Argentina: something has changed in the country at the end of the world
"The biggest surprise was that for the first time in Argentina's history, people voted wisely despite a campaign designed to arise fears," Marcela Marino, a manager at a drugstore in Buenos Aires, told East. On Monday, supporters of the coalition Cambiemos partied until late, while dismay anddisbelief hit hard Kirchneristas Peronists, whose candidate Daniel Scioli the polls forecasted to win in the first turn with 40% of the vote.
- Wednesday, 28 October 2015
He obtained only 36.86% of the votes, while Maurizio Macri of the coalition Cambiemos won 34.33%. Argentinawill face a run-offelectionon 22 November for the first time in its history.
In 2011, Cristina Fernández Kirchner went to power with 54% of the votes, and in 2013 131 deputies out of 259 went to her party. About the mistakes that triggered now such a surprising change, Argentines seem to have a clear picture.
"Winning with such large margins allowed in the past Kirchnerism to pass in the parliament whatever policies they saw fit. Having lost the absolute majority will force them to come to terms with the other parties," said Guy Bouquet, a journalism freshman at the Catholic University in Buenos Aires. Marino believes that "people showed to be tired of pride and arrogance."
One of the explanations for the ufficialista Peronism defeat is in fact how divisively the Kirchners ruled over the Argentine society, spurring factionism at all levels and even deep into the private sphere. Broken families and lost friends are not just a tale. "You were a foe if you were not a Peronist," said Macri's supporters.
Another mistake of the incumbent party was to design the election campaign — run rather amateurishly — to blow up fears and concerns among people of a taper off of the Kirchner's era social achievements. The level of rhetorical violence, according to many, was even similar to that during the military dictatorships. "If you do not share our views, you will lose your benefits, and you will end up with a government that rules only for the rich," was a concept heard often during the campaign.
The divisive style of Kirchnerism, which was largely majoritarian in the last decade, isolated the opposition both at the level of the national parliament and of smaller communities. It is no coincidence, but still a historic turning point, that Cambiemos candidates conquered all-time Peronist strongholds, where governors and mayors ignored the opposition for decades.
The most striking case is that of the province of Buenos Aires with its 16 million population that was always and without exception ruled by Peronism — and by Scioli over the last eight years. Their candidate was defeated by a young woman, Maria Eugenia Vidal, who immediately after her victory wowed to govern taking the points of view of all political forces into consideration. "Argentina needs a change of mentality, less resentment and social hatred", said Bouquet expressing also the opinion of his peers.
The same happened in a number of smaller constituencies, such as Pilar, ruled for 12 years by a Peronist "baron", and now won with a 10 points advantage by a young Cambiemos candidate who got involved in politics only recently. "They are all a new kind of politicians who seek local offices because they do not want to quit their home towns but rather bring them back up on their feet," said Bouquet.
Macri's great advantage was being able to boast a record as governor of the federal district of Buenos Aires. Citizens here were able to decide for themselves on the effectiveness of his policies. Schools in the capital, they tell, remain no longer shut for weeks due to strikes over unpaid salaries, hospitals have improved and financed public works, such as sewerage, have really been implemented. "We pay slightly higher taxes, but we see the results," Marino said.The building of badly needed infrastructurein the megalopolis that is Buenos Aires, such as new tunnels under railway crossings "which caused countless deaths", played also in favor of Macri, as did the hope to contain a rampant violence.
From an economic point of view, this was not a victory of the future against the status quo, because none of the candidates, not even the Peronist ones, dared to sugar the pill as to the need for an economic adjustment and for reforming the current system of subsidies. The state-owned utility companies are all running a loss, and had no means to invest in infrastructure over the last years, because they were not granted funds, or those allocated often thinned along the chain of corruption.
Macri put an emphasis on protecting the Argentine industry without this meaning "a return to the [hyper liberal] 90s". He cleverly reassured Argentines that the critical companies, such as Argentina's oil major YPF, would remain state-owned, but he also gave confidence to entrepreneurs and investors. As soon as the election outcome became known, the peso gained against the dollar, Argentine bond rates fell, and the stock market shot up. The official inflation rate at 25% — but over 40% according to other sources — was a tailwind to the desire for change among all segments of the population that do not enjoy the subsidies, but are hit hard by hyperinflation, including merchants and small business owners.
In his film The Journey director Pino Solanas gives a metaphoric picture of the collapse of Argentina under the burden of foreign debt and the downfall of the Peronist national dream. He features a president, Mr. Rana (Mr. Frog) who moves around in a Buenos Aires flooded by drain water wearing fins. Floods were also a decisive theme in the campaign. In Buenos Aires' province, where Scioli did not build the needed engineering works to prevent the severe river floods, damage was consistent. In the federal district Macri built them, and damage was limited. November 22 could mark the end of the long era of Peronism as we knew it.