Wednesday, July 24, 2024

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 20-11-2023 13:57

The lion king

This presidential election was about change, and we knew that at least two years ago when the government lost the midterm legislative elections. The question was which opponent would take the laurels.

Patterns of behaviour are such until one day they cease to be so. The key is identifying what is moving the seismograph more than usual in order to project an earthquake.

This presidential election was about change, and we knew that at least two years ago when the government lost the midterm legislative elections. The question was which opponent would take the laurels. But as the race became a run-off between a very particular outsider and the representative of the status quo, everything predictable became uncertain.

It was already a very big prize for Unión por la Patria that Sergio Tomás ‘Copperfield’ Massa managed to win the general election and make it all the way to the end. The minister-candidate lost in the end, but he made a much better choice than expected – at the beginning of the race it was being debated whether he would make it to the run-off. Massa is a worthy loser. A candidate does not win an election because he wants to but because he can. That is, the macro-variables of the historical cycle are what define what will happen at the end of the road, beyond current voting intentions.

For Massa, the disasters of President Alberto Fernândez's government were too great to turn around a powerful momentum, which was aggravated by the acceleration of inflation this year. On that basis, the economy minister maximised his chances, which is of great merit, but he did not manage to rewrite history.

With this result, the rule – as identified by my colleague Ignacio Labaqui – that only one ruling party in Latin America has managed to win a presidential election with more than 40 percent annual inflation in the last 45 years remains in force. The exceptional case is that of Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brazil, author of the Plan Real. In this sense, Massa came quite close to producing a miracle, but even the best campaign is unlikely to reverse a majority trend of public opinion.

As pointed out in this column a long while ago, this was going to be the election of the lesser evil, following what is happening in contemporary politics in other parts of the planet. Here we have the examples of votes in Brazil, Chile, Peru or the United States. Could Javier Milei's unpredictability or the ghost train behind Massa have been more important? The 2019-2023 experience was so bad that it made more than half the electorate bet on "the Lion," despite his inexperience in politics and state management. Nobody can say afterwards that the Argentines are "conservative" – yesterday they decided to take a big risk.

The run-off must be analysed differently from the general election, because it is of a completely different dimension. The winner had the support of the PRO and other sectors of Juntos por el Cambio in his favour, in order to be in line with the feeling of the 24 percent that Patricia Bullrich (who will no longer be queen) obtained.

Argentina thus begins a new era. Peronism does not lose against a peer from the political system, but against an unknown. Let us review the last 40 years: Raúl Alfonsín, Carlos  Menem, Fernando De la Rúa, the Kirchners, Mauricio Macri and Alberto Fernández were all men and women from the status quo. There was never any room for outsiders. In any case, the last outsider was Juan Domingo Perón himself in 1946.

Plan platita, territorial structure, more state funding, promises everywhere, the entire administration in full play, the silence of Alberto and Cristina, scare campaigns, governors and mayors, the expectation of greater governability, parliamentary power, the disguised support of several foreign embassies (starting with "the Embassy"), the concern of the business establishment, a very professional campaign and a candidate who gave up his life to run against a disruptive economist, a small and inbred environment, a much more austere campaign, supported by the Emir of Cumelén and his entourage.

Last point in this first account: when people want to give a message, they go out and vote. There was a more than acceptable level of participation. A good reflection of democratic health after 40 years, despite the economic and social disaster Argentina suffers from.

* Political consultant.

Carlos Fara

Carlos Fara

Consultor político.


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