The new political alliances and the result of the polls this Sunday (12) of the Argentine primaries point to a radicalization of the Argentine right. The Primary, Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory (Paso) brought a resounding defeat for the ruling coalition of President Alberto Fernández, the Frente de Todos (FdT), and the strengthening of extremist candidates who bring together a package already well known in Brazil in recent years: denialism, anti-political discourse and conservatism.
The governing coalition was behind former president Mauricio Macri’s Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) bloc across the country, with the exception of the provinces of Catamarca, Formosa, La Rioja, Salta, San Juan and Tucumán, districts where the JxC was the second largest political force.
Despite the expected concentration of votes on the right in the macrista coalition, one of the big surprises of this primary election was the number of votes from the extremist Javier Milei, economist and pre-candidate for national deputy in the federal capital for the Avanza Libertad party.
Milei was the third most voted in Buenos Aires, with 13.66% of the votes, behind only FdT (33%) and JxC (38%). The economist defends “freedom and the right to private property”, wants to eliminate the Central Bank, reduce the number of legislators and reduce the salaries of the political class. As for his foreign policy vision, he says he will do everything possible to “end with the usurpation of these dictatorships”, referring to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.
In the province of Buenos Aires, the candidate for Avanza Libertad was José Luis Espert, also national deputy. In the electoral district that most surprised the national government (with 37.99% for the JxC), there were 4.87% of votes for the ultra-conservative party.
Although less mediatic and theatrical than Milei, Espert is part of an important layer of the electorate that cultivates an appreciation for anti-political and neoliberal discourses, and has already praised Jair Bolsonaro’s posture on several occasions.
After Peronism’s 2019 victory, this Sunday’s Paso result map shows an inverse scenario. As analysts and journalists point out, one must consider that a legislative election is not the same as a presidential election, where executive positions are at stake and where the voter seeks to be more strategic in his vote. However, the picture that presents itself is not only a victory for the right, but a dangerous growth of the right-most sector of the macrismo.
:: Spanish party Vox advances project for far-right platform in Latin America ::
This ultra-liberal current has attracted the youth vote, with an aggressive discourse and the exhaustion of the political class, based on the need to break with this “caste”, as Milei usually says.
In the campaign, it was possible to glimpse a radicalization of the JxC candidates’ discourse, who tend to follow a moderate line of liberal discourse. In a bid not to lose votes to the ultra-right, the leader of the list in the federal capital, Maria Eugenia Vidal, risked more direct criticisms of Kirchnerism and the political class.
Growing broth for the “scolding vote”
The ballot boxes would have reflected the “scolding vote”, the channeling of social dissatisfaction with poverty and the economy, still fought in an Argentina hit by the pandemic and the billion dollar debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), left by the presidency of Macri. These points were highlighted by President Alberto Fernández in his speech at the headquarters of the Frente de Todos on Sunday night (12): economy, continuing poverty, halted industrial production.
Despite measures such as the law on voluntary termination of pregnancy, the recognition of non-binary identity, the work quota for trans people, the tax on large fortunes (still with its reservations as one of its pillars is the investment in the exploration of the deposit Vaca Muerta, based on the fracking method), the results of the ballot boxes seem to reflect the recent memory of two key situations that became national scandals.
:: After 48 years of the coup, what is Allende’s legacy for the constituent in Chile? ::
First, the case that became known as the “VIP vaccination”. The incident culminated in the resignation of the Health Minister, Ginés Gonzalez, who immunized known and powerful people outside the health system and at the Ministry’s headquarters. Second, and most recently, the photo that came to light at a birthday celebration of the president’s girlfriend, Fabiola Yáñez, at the presidential house in Olivos.
“The blank vote, the vote for Milei and those who call themselves libertarians, all the votes that the right harvested were also planted in this disconnect produced by the pandemic” pointed out the journalist and co-founder of Ni Una Menos, Marta Dillon, questioning the effects of publishing the birthday photo in Olivos. “This display of individualism at all costs, a media and political operation that exposes the opposition’s capacity for harm,” he wrote in his column on Page 12.
Furthermore, since the beginning of the pandemic, another element of Argentina’s political scene has been the campaigns promoted by the right against the sanitary measures taken to confront covid-19. The annoyance with confinement during quarantine resulted in unusual scenes of mask-burning in public and posters claiming the “individual right to be infected”.
The right can still count on favorable media coverage and the Bolsonaro family’s attacks against Argentina’s Peronist government.
This growing broth was cooked little by little, with a president who does not have a majority in Congress and, despite his achievements, he was forced to constantly go back on more radical advances.
National scenario for Peronism
“Obviously, we make mistakes that we shouldn’t have made, and from the mistakes we learn,” Alberto Fernández told an impacted audience. “It is also clear that there is a demand that we have not been able to adequately meet.”
After the defeat in provinces less expected than others, such as Santa Fé, Chacho, Chubut and Santa Cruz, province of vice-president Cristina Kirchner, the president’s speech summarizes the effect that lasted this Monday (13). As the candidate for the province, Victoria Tolosa Paz, said, “it was a slap in the face”.
:: The first years of the “War on Terror” in cartoons ::
Journalist Andrés Fidanza, from the IP channel, posed a key question: “Did the JxC win or the FdT lose? Well, I believe there was a bit of both, but clearly there was a ‘punishment vote’ on the government.”
This Monday (13), the president was present at Casa Rosada, showing the continuity of official activities, not to mention yesterday’s defeat. The chief of staff, Santiago Cafiero, was the only one who spoke about the matter, reaffirming in an interview the need to work in those two months until the November legislative election.
However, Cafiero may be leaving the government. Changing the chief of staff would be a demand from the president’s surroundings, and even from the vice-president. So far, Fernández has been resistant to messing with the composition of his team and does not point to Cafiero’s departure.
Edition: Thales Schmidt