December 10, 2013
Since any discussion of issues has been so far and few between in a generally vapid campaign, we should be thankful for small mercies and hail the television debate between the three leading City senatorial contenders Gabriela Michetti (PRO), Daniel Filmus (Victory Front) and Fernando “Pino” Solanas (UNEN) on the eve of Peronist Loyalty Day. The heated debate was rather more successful in being up close and personal than in enlightening the electorate although the event was structured for substance rather than scandal with its three blocs “Country model,” “Economic model” and “Public policies” (even if these three categories flowed far too readily into each other). As the frontrunner, Michetti stayed aloof with her tightly scripted delivery as Solanas and Filmus slugged it out for the minority seat but frontrunners so often shun debate altogether in order to avoid risks that we should be grateful for her presence.
Every thesis had its antithesis with no clear winners. While this decade was the first since the return of democracy not to end badly according to Filmus, Solanas highlighted the persistence of 25 percent poverty according to his own figures, taking advantage of the lack of reliable official statistics — if Solanas stressed the proliferation of foreign ownership in the private sector, Filmus could recite a lengthy list of nationalizations (mostly backed by Solanas, who has paid the cost of changes from his past positions and current allies). Michetti was more vocal in the middle bloc on the economic model, criticizing inflation and calling for clear ground rules in order to boost investment — economics did not seem the strong suit of any of the trio (perhaps Filmus least of all). The last bloc on public policies was dominated by the more sensationalist topics of crime and corruption — two areas in which Solanas seemed confident that he could make Filmus and Michetti uncomfortable (Solanas linked these two scourges, especially with corruption permeating the police). Michetti sought to tap public concerns about crime without identifying herself with the “law and order” brigade — her solutions were along the lines of “social inclusion,” and penitentiary reform. Corruption obviously lent itself to negative rather than constructive arguments with Solanas attacking not only the likes of Kirchnerite tycoon Lázaro Báez but also the PRO City Hall. Towards the end a vague appeal for “long-term state policies” by Michetti failed to produce any consensus among the three candidates.
No new alternatives for government arose from the debate but then we should not forget that the purpose of these midterm elections is to choose parliamentarians.