December 12, 2013
A new political era emerges
Yesterday’s vote left great room for interpretation but one certainty: Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa is now the leader of dissident Peronists. His broad victory over Lomas de Zamora Mayor Martín Insaurralde yesterday — about 12 percentage points at press time — more than doubled the difference he managed to obtain in the August 11 primaries, ratifying the loss for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Victory Front (FpV).
Massa came on stage last night after winning 44 percent of the vote and immediately thanked, “the millions of Buenos Aires province residents who have placed their hopes and dreams on us.”
Massa trounced his former Kirchnerite allies, as Insaurralde managed 32 percent of the vote, decidedly setting himself up as the top contender for the 2015 presidential election. Massa last night in his victory speech vowed to tour the country in what was taken as an indication that he will make a bid for the presidency.
Yet the Victory Front was still the most-voted for coalition nationwide, with 32.6 percent of the vote for Lower House; followed by UCR, Socialist Party and allies with 22 percent: Massa’s front at 16; PRO and allies at 10 percent; the Workers’ Leftist Front at five percent; and dissident Peronists, divided into De la Sota’s and De Narváez’s bands, close to five percent.
The president now begins her lame-duck period without a clear succesor for her project while Buenos Aires Province Governor Daniel Scioli, who became the frontman for the government’s campaign, could find himself significantly weakened in the run-up to 2015.
At the same time, government allies did their best to try to give a glass-is-half-full view of the results, emphasizing yesterday the that FpV remains the largest single political force in the country. Even as it was defeated in the country’s five largest provinces, it did see improvements from the primaries in certain districts, including Córdoba, by five points, and Entre Ríos, Tucumán, Santiago del Estero and San Juan.
It was an atypical election day yesterday, the first in more than a decade in which a Kirchner did not make a speech, as the president continues to recover from her recent head surgery at the Olivos presidential residence. The head of state could not even cast a ballot in Santa Cruz province — forbidden by her doctors from getting on a plane.
Massa consolidated his prospects as the heir apparent of non-Kirchnerite Peronist leadership with a comprehensive 44 percent victory in the province, by far the most crucial and pivotal electoral district with 37.36 percent of the country’s voters (11.45 million registered citizens). But Massa still faces a tough road ahead. Although the euphoria of election day could make it easy to forget, the Tigre mayor is still far from having control of a national force to catapult him to the highest office in the land. “Sergio will be the most-voted-for leader in the entire country with this election. This is an overwhelming response by the people to the times,” celebrated Darío Giustozzi, second on the Renewal Front list.
Purely by numbers, Kirchnerism’s loss was significant yesterday, repeating its primaries defeat in the country’s five largest electoral districts: Buenos Aires province, Córdoba, Buenos Aires City, Santa Fe and Mendoza.
CFK remains the most popular politician nationwide, but Insaurralde’s 32 percent second place in Buenos Aires province reaffirmed the symbolic blow that was her party’s lacklustre performance in the August primaries, leaving the FpV irrevocably weakened. Even the modest goal repeated within FpV circles before the primaries of limiting the difference with Massa to single digits was seemingly too ambitious.
The polarization of the Peronist vote between Massa and Insaurralde left Francisco de Narváez, who had emerged as the big leader of the opposition after the 2009 midterms, with a paltry 5.5 percent of the vote. He was bested by Progressive, Civic and Social Front’s Margarita Stolbizer, with 12.6 of the vote, who managed to improve on her level of support from the primaries. But it was still a disappointing result for the newly formed Radical-Socialist alliance in the province, which has Santa Fe victor Hermes Binner as its likely candidate for 2015.
If Scioli does find himself effectively weakened by the race, it could turn out to be good news for key Kirchnerites hoping to become Fernández de Kirchner’s successor, including Entre Ríos Governor Sergio Urribarri, Chaco Governor Jorge Capitanich and perhaps even Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo.
The person leading the FpV’s rally yesterday was Vice President, and acting president, Amado Boudou: “This is CFK’s team, let us celebrate that we are the main force in the country yet again.”
The big question this morning is if there will be change, regardless of an emphasis that there will be no transition period. “The word transition does not appear in the National Constitution,” Defence Minister Agustín Rossi defiantly said last night.
In the capital, City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s plans for 2015 were left intact. He proactively led campaigns and guided his candidates to the victory he needed in what is the nation’s third largest district, with Gabriela Michetti mustering a remarkable 39 percent to secure two seats in the Senate and 5 in the Lower House, while Sergio Bergman led the way to a 34 percent victory in the Lower House.
And in one of the most contested disputes of the election, outgoing Senator Daniel Filmus lost out to UNEN’s Fernando “Pino” Solanas for the Senate.
There was much for Macri to celebrate, as his ten-year old party secured its first three senators, including Diego Santilli in the capital and Alfredo De Angeli in Entre Ríos.
Macri also ruled out a partnership with any former members of the Kirchnerite government for 2015: a clear message to Massa. Positive results by Miguel del Sel and Héctor Baldassi in Córdoba and Santa Fe, Argentina’s second and third cities, marked growth for the PRO. But Baldassi was losing third place to the Victory Front in Córdoba. Despite securing three seats through Massa’s Renewal Front, Buenos Aires province remains unexplored territory for PRO. In Córdoba, Governor José Manuel de la Sota’s Unión por Córdoba had a mediocre outing, consequently deflating of any hopes the dissident Peronist may have had in terms of presidential amibiton. A wider margin ahead of the Radical Party’s (UCR) second placed Oscar Aguad in the governor’s own district was surely required.
As expected, Hermes Binner won a decisive victory in his home district of Santa Fe, mustering 43 percent, and achieving what De la Sota could not in Córdoba: adding force to his presidential bid.
The Frente de Izquierda de los Trabajadores (FIT) leftist front had historic elections, securing its first ever lawmakers, with three seats gained to represent BA Province, Salta and Mendoza.