December 11, 2013
Not with a bang but a whimper
Last weekend’s train derailment in Once was quickly followed by a cancellation of closing campaign rallies by virtually all parties out of solidarity but the habit is evidently too deeply ingrained — there was a plethora of final rallies on Thursday, generally on a smaller scale but with the usual fanfare. These rallies are generally aimed at highlighting the differences between the various parties but this time round there was considerable overlap, both in style and content. Thus balloons, once the trademark of City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s PRO centre-right party, were highly visible at the rallies of both the main rival Peronist lists in Buenos Aires province headed by Mayors Martín Insaurralde (Lomas de Zamora) and Sergio Massa (Tigre) — these balloons in turn could serve as a suitable metaphor for a campaign where the hot air of slogans prevailed over substance. To the degree specific problems were addressed, it is striking that the ruling Victory Front party’s Insaurralde gave at least as much importance to crime in his closing speech as his two main Peronist rivals Massa and Francisco de Narváez, both of whom almost obsessively have made law and order a central plank in their platforms.
Despite the rail disaster, there were countless rallies on Thursday, several of which warrant extra attention. To this city (Victory Front, PRO and the UNEN umbrella challenging strongly for the third Senate seat) and BA province (the three Peronist lists mentioned in the previous paragraph plus the pan-Radical Progressive Civic and Social Front headed by Margarita Stolbizer and Ricardo Alfonsín) should be added the three most important inland provinces Córdoba, Santa Fe and Mendoza — especially the latter two where two of the top list names (Socialist Hermes Binner and Radical Julio Cobos respectively) are also 2015 presidential dark horses. This preoccupation with 2015 was pervasive and irritating at times — thus City PRO seemed to take victory tomorrow for granted (even if its Lower House list headed by Sergio Bergman is by no means guaranteed triumph over UNEN’s Elisa Carrió) and already look ahead to Macri’s 2015 run. Finally, the far left are not also-rans for once — their chances boosted not so much by any dramatic change in the socio-economic situation as a tendency this year of the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration to lean right in various policy choices.
Plenty to criticize in the campaign but at least it was not unduly violent (despite some incidents and even a couple of deaths) — we should be thankful for small mercies.