December 8, 2013
Their coup runneth over
The natural topic for today’s editorial might well have been LAN airline being ordered out of the downtown airport hangar but with the possibility of talks in Chile and further developments at the time of writing, we thought it wiser to refrain from immediate comment — instead the focus of this editorial will be what should be a total non-issue but something which somehow seems to have generated more heat than the LAN dispute. Here we are talking about the “institutional coup” uproar over opposition talk of laying claim to the Speaker’s chair in the new Lower House as from December. To equate the aspiration to a parliamentary post with coups would already be absurd in a country like Switzerland but with Argentina’s history of the real thing, it is completely over the top — perhaps the only excuse is that after 30 continuous years of democracy, there could be younger generations genuinely ignorant of what the word really means. At such an extremely delicate time as an incipient lame duck period, the country could do without this gratuitous melodrama.
Yet this shabby overacting does not make the opposition claim valid — on the contrary, it is simply not worth the fuss. The government backlash not only flatters the validity of this bid but also opposition unity. A unity clearly lacking even if they end up with the numbers, which remains to be seen — chickens are being counted before they are hatched. If the Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner administration effectively gained nine percent in the last elections (the difference between CFK’s solid but unspectacular 45 percent in 2007 and the 2011 landslide of 54 percent), they would now have to do not only worse than the already disastrous 2009 midterm elections but very much worse for any substantial opposition gains. If the situation remains broadly similar, there seems no reason not to respect the rule of naming the Speaker from the single largest party, as was unanimously agreed in 2009. And if some opposition deputies argue that this led to institutional abuse, the opposition risks going down the same road itself if it starts playing fast and loose with the rules. The same road of pointless issues which ultimately doomed the Congress elected in 2009 to futility and undermined institutional life by sins of omission as much as commission.
A Herald columnist in an opinion piece entitled “Did voters cast a ballot for silence?” concluded that perhaps the real message of this month’s primaries was to tell both sides to shut up — the hot air from this non-issue indicates that he could well be right!