“Statement” Candidates

Argentine politics is always surprising us, especially for its incredible creativity to come up with new concepts, techniques, strategies and loopholes. These elections brought about a new type of candidate: the “statement” candidate (“candidato testimonial” in its Spanish version). By Hugo Passarello Luna

What is this? It is a candidate with no intention whatsoever to occupy the position he or she intends to be elected for. It does not make sense, true, yet at first not many things make sense in Argentine politics. The candidate, then, only intended to do a statement by running for Congress.

What is the idea behind this peculiar technique?
The strategy is to put as candidates well known politicians with a positive and popular image, many of who are presently occupying a governmental position. This is the case of Daniel Scioli, governor of the vital Province of Buenos Aires, with a very good image among the electorate and a loyal member of the Frente para la Victoria (Victory Front), the president’s, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, party. Scioli, at the request of ex-president Néstor Kirchner, will be the main candidate for congress next June. Most likely Scioli will be elected for a seat in the lower chamber, securing representation for the national government. However, once elected he will decline to accept the post, which would be occupied by the substitute candidate, belonging to the same party. Scioli will then go back to its temporarily abandoned position as governor of Buenos Aires. By doing this, the national government will secure seats in Congress while not loosing the administration of key provinces and municipalities around the country.
This desperate and questionable move was designed because there is a high probability that, given the current political scenario, the government will loose majority in both chambers. Last year the conflict with the countryside, because of the export tariffs, negatively affected the image of Cristina. Moreover, as the economy is expected to continue shrinking, mainly because of the world crisis, the near future does not look too bright. If the government looses majority, the next two years will be an immense challenge for Cristina and the good governance of Argentina.
Other examples of Argentine strategies
The Victory Front is not to be credited with the exclusive creation of this type of candidates, though they are intending to systematize it in large scale for the upcoming elections. An opposition party has emulated the government in their electoral strategies. The center right party PRO, elected two years ago to administer the rich city of Buenos Aires, has decided that its vice mayor, Gabriela Michetti, will forsake its position to run for a deputy seat. Michetti is one of PRO’s political figures with a very positive image, so the party feels it can secure a seat. PRO argues that Michetti’s situation is different from that of Scioli’s, given that Michetti will in fact assume the deputy seat, if elected.
However, only two years ago Michetti (or Gabriela as she introduced herself in the 2007 campaign) was elected to be the vice mayor of the city, to preside the city’s legislative body and to assist the elected mayor in administering the massive and problematic capital. Now, she is abandoning her much publicized commitment.
These new generations of “statement” candidates are given testimony that their only commitment is for political myopia and very little respect for Republican institutions and voters.


The so called «statement candidatures» are but the clear example that Argentina is evolving backwards in its process of transition towards democracy. Remembering the chess-board metaphor placed by O’Donnell and Schmitter (1988), one could argue that after more than 25 years Argentinean political system has failed to consolidate its vertical accountability, which is the foremost trait of a minimal liberal-democracy. In this way, if we compared Mexico and Argentina, for instance, two countries of the Hemisphere that are facing electoral campaigns as well as processes towards democracy, it’s clear that Argentina is way much closer to the odd chess-board scenario than Mexico. I mean, related to elections, Argentina is going through a period of disorder that Mexico is not familiar with; even tough Mexico has its own electoral issues to improve.
One friend of mine here Mexico told me that now that Argetineans have «statement candidatures», we could also expect «statement votes»… I didn’t get the joke or the profundness of the thought; but the joke is on us, so I chuckled.

I shall add to this the fact that this «staments» strategy was used by the former goverment, when Nestor Kirchner was president. In 2005, during de legislatives elections, his sister, Alicia Kircher, head of de Social Development minstry was candidate for the low chamber, but once she won her seat, she declined to occupy it, an continue her duty, leaving her place to a susbtitute. This is no new for us argentinians. The real problem is we are gettin used to these things.

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