Ya en la cuenta regresiva para las Primarias Abiertas Simultáneas y Obligatorias (PASO) y las elecciones presidenciales, el artículo siguiente ofrece un balance general de la coyuntura política, las vicisitudes del Frente Para la Victoria (FPV), y de los diferentes candidatos que se disputarán la presidencia. El artículo está en inglés.
Argentina Update: Election Outlook
Juan Cruz Días
Americas Society Website
27 de julio 2011
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner continues to dominate the political realm in terms of popularity as the presidential October 23 election approaches. After her husband, ex-President Néstor Kirchner, passed away in October of 2010, her approval ratings skyrocketed and remained at a relatively high rate. The outcomes of various regional elections earlier this year also showcased her wide-reaching influence. However, recent adverse electoral results for the ruling Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) party in the city of Buenos Aires and in the province of Santa Fe—two crucial districts—signal discontent among some sectors of the electorate.
Local Elections and Their Impact on the Presidential Race
Mayor Mauricio Macri from the Propuesta Republicana (PRO) comfortably won the July 10 first round of the local elections in the city of Buenos Aires against FPV’s Senator Daniel Filmus, and will most likely win again in the runoff elections slated for July 31. In Santa Fe, Antonio Bonfatti, protégé of the Governor and Socialist Party presidential candidate Hermes Binner, won the gubernatorial elections by a small margin. The wild card of that vote was comedian Miguel Del Sel, who ran for governor as a representative of the PRO party with the support of a large sector of dissident Peronists. Though a runner up, Del Sel’s performance was considered the surprise of the day when he pulled in 35.2 percent of the ballots. Macri, who abandoned his candidacy for this year’s presidential elections, claimed this result as a personal victory, positioning himself as a candidate for president in 2015. The FPV candidate Congressman Agustin Rossi finished in a distant third place.
Opposition leaders portrayed these results as a demonstration that the current administration is not invincible, questioning the validity of opinion polls that depict an easy reelection victory for Fernández de Kirchner (frequently referred to by her initials CFK). While it is true that both Macri and Bonfatti were the expected winners in those local elections, some observers see the results as a window of opportunity for the opposition to become serious contenders for presidency. Still, the opposition remains divided between five main candidates and none poll well enough to currently be seen as a threat to the president. CFK leads all opinion polls and, in most surveys, even tops the requisite 45 percent—or 40 percent plus 10 percent difference with the second-place candidate—needed in order to win in the first round.
The main candidates for October’s presidential elections are:
- Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, current president and front-runner in all opinion polls. She was elected in 2007 following her husband Néstor Kirchner’s administration. She represents the FPV, the official branch of the Peronist Party.
- Ricardo Alfonsín, a congressman for the Unión Cívica Radical, is the son of late ex-president Raúl Alfonsín, who was the first president elected after the return to democracy in 1983. Alfonsín rates second or third in voter-intention polls, with percentages hovering around the teens.
- Eduardo Duhalde also ranks second or third in the vote intention polls, running neck-and-neck with Alfonsín. A former president as well as ex-governor of Buenos Aires, he represents the Unión Popular party, which is a branch of the “dissident” Peronists who splintered from the official Peronist party.
- Alberto Rodríguez Saá of the Frente Compromiso is another representative of the “dissident” Peronists and has served as governor of San Luis since 2003. He is the brother of former Governor Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, who was temporarily appointed president in 2001 after the resignation of Fernando de la Rua.
- Elisa Carrió is a congresswoman for the City of Buenos Aires and presidential candidate for the Coalición Cívica. A strong advocate of transparency in Argentine politics, Carrió was the runner up in the 2007 presidential elections, when she held an alliance with the Socialist Party.
- Hermes Binner, governor of Santa Fe, was elected in 2007 as the first Socialist Governor in Argentina. With high approval ratings in his province, he serves as the candidate of the Frente Amplio Progresista, a left-leaning alliance that hopes to develop electoral potential with a strong ally and gubernatorial candidate in Córdoba.
The electoral race is underway but the first national-level test will be the presidential primaries scheduled for August 14. The pace of the campaign will accelerate in the coming days and the political environment is showing signs of polarization. This could help the candidate who reaches second place in the primaries to capture the votes of CFK opponents. The opposition will work hard to take advantage of recent local results in an effort to prevent CFK from winning the necessary votes in October and to force a November runoff.
However, most analysts believe that CFK still has strong chances of winning in October. Translating Macri’s party successes in local elections to the national scene could prove to be difficult, particularly as the PRO party does not have a presidential candidate. Despite criticisms and economic difficulties such as high inflation rates, CFK remains popular in the context of high economic growth. Moreover, the FPV looks strong at the national level, particularly in the province of Buenos Aires—the most important electoral district.
With less than three months to go before the presidential election, opposition candidates will have to step up their game to pose a serious challenge. Meanwhile CFK needs to shore up her support base to ensure her path to reelection.