Government recovers, but does not avoid defeat in elections in Argentina

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Alberto Fernández’s government suffered another defeat in this Sunday’s legislative elections (14) and Peronism will lose control of the Senate, something that had not happened since 1983.

The ruling alliance Frente de Todos was 8.4 points behind the opposition across the country, which will make the scenario of the next two years of Fernández’s term more complicated.

Peronism, however, managed to recover in relation to what the results of the primary elections, held in September, indicated. The last election was considered a thermometer of dissatisfaction with the Fernández government and triggered a crisis among government leaders that led to the exchange of several ministers.

This Sunday’s election renewed a third of the Senate (24 seats) and half of the Chamber of Deputies (127). The elected take office on December 10th. Official data show that there was a participation of 71% of the electorate, which represents an increase in relation to the primary attendance (66%).

At the national level, Juntos por el Cambio, a center-right coalition led by former president Mauricio Macri, won 41.97% of the vote, against 33.57% for Peronism. The left has consolidated itself as the third largest political force in the country, with 5.91%.

The opposition’s main victory was in the province of Buenos Aires, the country’s main electoral stronghold, with 38% of Argentine voters. There, where Peronism had been beaten by 4 points in the primaries, Juntos por el Cambio, with candidate Diego Santilli, won by 39.81% — Victoria Tolosa Paz took 38.53%.

In the country’s capital, Fernández’s allies had an even weaker result. Candidate Leandro Santoro won 25.1% while his opponent, former governor María Eugenia Vidal, also of the centre-right, received 47.01% of the vote. Right-wing economist Javier Milei took 17.03%, making libertarians, who are guided by the “struggle against socialism”, the third political force in Buenos Aires.

During Milei’s celebration in the traditional Luna Park, a security guard ran towards the stage where the deputy-elect and other leaders of his party were standing to intimidate a supporter who was trying to climb the stage. The agent made a gesture insinuating that he was armed and willing to shoot if necessary. The episode went viral on Argentine social networks.

In Argentina, the vice president is also the head of the Senate. As her alliance has lost its quorum, Cristina Kirchner, Fernández’s deputy, will have more difficulties in determining the House’s work and voting agenda. The government will not be able to start a session, for example, without the support of the opposition.

The Argentine leader made two speeches on Sunday night. In the first, broadcast on TV in Olivos, his official residence, Fernández said that he accepted his mistakes and asked the opposition for dialogue and responsibility. At the same time, he blamed the administration of his predecessor, Macri, for having “debt the country”.

The president was referring to the $44 billion debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which his economy minister, Martín Guzmán, is now trying to renegotiate.

In the second speech, already at the headquarters of the Frente de Todos alliance, Fernández addressed the Peronist militancy and, to some extent, tried to see the glass half full. The president said that the recovery in the performance of the Peronists in relation to the results of the primaries was positive.

In addition to him, speeches were given to Tolosa Paz, who lost in Buenos Aires, and Sergio Massa, who will retain the position of leader of the Chamber of Deputies — if Peronism had lost more seats in the House, it could have had to deal with an opponent in charge of the Legislature and, for consequence, in the line of presidential succession. The atmosphere was festive, but the place was emptier than in previous times.

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