December 7, 2013
Spin doctors twist a simple election result
By Mempo Giardinelli
Post-election analysis clouded by media interests eager to see the end of Kirchnerism
Like children who refuse to learn, the greater part of Argentina’s political class — and its top brass: the political and media machine — has again lapsed into the habit of seeing only what it wants to see, however far removed from reality that might be.
This seems to be the most immediate and accurate conclusion from Sunday’s impressive electoral process.
The checking of facts and figures in order to verify the results seems only fitting the day before the country celebrates the 30th anniversary of the historical election which established Raúl Alfonsín as president, marking the return of democracy to Argentina. In this day and age, 76 percent of the country’S 30 million eligible voters cast their ballots freely and enthusiastically — the number of voters on Sunday increased six percentage points from August.
A total of 127 national deputies and 24 senators were elected on Sunday with a vote that was unusually transparent, fast and unquestionable. “The best organized vote of the last 30 years,” according to Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo.
The people have made their will known, beyond personal favouritism or preferences, with a level of clarity and strength which outdid by far the biased (and often twisted) interpretations of leaders, pollsters and columnists. A simple review of the results makes things even more transparent. To wit:
1. The ruling party (the Victory Front and its allies) secured its place as the majority with a nationwide presence. FpV won in 12 provinces, that is, half the country: Chaco, Entre Ríos, Formosa, La Pampa, La Rioja, Misiones, Río Negro, Salta, San Juan, Santiago del Estero, Tucumán and Tierra del Fuego.
With 33.27 percent of the votes for deputies, FpV claimed 47 seats and increased its presence in the Lower House — it will have five more lawmakers than it did before Sunday’s vote, climbing to a total of 130. The FpV reached 39.37 percent of the votes for the Senate, claiming a total of 40 seats, which means it will be able to form a quorum on its own in both houses of Congress.
2. The Radical party (UCR) and its allies strengthened their position as the country’s second political force, with a presence in every electoral district (except, curiously enough, in Río Negro where they ruled for almost three decades until a couple of years ago). They claimed 24.68 percent of the votes nationwide.
The UCR won in four provinces: Catamarca, Corrientes, Mendoza and Santa Cruz. Scoring 23.28 percent of the Lower House votes, it claimed 36 seats (climbing to a total of 61). But 22.7 percent in the Senate vote only yielded one Radical, Angel Rozas in Chaco (leaving aside atypical Santiago del Estero).
3. The Renewal Front claimed 12.24 percent of votes but its victory came from a single electoral district — Buenos Aires province, where it won by a big difference, obtaining 43.92 percent of the votes for the Lower House. Together with allies from non-Kirchnerite Peronism, they claimed 26 seats for a political group which totals 37 seats.
4. Quasi-Peronist parties in the provinces won in Neuquén, Chubut, San Luis and Córdoba. which represent a total of 24.75 percent of the country’s voters.
5. PRO, with senators in Congress for the first time in its history, wants to grow out of its City shell to become a national party. With 39.27 percent of the votes, it claimed two senatorial seats in Buenos Aires City, where it has been in power since 2007. It also won five seats in the Lower House with 34.45 percent of the votes. With 8.04 percent of the total of votes nationwide and candidates running in a dozen electoral districts, PRO is now Argentina’s fourth political force with 17 seats overall.
6. Leftwing parties strengthened their position in several districts and won three seats in the Lower House, making remarkable progress in Sunday’s elections. In the provinces of Buenos Aires, Salta and Mendoza — and now in Chaco, Formosa and Jujuy as well —the leftwing is becoming a haven for dissenters, which doesn’t necessarily mean a rise of the Trotskyism associated with the Workers’ Party (PO).
These are the figures and, as in any election, the figures speak for themselves. The rest is just interpretation. People’s memories of Francisco de Narváez’ rise in 2009, ideological polarizations and the so-called “thrashing” inflicted on the government are, in the end, nothing more than wishful thinking. In fact, many right-wing voters show an apparent ambivalence between PRO and FR with an eye toward 2015 but that is also a debatable equality which is by no means a certainty.
Mauricio Macri has dissociated himself quickly from any possible alliance with Sergio Massa.
“In 2015, there will be no former member of a national government on PRO tickets,” he said.
Massa replied yesterday: “Thinking about 2015 is a mark of disrespect. It’s like two roosters fighting over the same lady: the Republic.”
To be sure, their followers have already started the switching game: three lawmakers elected on Sunday for the FR have defected, in less than 24 hours, to PRO: Soledad Martínez, Gladys González and Christian Gribaudo. And these are just the opening credits of this film.
Despite these facts and the radio and television funfair which will have been going on for three days by the time you read this column, we have to admit that the greatest victor of these elections — and of present-day Argentine politics — is ideological and business journalism. It is these journalists who have created Massa now just as they have previously established Macri, Julio Cobos and a few others. And there’s no end in sight for their momentum when they “go for more”: apparently yes, they can in their resolve to even bring the Supreme Court to its knees.
The television journalist who embodies these intentions suggested several times on Sunday night that the President may not be able to finish her term and implied that her illness might have been a ploy. On the following day (yesterday) lawmaker Elisa Carrió, who managed to keep her seat in the Lower House, spoke in the same key and style: “The President is not here today and we don’t know if she’s coming back.”
On Sunday night, while channel-flicking, you could find a celebration to watch on every channel. But the revellers were not celebrating the same thing. After 30 years of democracy and a popular fête such as this election, the people followed their interests instead of the common good.
One cannot help thinking that maybe therein lies the rub.