December 10, 2013
The primaries: confusion and conclusion(s)
A more honest reading of what the citizenry voted
The days following last Sunday’s PASO primaries featured something of a media shouting-match. As if nobody could serenely assess the popular will, some of the more biased and flawed newspapers of this capital took it upon themselves to superimpose their wishful thinking on what society was expressing in its simple and admirable way.
And it is a shame to have to say it because the vote was calm and serene on a pleasant day which signified the electoral début of thousands of teenagers aged between 16 and 18, of whom over 70 percent voted.
But if a Martian had landed downtown this week, he would have seen the following headlines and quotes on the news-stands: “We gave them a right royal thrashing” (Fernando “Pino” Solanas); “25% is only the floor, we continue being the biggest electoral force nationwide” (Victory Front leaders); “We won because adding up all our votes we beat PRO who came in second,” (UNEN leaders); “Not true we didn’t win, we’re top in the City” (Federal Capital PRO leaders); “Even though I came 4th, I’m not quitting, I’m running in October” (Francisco de Narváez); “I couldn’t care a hoot what others got” (Aníbal Fernández); “We’ll talk with Massa after October, we can’t lunch at dinnertime,” (Hugo Mo- yano); “It’s selfish and foolish for Massa to cut a deal with Macri” (Miguel Del Sel); “Cristina is cracking up” (ex-senator Hilda “Chiche” Duhalde).
With banter and repartee at multiple levels, confusion was the order of the day. And the truth is that it succeeded in overshadowing some elementary conclusions which would have permitted a more honest reading of what the citizenry voted for in all honesty. And the country could have saved itself a new round of futile disputes and the senseless repetition of accusations, shouts and disgruntlement.
They could thus have read some simple and obvious conclusions whose evaluation and analysis only required a bit of serenity and objectivity. Such as these:
1- That the national government has received a serious wake-up call. Its vote has plunged and the fact that no seats were at stake in this PASO primary does not alter the fact that 25 percent or so is a very poor performance for a government re-elected with 54 percent of the vote two years ago. Even if it is true that 25 percent makes it the party or front with the most votes in Argentina, that in itself decides nothing.
2- That the hyper-promoted “Massa phenomenon” did not win either more or less than the opinion polls had been forecasting — a third of the votes in Buenos Aires province. Not bad but no better than the usual top vote in that province where De Narváez gained a similar percentage in 2009 and look where he is now.
3- That the Radicals seem to have done best in this vote with not only some important victories (in Santa Fe, in alliance with the Socialists; in this City with the UNEN front; and other good results in half a dozen provinces) but also that society is willing to give the party a chance to re-invent itself and boost the historic profile of the old Radical Civic Union.
4- The Broad Progressive Front (FAP) and Hermes Binner continue to be the great hopes of Santa Fe province but with scant chances of becoming a national alternative.
5- That PRO has ratified its edge in the Capital with a significant haul of votes in Santa Fe and Córdoba but continues to be a conspicuous electoral absentee in the rest of the country.
6- That the left, although still marginal, has endorsed the tendency of recent years to grow moderately, as seen above all in the City and Mendoza, although it is uncertain whether they will gain much in the way of representation in Congress in October.
7- That in the light of these results we could be seeing some shifts among the Greater Buenos Aires Peronist mayors (invariably to the right) among other fireworks.
8- That in the October elections, which are the ones that count, no major changes in the party breakdown of Congress are to be expected. Which makes it doubtful, as some are hoping, whether October will be a launching-pad for some future presidential front-runner in 2015.
And 2015 is still a long way off while the names in the running are the same as those which could have been listed last week — Daniel Scioli, Binner, Mauricio Macri and José Manuel de la Sota. Other names could be added of course — two Sergios (Massa as of this week but also Urribarri of Entre Ríos), Hugo Moyano, Ricardo Alfonsín, Jorge Capitanich and perhaps some unexpected female name from Kirchnerite circles. And reruns like Roberto Lavagna, Jorge Altamira, Elisa Carrió or some Rodríguez Sáa. Now that the president herself has ruled out any third term (a wise decision in this column’s opinion), nobody should be ruled out. And I mean nobody.