September 1, 2014
One anniversary, many commemorations
Yesterday’s 38th anniversary of the 1976 military coup was marked by an Argentine democracy showing itself to be both united and divided. United because virtually the whole country stands convinced of the superiority of democratic government (even those who might see democracy, in the Churchillian phrase, as the worst possible system with the exception of all the others). The inevitable shock waves from January’s major devaluation led to a flurry of “coup-mongering” accusations against opponents and critics but these charges have lost steam in the weeks since because they are so obviously untrue — the nobler spirits among the opposition wish to spare the country the huge damage to its image from any renewed political instability while the more cynical minds are mostly just as keen that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner serve out her full term because they want her administration to stew in its own juice with the odium of having to sort out its own mess for the first time in Peronist history, some even hoping for the terminal discredit of the nation’s dominant political movement.
Yet while the country stands united behind democracy for different reasons, those differences were also manifest in the multiplicity of the ceremonies marking yesterday’s anniversary — thus there were two separate Mothers of Plaza de Mayo rallies, never mind all the various strands of political opinion, while it was not even clear which was the central venue between the mass gathering in Plaza de Mayo and the official event at the former ESMA Navy Mechanics School concentration camp. But rather than trying to list all the rallies big and small across this capital and nationwide, the main point should be to stress the fragmented political landscape they reflect. There is a lot of speculation over who will prove to be the winning candidate in next year’s presidential elections but perhaps more attention should be paid to the likely margin and thus mandate. Since the Radical Raúl Alfonsín’s absolute majority in the spontaneously polarized election of 1983, there have been almost as big wins in 1989 and 2007 and convincing re-elections in 1995 and 2011 but with the Peronist and opposition camps each split into two or even three, next year’s elections do not look like following suit — more like Néstor Kirchner’s 22 percent mandate in 2003 or the atypical case of Fernando de la Rúa (a clear enough winner in 1999 but whose presidency only lasted two years and his victorious Alliance coalition 10 months).
Nothing certain for next year, then, but is not that what the democracy lost 38 years ago is all about?