The opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition said Thursday it would accept the national government to postpone the PASO primaries and October midterms for a month, given the recent increase in Covid-19 infections.
The three parties that make up Juntos por el Cambio on Thursday agreed to the Alberto Fernández administration's proposal to postpone the public ballots, though they asked that no more modifications be made to the electoral schedule. The PASOs will now take place on September 12, with the October midterms set for November 14.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle hope that Argentina’s mass vaccination programme will have reached substantially more citizens by then, and that circulation of the virus will be lower.
"From JxC [Juntos por el Cambio] we reaffirm our interest in contributing to the better management of the pandemic and, at the same time, respect the electoral norms in place with the guarantee of the primary elections that today are enshrined in the law," read a statement from the opposition grouping, saying the postponement would allow more time for preparation.
"That is why we will monitor the movement of the schedule and, in addition, we ask the ruling party to include a clause that reaffirms the National Government's commitment to respecting current electoral legislation," it added, calling on the government to guarantee that elections would take place this year.
Juntos por el Cambio will push for a clause to be inserted in the bill modifying the electoral calendar saying that the government respects the current schedule and the PASOs, which the opposition believes Frente de Todos wants to scrap. They also want the government to implement a single paper ballot and re-establish early voting by mail for Argentines living abroad.
Any changes to electoral norms need an absolute majority in Congress, hence the government is seeking consensus. The Casa Rosada must now decide if they accept the opposition’s demand for further commitments.
The opposition’s climbdown will likely anger a number of Juntos por el Cambio's most vocal backbenchers, many of whom have said they were opposed to any changes in the electoral schedule. Some believe the decision could favour the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, as Argentina will hopefully have emerged out of its Covid-19 second wave by that point.
However, government officials have become increasingly more confident of late that they have the votes to carry any postponement in Congress, with or without the opposition. According to sources within Juntos por el Cambio, in the end, coalition leaders recognised that there was little to gain by opposing the move, with only hardliners remaining truly against the idea.
The topic had already been discussed during a meeting two weeks ago, attended by the heads of Juntos por el Cambio’s lower house caucuses and Interior Minister Eduardo "Wado" De Pedro. Since then, the government had warned that without an agreement, it would push ahead on its own.
Members from the national government will meet with the National Electoral Chamber (CNE) next week to discuss the necessary health and safety protocols needed to hold this year's legislative elections in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. According to government sources, the meeting will take place on April 29.