Kirchnerism loses key electoral district in primariesMonday, August 12, 2013
Massa wins BA province
Sergio Massa did it. The popular Tigre mayor managed to hand a defeat to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last night, in a clear victory that foreshadows the midterm elections on October 27.
Yesterday’s primaries were supposed to select the candidates for the October legislative elections. But with no competition within the vast majority of parties, and with voters allowed to split the ticket among their choices for the Lower House and Senate, the vote served more as a giant opinion poll, and even a referendum, on Fernández de Kirchner’s popularity two years into her second term as president.
The results will inevitably open up discussions of the post-Kirchnerite era in Argentina, not just because any hope of a third term for Fernández de Kirchner — a distant dream to begin with — seems dashed, but also because her ability to name a succesor is in question. Still, staunch ally Entre Ríos Governor Sergio Urribarri won by a wide margin yesterday, a move that will surely increase talk of his potential as a presidential contender.
Even though there was not much at stake yesterday, a full 76.49 percent of the electorate went to the vote, only a few percentage points below the first-ever 2011 primaries when there was a presidential election at stake, which usually garners much more interest. (For full results see Page 5)
All eyes were on Buenos Aires province last night, home to 37 percent of the electorate and the scene of the most high-profile electoral battle between Kirchnerite candidate Lomas de Zamora Mayor Martín Insaurralde and Massa.
Insaurralde, a virtual unknown before he was tapped to lead the Kirchnerite ticket, started out with a clear disadvantage, and seemed to have what appeared to be an insurmountable disadvantage from Massa in the polls. But in the almost two months since the Victory Front closed its list for the province he criss-crossed the region, appearing almost daily alongside Fernández de Kirchner and Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli in political rallies.
Still, it was not enough. And has raised questions about whether the Victory Front is heading for defeat in October, repeating a scenario it experienced in the last midterms in 2009. Then, the Victory Front came in second place in Buenos Aires province with 32.2 percent of the vote, 2.5 percentage points below Unión-PRO, a centre-right alliance that joined Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri and Francisco de Narváez. Across the country, the Victory Front received 31.3 percent support in 2009 — an election that many were quick to say foresaw the end of Kirchnerism.
Yesterday’s results in the province were a far cry from the 2011 presidential elections, when Fernández de Kirchner received 56 percent support in Buenos Aires province, and 54 percent across the country.
The results immediately led some to tout that the biggest winner of the election was not anyone running, but Scioli. The man who flirted with Massa when he was setting up his electoral list, and who had been chastised by Fernández de Kirchner for not supporting her government more fervently, proved his loyalty while at the same time leaving himself open to run for president if the government’s candidates do badly this year.
The President was not the only one who was not able to relive past glories.
De Narváez not only failed to come close to reaching his first place finish i n 2009, he also appeared unable to decisively win third place ahead of FPCyS front led by Margarita Stolbizer, a long way to fall for a candidate who once said he could bring an end to Kirchnerism.
Nationally, the Victory Front continued to dominate, although that was more the result of the fragmented political parties.
The UCR will remain as the second-most important opposition force, even as it remains fragmented across the provinces.
The ruling coalition won big in most provinces but some key districts, such as Santa Fe, Buenos Aires City, Córdoba and Mendoza, remained anti-Kirchnerite.
OPPOSITION RISKS MORE
Considering that the lawmakers whose seats will be up for grabs in October are the ones who came into power in the 2009 midterms, that were a rejection of Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, the opposition has many more of its Congressional posts in play in October. Out of 127 seats that will be up for grabs in the Lower House, only 34 are Kirchnerite — and 12 allies — meaning that even if the Victory Front repeats its poor performance of 2009 (an unlikely scenario) it will still retain the majority in the chamber.
In the Senate, the risks for the government and its allies are much greater. Out of 24 of the seats that will be in play in October, 12 are held by Victory Front senators and three by its allies.
MARKETS EXPECTED TO REACT POSITIVELY
The country’s bonds and stocks are likely to see increases today as Massa’s chances of becoming a market-friendly presidential candidate increase following his victory yesterday.
Bond investors and those interested in the country’s vast farm and shale oil resources watched the primary for signs of a change in leadership.
Fernández de Kirchner has insisted that despite what her allies may say she is not thinking about a possible third term, but talk persists that her congressional allies want to amend the Constitution to allow her to run again.
If in some part of her mind the president was hoping that these elections could bolster her case for another term, she was surely disappointed.