In a striking state of paralysis, Peronism is watching on as provinces across Argentina change colour. In a number of key provinces, voters are abandoning the movement and choosing opposition Juntos por el Cambio forces or local parties who have nothing to do with them.
The latest defeat materialised on Sunday in Santa Fe Province, where Peronism suffered its worst result since 1983. That blow came after another morale-denting defeat in Santa Cruz on Sunday August 13. San Juan, San Luis and Chubut came earlier in the year. In the next few days, Argentina's dominant political force of the last century will have to defend the province of Chaco, where Jorge Capitanich recorded disappointing results in the PASO primaries.
Peronism suffered its first unexpected hit in San Luis Province. The Rodríguez Saá dynasty has won every gubernatorial election there since 1983, except for four years under Claudio Poggi’s 2011-2015 administration. In June, Poggi repeated his trick as an opponent, winning the gubernatorial election. That is, a 40-year-old power structure was dethroned. Supported nationwide by Juntos por el Cambio and at a provincial level by a rogue Rodríguez Sáa, Adolfo, Poggi’s force (Cambia San Luis) won 54.43 percent of the votes in the district, backed up by a strong performance from his party Avanzar. “A definitive and irreversible trend," the governor-elect described it.
A true upset was the opposition triumph in San Juan, where Juntos por el Cambio ended 20 years of Peronist hegemony led by José Luis Gioja and Sergio Uñac. Deputy Marcelo Orrego achieved a decisive victory with over 51 percent .
In Chubut, the province's successive crises, regardless of a hard-fought election campaign, meant it was unsurprising that voters opted to avoid Peronist options. Aged just 35 years old, Senator Ignacio Torres is the new governor-elect after winning the vote by little more than a percentage point, some 5,000 votes. The wafer-thin victory thus ends a succession of Peronist governments started in 2003 by Mario Das Neves.
Voters in Santa Cruz Province went to the polls the same day as the national PASO primaries: August 13. The region, seen as Kirchnerism's 'home turf,' saw voters turn their back on the movement's dominance and instead choose Claudio Vidal, current national deputy and oil workers union secretary-general. Hacer Santa Cruz was the top pick, with 46.48 percent. Unión por la Patria trailed a few points behind, with 43.82 percent of the votes. Anti-Kirchnerite options were further behind: Cambia Santa Cruz, the Juntos por el Cambio list, got only 8.51 percent. Even though the region does not account for a great portion of the national electorate (just 0.75 percent), its impact was still dramatic.
Continuing the list of painful defeats, Santa Fe Province became the fifth province lost by Peronism last weekend. With nearly 60 percent of the votes, Maximiliano Pullaro destroyed Marcelo Lewandoski and dealt him the movement's toughest electoral defeat in the region since the return to democracy.
Concerned Peronist glances are now being sent the way of Chaco Province, Argentina's next electoral destination. Voters will go to the polls on Sunday, September 17, to choose their next governor, with incumbent leader Jorge Capitanich vying for a new term. He faces the winner of the Juntos por el Cambio PASO primary, Leandro Zdero, in the provincial clash.
The signs look ominous. The primaries were catastrophic for Peronism: with the region rocked by the disappearance of 28-year-old Cecilia Strzyzowski, the opposition took 42.6 percent in the PASO and overtook Capitanich’s Frente Chaqueño by more than five points (36.8 percent). An election to forget, marked by a slow count, only 52 percent of the roll voting. Turnout is not expected to climb significantly – and neither are the ruling coalition's chances.