December 5, 2013
Throughout last month the main impact registered from the August 11 primaries was the halving of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s 2011 landslide vote and the consequent evaporation of any prospects of a third term (not that the chances were ever very realistic) — this month more people seem to be slowly waking up to the fact that there were other losers and also other ramifications often more drastic than the actual results. With just over a third of the vote in a single province (albeit the home of nearly 40 percent of the electorate if also only 27.5 percent of the Lower House seats are at stake next month), Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa has suddenly become the man to beat but nobody seems to know how. If in recent years the art of opposition has often been a simple competition for the fiercest CFK-bashing, Massa changed that paradigm by planting a foot on both sides of a polarized political scenario — and yet no sooner was that strategy crowned with success than he started escalating his own criticisms of the government, thus crowding out the previous opposition even further. If City Mayor Mauricio Macri and Córdoba Governor José Manuel de la Sota won primary victories almost more like defeats with a meagre 30 percent or so, it might logically be assumed that their need for allies would be enhanced but their reactions have been quite the reverse — Macri in particular has been at pains to distance himself from Massa. We could deepen this picture of political confusion yet further but probably better not.
If the elections of this 21st century have been Peronist primaries more often than not, such political confusion is threatening to compound this trend because the leaders are effectively delegating the decisions to the electorate. Massa might be the man of the moment but, to repeat, his actual vote was only a third of one province while his campaign platform stresses image and technology over substance — meanwhile neither Kirchnerism nor the displaced dissident Peronism should be underestimated. Yet the last time this budding three-way Peronist split was delegated to the electorate (the 2003 elections with 24 percent the top vote), the people threw the leadership’s indecision back in its face.
Is the ground moving underneath our feet or are there just fireworks exploding in the air? Probably the latter — the October midterm elections will likely yield a broadly similar Congress for all the seismic shifts and the real test will be the 2015 presidential primaries (as Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli suggests). But meanwhile the tectonic plates keep moving.