carlos Menem, one of those whores who is not officially a Kirchnerist but acts like one when it is profitable, was reelected, placing first with 35.4% (his slate was the ‘Riojan Popular Front’) against 33.8% for the FPV. In San Luis, Adolfo Rodríguez Saá’s slate (Federal Compromise) won 60.8%, ahead of the FPV which won 28.7%.
The FPV’s candidates won all gubernatorial elections held on October 23 besides that in San Luis, where the Federal Peronist candidate backed by outgoing governor Rodríguez Saá won easily.
The most important race was in the province of Buenos Aires, governed since 2007 by Kirchnerist Daniel Scioli. His main opponent was Francisco de Narváez, a Federal Peronist congressman and the man who had ‘defeated’ Néstor Kirchner in 2009. de Narváez was the candidate of the UDESO, the makeshift coalition formed by Alfonsín. Scioli was easily reelected with 55.1%, a tad less than what Cristina won in the province. de Narváez won 15.87% and Margarita Stolbizer, the 2007 runner-up and Binner’s candidate won 11.7%.
The closest contest and the most important one besides Buenos Aires was Mendoza. Former UCR governor Roberto Mendoza (1999-2003) sought to regain his old territory, which he had failed to do in 2007 (winning less than 10%). His main opponent was the FPV’s Francisco Pérez and Luis Rosales, the candidate backed by Rodríguez Saá. Their government is incompetent, so I can’t find results, but Pérez apparently won easily by around 10% or so.
There was one important municipal contest, in the affluent municipality of Vicente López in the greater Buenos Aires area. Vicente López has been governed since 1987 by Enrique García, currently FPV but an opportunist who whores himself to whoever is in power. He was defeated by Jorge Macri, the cousin of Mauricio Macri, the PRO mayor of Buenos Aires (city). Macri, backed by Duhalde’s coalition, won 38.3% against 34.2% for the FPV (García).
The government has the support of pretty much every governor in the country. Only the city of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Corrientes and San Luis are governed outright by the opposition though a case could be made that Chubut’s PJ governor is also in the opposition. During the year, the government picked up the governorships of Catamarca and Río Negro from the UCR.
Primary elections for a plethora of offices, the most important being President, were held in Argentina on August 14. Other offices also affected by these primaries were deputies, senators, mayors and governors. These simultaneous, open and mandatory primaries as they were called are the first open primary elections to be held in Argentina. The theory behind the primaries was to get the parties to have an internal contest to nominate their candidates in the style of a traditional primaries, in the style of Washington state’s primary system. However, Argentina’s political parties are mostly empty shells or personalist outfits ran by a single personality. None of the candidates for President faced any opposition within their coalition, and most candidates for Senate or the Chamber were also without opposition. Therefore, the primaries turned into a weird kind of “mock elections” before the actual elections on October 23.
In these elections, each party issued a ballot of their own with their candidate(s) for president, senator, deputy and some other offices. Voters were allowed to cut these ballots and vote for one party for president, another party for senate and so forth. They could also vote for the same party for all offices. However, voters had only one vote for each office. They could not vote for two candidates for president, for example.
Since every presidential candidate ran unopposed, when the votes cast in the “presidential primary”, it ends up exactly like the real election. However, nobody is elected in these primaries. Nobody is even qualified for a runoff or anything. The only thing which changes is those primary candidates who won less than 1.5% of the vote are excluded from the October ballot. It is thus an indicator of what will happen in October. If President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner won over 45% of the vote, it would indicate that she was heavily favoured going into the October elections. If she won less than that, it would mean she would open to a runoff in October. Furthermore, given the division of the opposition vote, a lot of people on the fence saw in these primaries the opportunity for one candidate to emerge as the best opponent, and they opposition vote would then coalesce around him.
Some have said that those who don’t vote in August won’t be allowed to vote in October, a somewhat arbitrary and stupid idea, but there is controversy about that. It will likely be decided in a few months time.
This is a good opportunity to quickly preview the presidential candidates, though a better preview will come in a few months time as the real elections draws closer. Candidates need 45% of the vote in the first round or at least 40% of the vote and a margin of 10% from the second-placed candidate to win by the first round. Cristina won 45.3% in 2007, and the runner-up won 23%.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, elected in 2007 and widow of former President Néstor Kirchner, is heavily favoured to win reelection in October. After a tough first term, in which she became unpopular after a bad spat with farmers over an increase in export taxes on soybeans and sunflowers, and later lost her majority in the legislature, she rebounded thanks to Argentina’s rapid economic growth and strong economy but also sympathy following the 2010 death of her husband, Néstor Kirchner, originally thought to be eyeing a return to power in 2011. She has proved the nay-sayers who thought that she would be a weak president or a stand-in puppet for her husband wrong. The Kirchners, in power since 2003, represent the left-wing faction of Argentina’s dominant ideology, Peronism and of the Peronist party, the Justicialist Party (PJ). Kirchnerism rejects the neo-liberalism of the Carlos Menem years (Menem was a Peronist), instead favouring industrial developmentalism. It also opposes multilateral and bilateral free trade with the US and the FTAA agreement. The Kirchnerist party is the Front for Victory (FPV), formally a faction of the PJ. Her running-mate is finance minister Amado Boudou.
Ricardo Alfonsín, the son of former President Raul Alfonsín (the first post-military President of Argentina in the 1980s), is the candidate of a coalition assembled around the Civic Radical Union (UCR). The UCR, Argentina’s liberal middle-class party, is Argentina’s oldest party but since then have been badly split and severely trounced in a lot of elections. As always with the UCR, Alfonsín has tried to reach out to both socialists and right-wingers, but has mostly tacked to the right, notably with his running-mate, Javier Gonzalez Fraga, a strong supporter of Menem.
The other main opposition candidate is former President Eduardo Duhalde (2002-2003), who became popular as President for slowly restoring Argentina’s economy following the 2001 crisis. Duhalde was the one who picked Santa Cruz Governor Néstor Kirchner to succeed him in 2003, and was originally allied with him, until Kirchner showed his ambitions of his own and made sure Duhalde would not run to get his old job back in 2007. Since then, Duhalde, a Peronist, has aligned with the right-wing faction of Peronism, Federal Peronism. He has thus become a de-facto right-winger. His running-mate is the former federal Peronist governor of Chubut, Mario Das Neves.
The third opposition candidate is Hermes Binner of the Socialist Party (PS), which in Argentina has aligned with the anti-Peronist opposition, often alongside the UCR. Binner was a popular mayor of Rosario and then governor of Santa Fe until 2011. In Santa Fe’s gubernatorial elections in late July, PS candidate Antonio Bonfatti narrowly defeated PRO (right-wing) candidate Miguel del Sel, a nice boost for Binner’s campaign.
Federal Peronism also features another candidate, Alberto Rodríguez Saá, the governor of San Luis since 2003. His brother Adolfo served as President for seven days in 2007 and has been senator since 2005 (he also ran for president in 2003). Rodríguez Saá is insanely popular in San Luis, which he won with 68.2% in 2007, when he ran for president winning 7.6%. Rodríguez Saá, a conservative Peronist, has a powerful local base in San Luis, but is weak outside San Luis and some surrounding provinces and districts.
Elisa Carrió, who is basically a middle-class liberal, ran second to Cristina in 2007 with 23% and notably carried the city of Buenos Aires, is running again. However, Carrió is a bit of a weird personality and she has lost most of her support since 2007. Her Civic Coalition, which ran with the UCR in most provinces in the 2009 legislative elections, has totally collapsed into near-oblivion propped up only by a handful of strong personalities.
Here are the quasi-final primary results. Argumendo, Pastore and Bonacci won under 1.5% and will not be allowed to run in October.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (FPV) 50.07%
Ricardo Alfonsín (UDESO-UCR) 12.17%
Eduardo Duhalde (FP-Federal Peronism) 12.16%
Hermes Binner (Progressive Front-PS) 10.26%
Alberto Rodríguez Saá (ACF-Federal Peronism) 8.17%
Elisa Carrió (CC-ARI) 3.24%
Jorge Altamira (FIT) 2.48%
Alcira Argumendo (Proyecto Sur) 0.9%
Sergio Pastore (Accion Vecinal) 0.31%
Jose Bonacci (Campo Popular) 0.24%
Cristina not only won over 45%, she won over 50%, an extremely symbolic point. Her landslide in these mock elections make her pretty invincible in October, unless there is some major crisis which makes her unpopular all of her sudden. It will demoralize the opposition, which thought that perhaps Cristina wasn’t so unassailable after her candidate lost badly in Buenos Aires’ elections in July and then a poor performance by the FPV’s candidate in the Santa Fe gubernatorial elections. To further destroy the opposition, none of their candidates has emerged as the undisputed strongest candidate. Alfonsín and Duhale ended up statistically tied, with Binner only a few points behind both of them. Even Rodríguez Saá performed decently. The chances of the anti-K vote coalescing around any of the four top opposition candidates are low. Lower yet are the chances of any of the four dropping out. One of the main reasons why this is is that, like in these primaries, the elections in October will use separate ballots for each party. Thus, voters who wish to vote for one party for president but another for Congress must cut their ballot. If a party has no candidate for President, a lot of voters who might vote for the other candidates from this party will not because they won’t take the time to play origami with ballots. If the opposition, for example, coalesces around Duhalde, the UCR and PS will have no candidates for President and those who want to vote UCR or PS for Congress are more unlikely to do so because they won’t take the time to split their paper. Therefore, a candidate dropping out would sink their party’s other candidates for lower office. If, like it happened in two recent gubernatorial contests, a single ballot is used (like in the US), then it will be easier for candidates to drop out. But the fact that all are basically tied, it is hard for one to emerge as the top candidate of the anti-K front let alone strong enough to push others to drop out.
Cristina landslided all provinces, except San Luis, where Rodríguez Saá won 52.4% to Cristina’s 28.5%. She most notably won the anti-Peronist stronghold of Buenos Aires (city) with 30.1% against Duhalde’s 22.1%. The strength of each opposition candidate varied regionally. Duhalde was the strongest of them in the city of Buenos Aires (he is quite close to the city’s head of government, PRO’s Mauricio Macri) and the province of Buenos Aires though with a paltry 13.9% to Cristina’s 53.1%. In Chubut, where is running mate was governor until this year, he won 26.3%. Outside there, he was in the single digits in most rural Peronist strongholds in the north. Binner won 32.8% in Santa Fe and was somewhat strong in surrounding provinces and the city of Buenos Aires, but quite weak in a lot of northern provinces. Rodríguez Saá placed a distant second in San Juan, Mendoza and La Rioja, which all border San Luis. Alfonsín was strong in pretty much all other provinces, which might make him the least-worst of the opposition candidates in terms of electability. Carrió won 6% in the city of Buenos Aires and did badly outside of there.
These primaries were an interesting experiment and a great ‘mock election’ which doesn’t count for anything for electoral nerds, but in practice it was a waste of time and money. Primaries are not made for a country like Argentina, which has no real political parties, given that all politicians are attention-whores who don’t stomach losing fights with ‘fellow’ party members. Argentina instead has parties which serve as temporary labels for parties and are hardly more than French Third Republic parliamentary groups. The PJ split into factions in 2002 and hardly resembles a political party. The Federal Peronists, furthermore, are split between various persons, such as Duhalde or Rodríguez Saá. The UCR has been an empty shell for quite some time. Most other parties are labels created by various attention-whores to run for president or other offices. Primaries can’t work in such a system where everybody just forms his own party to run anyway.
While I was away on vacation, a series of important gubernatorial (state) elections were held in three Mexican states and Argentina’s federal capital of Buenos Aires. In Mexico, the states of Coahuila, México and Nayarit held elections for governor on July 3. In Argentina, the federal capital and independent city of Buenos Aires held elections for head of government (the local mayor or governor), half of the local legislature and elections to 15 new local councils called communes.
Mexico (July 3)
Three Mexican states elected new governors on July 3, including the all-powerful state of México which, as Mexico’s most populous state with over 15 million inhabitants, accounts for 13.5% of the country’s population. Coahuila and Nayarit (respectively 16th and 29th out of 32 in terms of population) weren’t as crucial.
Coahuila, Mexico’s third largest state by area, is a large sprawling state in northern Mexico bordering Texas. It is largely arid and poor. Politically, Coahuila remains largely priísta, having been the PRI’s strongest state in the 2009 midterms and having been ruled only by PRI governors. But like most of northern Mexico the PAN remains strong, its candidates having carried the state in the 2000 and 2006 elections.
México is relatively small in terms of area, but is the country’s most populous state. It surrounds the Federal District on three sides, and is geographically marked by a contrast between the flat Valley of Mexico (the heart of Aztec civilization) and the mountainous region south of the state capital of Toluca. México is somewhat of a microcosm of Mexico, with heavy urbanization on the outskirts of Mexico, an old industrial base in Toluca and agriculture in rural areas. As such and thanks to its size, the state is something of a major prize in Mexican politics. The PRI has governed the state uninterrupted for countless decades, but the PAN won it in the 2000 presidential election and the PRD’s AMLO won it in the 2006 presidential election where the PRI placed third in the state. The state was all the more crucial this year as it is held by the outgoing governor Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) who is to date the runaway favourite to become Mexico’s next president in 2012.
Nayarit is a small state with a small population on the Pacific coast of Mexico isolated by the rest of the country by the Sierra Madre Occidental. It is located just north of the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta, whose place as a booming tourist and industrial centre has opened markets for Nayarit. Nayarit has been ruled by the PRI since 2005, when its candidate Ney González Sánchez narrowly defeated a PRD candidate seeking to succeed Antonio Echevarría Domínguez, a former priísta elected governor on the PRD banner in 1999. Likely due to Echevarría, the PRD has been strong in the state while the PAN has been very weak (only 19% for Calderon in 2006).
In Coahuila, the PRI nominated federal deputy Rubén Moreira Valdez and the PAN nominated senator Guillermo Anaya Llamas. The PT and Convergencia ran independently of the locally irrelevant PRD with former deputy Jesús González Schmal. In México, the PRI nominated Ecatepec de Morelos mayor Eruviel Ávila, the PAN nominated former party president Luis Felipe Bravo Mena. The PRD finally nominated Alejandro Encinas, the well-known former caretaker mayor of Mexico (between 2005 and 2006). The PAN and some factions of the PRD including Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard fumbled around in the quixotic hope to form an electoral alliance like those PAN-PRD tickets which had proved so fruitful in 2010 and even earlier this year in Guerrero. But Encinas is a close ally of the PRD’s defeated 2006 presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who lost the PRD’s leadership narrowly in 2008 to AMLO rival Jesús Ortega. Ortega’s faction, to which (2012 contender) Ebrard is increasingly close to, favours such PAN-PRD alliances but Encinas-AMLO’s minority faction opposes such alliances. Finally, in Nayarit, the PRI candidate was Tepic mayor Roberto Sandoval Castañeda, the PAN candidate was PRD federal deputy and Echevarría Domínguez’s ex-wife Martha Elena García. Yet the PRD also nominated a candidate, Guadalupe Acosta Naranjo.
The most significant aspect here was the absence of any PAN-PRD alliances like those which had triumphed in three big states in 2010 and earlier this year in Guerrero. Only a last-ditch PAN-PRD coalition was put up in some municipalities in Hidalgo (which held local elections), where a PAN-PRD alliance had narrowly lost the gubernatorial contest in 2010.
Here are the results for the three states:
|PRI and allies||59.96%||62.52%||48.8%|
|PAN and allies||35.23%||12.38%||38.1%|
|PRD and allies||0.97%||21.17%||10.9%|
The three elections were all major victories for the PRD which managed to comfortably hold all three states up for grabs (though it was the defending party in all three). The most significant of the three was of course Eruviel’s landslide win in the most important of them all (México) where he won a smashing 62.52% which is one of the PRI’s best result in any statewide election in a very long time. The PRD saved face in México where Encinas ran a good campaign, but the PAN did not save face at all in that state where it ended up getting hammered into a very poor third with only 12.4%. Nonetheless, the PAN put up a good fight in Coahuila and most significantly Nayarit whereas the PRD did badly in both of those states including Nayarit where it has had a base of strength since the late 90s. The PAN even managed to win one more municipality (10 out of 20) in municipal elections held simultaneously in Nayarit. The PAN-PRD alliances in Hidalgo’s local elections worked more or less well, allowing some modest PRI loses.
At any rate, Eruviel’s win cements Enrique Peña Nieto as the PRI’s candidate, which has basically united behind him. However, the PAN’s poor showing might hurt the chances of one of the three top PAN contenders, former education secretary Josefina Vázquez Mota who was touted as a PAN candidate in México state and is seen as supporting a PAN-PRD alliance. The other top two contenders are Santiago Creel, an unsuccessful candidate for the 2006 nomination (where he was the candidate of then-President Vicente Fox); and finance minister Ernesto Cordero who is apparently the president’s favourite.
Argentina (July 10)
The latest in a string of 22 Argentine provinces which are due to elect governors this year, the federal capital and autonomous city of Buenos Aires elected its head of government (aka, governor or mayor) on July 10 alongside 30 out of the local parliament’s 60 seats and local councils in 15 new communes each electing a council of seven members.
The Argentine capital with a population of nearly 2.9 million, Buenos Aires has long been the capital of the country’s affluent and educated intelligentsia. In the nineteenth century, Buenos Aires’ free-trading elitist liberals feuded with the authoritarian protectionist rural caudillos of the pampas. This dichotomy of sorts between the capital and the rest of the country has existed to this day, with important political repercussions. In a distant past, the city’s educated elites which included the likes of Domingo Sarmiento, railed against the barbarian gauchos and the authoritarian caudillos such as Juan Manuel de Rosas. In a less distant past, Buenos Aires’ educated affluent population disliked Peronism and in recent years has been a bastion of opposition to the Kirchner’s centre-left variant of Peronism (also styled Kircherism).
In 2007, Mauricio Macri, a wealthy businessman and former president of the country’s most popular football club, was elected head of government at the helm of Republican Proposal (PRO), the country’s main (openly) right-wing alliance which he co-founded in 2005. Macri, who had been narrowly defeated in 2003 by incumbent head of government and Kirchner ally Aníbal Ibarra (forced to resign in 2006), won 45.76% of the vote against 23.75% for Daniel Filmus, then-education minister and candidate of Kirchner’s FPV coalition. Incumbent Jorge Telerman, a centre-leftist who took office in 2006 won 20.68%. Macri crushed Filmus with 60.9% of the vote in the runoff at the end of June 2007. Macri has been popular as mayor, establishing a new local police force and enjoying local economic growth. He has also often feuded with President Fernández, widow of former President and towering political figure Nestor Kirchner. His right-wing supporters have always hoped that he harboured national political ambitions, but the cautious Macri dropped a doomed October 2011 presidential bid in May.
Instead of a quixotic presidential bid, Macri ran for reelection. He was opposed, again, by Daniel Filmus, now a senator. Endorsed by Kirchner and the FPV, Filmus attacked Macri for abuse of power (the police boss is investigated for phone tapping), delays in the construction of the subway, crime and poverty. Filmus was joined by Fernando ‘Pino’ Solanas, a left-wing filmmaker and the most prominent figure of the small local socialist Proyecto Sur party. Solanas was formerly allied to the Socialist Party of governor and presidential candidate Hermes Binner but that alliance has since been broken in most provinces though seemingly not (yet) in the city of Buenos Aires. Also-ran candidates included notably senator and Bolivian-born journalist María Eugenia Estenssoro from Elisa Carrió’s dwindling Civic Coalition (CC), federal deputy Silvana Giudici of the liberal UCR, former head of government Jorge Telerman, federal deputy Luis Zamora of the left-wing Autodetermination and Liberty and finally former finance minister and economist Ricardo López Murphy, a right-winger whose political career has been collapsing since his 2003 presidential bid where he won 16% (and winning overall in the city of Buenos Aires).
Mauricio Macri (PRO) 47.08%
Daniel Filmus (PJ-FPV) 27.78%
Fernando Pino Solanas (Proyecto Sur) 12.82%
María Eugenia Estenssoro (CC) 3.32%
Silvana Giudici (UCR) 2.06%
Jorge Telerman (FPBA) 1.76%
Luis Zamora (AyL) 1.47%
Ricardo López Murphy (Autonomist Party) 1.41%
all others below 1%
Macri will need to wait until a runoff on July 31 before getting consecrated with a quasi-certain victory. Macri’s quasi-certain win is certainly a major success for him, but the FPV has reason to cheer as well. Daniel Filmus won a result considerably better than what he had garnered in 2007, and his result is in the high range of the FPV’s vote share in the city in recent years. Certain observers in 2007 thought that Macri’s win over Filmus that year was some sort of proof that “Argentina wasn’t so left-wing” and that Kirchner might not win that easily after all. I can’t help but think some fools will write the same thing this year. In reality, Macri’s win in Buenos Aires doesn’t indicate much aside from the fact that Buenos Aires remains markedly to the right of left-wing Kirchnerista Argentina. Buenos Aires has always been a right-wing city, at least in recent years, and is a poor indicator of the political mood of the entirety of Argentina. The only thing that it indicates is that Kirchner won’t win the city of Buenos Aires in October even if she wins big nationally, but we already knew that.
Macri did best in the wealthiest neighborhoods in the north of the city, notably Recoleta (comuna 2) where he won nearly 60% of the vote. Conversely, Filmus did best in the south of the city most notably in comuna 8, the city’s poorest district, where he took 38% to Macri’s 42%. Solanas did poorly both in the affluent north and poor south, doing best instead in the middle-class areas in the centre of the city.
City elections played out slightly differently, but not much. 30 out of 60 seats were up, the other having been elected in 2009 (PRO had won 11, Proyecto Sur 8, CC-UCR 6, FPV 4 and another slate won one).
Alianza PRO 44.96% winning 16 seats
PJ-FPV 14.06% winning 5 seats
Proyecto Sur 12.89% winning 4 seats
Progressive and Popular Front (FPP) 6.64% winning 2 seats
New Encounter 6.48% winning 2 seats
CC 3.96% winning 1 seat
all others below 1.5%
The most significant aspect of the result is the FPV’s considerably poorer result, with only 14% of votes cast for the official FPV slate headed by Juan Cabandié, the boss of the virulent Kirchnerista youth. A lot of Filmus voters voted for two maverick Kirchnerista-lite slates, the FPP and New Encounter headed respectively by former mayor Ibarra and Gabriela Cerrutti. All in all, the PRO apparently picked up 2 seats, the FPV picked up one, the Proyecto Sur gained 3 while CC lost one. In communal council elections, PRO won 45.7% and 60 out of 105 seats, the FPV took 27.1% and 30 seats while Proyecto Sur won 15 seats and 13.7%. 15 communes composed of one or more barrios elected seven members to those new local councils, created to decentralize basic decision making in the city which is heavily centralized.
Some sort of larger and more detailed preview post for the presidential ballot including other gubernatorial elections in Argentina since January will be posted sometime in August or September.
Argentina held legislative elections for half the seats in the lower house (Chamber of Deputies) and a third of seats in the upper house (Senate), as well as one gubernatorial election, local elections, and legislative elections in the City of Buenos Aires. Argentine politics and political parties are quite confusing, mainly because there are no real parties per se – political parties operate roughly as confederation of elected officials, similar to the French Third Republic.
In addition, Argentine politics have been dominated for a long time by a local ideolgy, Peronism. Peronism is a pragmatic ideology which is very hard to pin down. Under Juan Perón, the founder of the ideology, it could be classified as a Argentine application of Italian fascism. Others have compared it to Gaullism in France or Franquism in Spain. Overall, a populistic-nationalistic ideology. Peronist tenets include “social justice” (the current Peronist party is the Justicialist Party), strong centralized government, nationalism, a fascist-like mix of capitalism and socialist in a corporativist fashion. Perón and Peronism was widely supported in the general working-class population, and still has a relatively solid base of real popular support. It was opposed, under Perón, by the UCR-led bourgeoisie (the liberal Radical Civic Union, UCR, is Argentina’s oldest party), communists, and Catholic fundies. The current President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and her predecessor (and husband), Néstor Kirchner, are classified as Peronist (though neither can be classified as fascist admirers, but rather run-of-the-mill centre-leftists).
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government got into a major conflict with farmers over the rise of export tariffs in 2008. Since then, she has been generally unpopular, add to that the worldwide economic crisis.
The best results I could find are from Clarín, a Peronist-leaning newspaper.
Chamber of Deputies (all seats)
Kirchneristas (PJ and Front for Victory) winning 96 seats (-20)
Kirchnerist allies winning 17 seats (-4)
Civic Coalition (UCR, social democrats, liberals) winning 77 seats (+16)
Union PRO (right-liberals) winning 26 seats (+12)
PJ dissidents winning 17 seats (+1)
Others winning 24 seats (-5)
In notable result, Néstor Kirchner, the husband of the President and current leader of the Peronist party (PJ), was “defeated” in the province of Buenos Aires (not the city, mind you) by a wealthy right-wing businessman, Francisco de Narváez of Union PRO. de Narváez took 34% (13 seats) against 32% (12 seats) for Kirchner. While Kirchner has “won”, obviously, he “lost” by virtue of this race being turned into a referendum on him, his wife and so forth.
Overall, the Kirchners have lost their overall majority in the Chamber.
Senate (all seats)
Kirchneristas (PJ and Front for Victory) winning 36 seats (-4)
Civic Coalition (UCR, social democrats, liberals) winning 23 seats (+7)
PJ dissidents winning 9 seats (nc)
Others winning 4 seats (-3)
The Kirchners have exactly 50.00% of the seats, and the non-Kirchners have 50.00%.
City of Buenos Aires Legislature (all seats)
Union PRO winning 26 seats (-1)
South Project (democratic socialists) winning 9 seats (+7)
Civic Coalition winning 8 seats (+2)
Kirchneristas winning 7 seats (-4)
Dialogue for the City winning 5 seats (+1)
Others winning 5 seats (-5)