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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 10-06-2023 06:27

Of infighting and inland voting

The deadline for defining electoral alliances nationwide expires in only four days’ time but tomorrow’s provincial elections are even more immediate … Tucumán is looking safe for the Frente de Todos government while San Luis could be close.

The deadline for defining electoral alliances nationwide expires in only four days’ time but tomorrow’s provincial elections in San Luis and Tucumán are even more immediate and will also be given priority.

The central issue within the definition of electoral alliances was, of course, the stillborn effort to recruit Córdoba Peronist Governor Juan Schiaretti into the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition at their chaotic summit last Monday – viewed by its advocates as urgent in the light of the imminence of next Wednesday’s deadline but hardly the best timing since Córdoba votes this month (June 25), if not tomorrow like San Luis and Tucumán. The overtures to Schiaretti could only confuse Córdoba voters who must be wondering why they should vote for the Juntos candidates if their Peronist rivals are so welcome in the coalition – the opposition gubernatorial candidate there, the usually vehement Senator Luis Juez, predictably went ballistic over the move. Ex-president Mauricio Macri was hardly less adamant against Schiaretti even if he made a very similar anti-Kirchnerite Peronist, Miguel Angel Pichetto, his running-mate in 2019.

Underlying that specific clash is a fundamental dispute between “hawks” and “doves” which is very much more strategic than ornithological – in a single word the former aim for depth and the latter for breadth. Neither side has all the answers. A rainbow coalition would make it both easier to win the election and to reach Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta’s target figure of 70 percent consensus behind structural reform but the current dysfunctional Frente de Todos experience would suggest that a multi-factional alliance risks an overly complex governance at best, if not impossible. Hawkish purism would not face that problem but first they would need to win the election and being too captiously selective about allies could risk reducing their critical mass to a level barely competitive with the libertarians pushing a similar message of drastic reform.

Probably not worth exploring these tensions much further because by the end of this month many things will be much clearer with both alliances and candidates defined while the final verdict will come with the PASO primaries six weeks later when the campaign will start again. Last week’s internal dispute does not change very much – while the hawks displayed their veto power, the doves can always go fishing for tactical voters in the anti-Kirchnerite Peronist and centrist ponds if deprived of their leaders, given the feeble opinion poll performances of the latter.

Turning inland from infighting, the provincial elections of San Luis and Tucumán will be accompanied by the Mendoza primaries and the legislative midterms in Corrientes (the only province alongside Santiago del Estero not to elect its governor this year but in 2025). Next week’s column should include a brief summary of the results in the latter two provinces – suffice it to say for now that the Radicals are confident in both. Senator Alfredo Cornejo (one of the few Radicals to oppose Schiaretti’s entry) looks set to resume governing Mendoza from his successful 2015-2019 term despite the splinter list of PRO deputy Omar de Marchi while in Corrientes they have been the ruling party since 1999 and are now sitting on the 78-percent landslide of Governor Gustavo Valdés in 2021.

Devoting the rest of this column to the two provinces voting tomorrow, Tucumán is looking safe for the Frente de Todos government while San Luis could be close. 

The most populous province to vote so far (with an electorate of 1,225,045 out of a population of over 1.7 million), Tucumán should have gone to the polls on May 14 along with four other provinces but the Supreme Court had other ideas, disqualifying outgoing Governor Juan Manzur for seeking a fifth consecutive appearance on a gubernatorial ticket as the running-mate of Osvaldo Jaldo (previously lieutenant-governor and acting governor during Manzur’s 17 months as Cabinet chief). This delay could cut both ways – on the one hand, there is a certain backlash against a Supreme Court intervention which can easily be presented as anti-federalism but on the other hand, much of the slush funds for last-minute patronage had already been lavished a month ago in anticipation of mid-May voting and may not be so easily renewed.

Jaldo (now running with Miguel Acevedo) claims to be 15 points ahead but faces a strong opposition duo of Radical deputy Roberto Sánchez and the popular ex-Peronist outgoing mayor of the provincial capital, Germán Alfaro. This would be even stronger if the erosive libertarian challenge did not bulk large here in the person of Ricardo Bussi (son of the notoriously repressive 1976-1983 military dictatorship governor Antonio Domingo Bussi, who was also the only man to break the Peronist monopoly of this province when elected in 1995). As that oxymoron of a totalitarian libertarian, Bussi is not completely on the same page as Javier Milei (who increasingly faces dissent from his recent converts with the economists Roque Fernández and Diana Mondino respectively disavowing dollarisation and elimination of the Central Bank). Doomed to be also-rans, the other four gubernatorial candidates are two leftists (Martín Correa and Raquel Grassino), Federico Masso of the centre-left Frente Amplio and independent Juan Coria.

Space starting to run out for San Luis, which is literally brother against brother – “the near in blood, the nearer bloody,” to quote Macbeth. Outgoing four-term Peronist Governor Alberto Rodríguez Saá is backing former judge Jorge Fernández while former five-term governor Adolfo Rodríguez Saá supports Claudio Poggi, the only other man since 1983 to have governed (2011-2015) a province which has always been Peronist since the return of democracy and who has now switched to Juntos por el Cambio. The only other competition for this province’s 419,062 voters consists of two leftist lists with the FIT and MAS acronyms. Since this election is looking too close to call, perhaps better to await the actual results and analyse them in more detail next week.

Michael Soltys

Michael Soltys

Michael Soltys, who first entered the Buenos Aires Herald in 1983, held various editorial posts at the newspaper from 1990 and was the lead writer of the publication’s editorials from 1987 until 2017.

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