Fernández faces legislation amid social unrest

Cornered by growing social discontent and internal tension in the ruling coalition, Argentine President Alberto Fernández faces legislative elections on Sunday in which the ruling party would lose control of Congress, thus conditioning the second half of his term.

Two years after assuming power, the Peronist president will examine his management marked by the pandemic, which has put salt in the wounds of a convalescent economy for more than a decade and that collapsed 10% in 2020.

Poverty affects more than 40% of some 45 million inhabitants – among children it exceeds 50% -; unemployment is close to 10% and inflation beats the wage race by several lengths.

Fernández himself acknowledged days ago that many people have felt overwhelmed and “over-required by the pandemic” and that the incipient economic recovery recorded in recent months “has not reached everyone and there are people who still do not feel that improvement”, that has made the mood “upset.”

Support for the government has also diminished due to the succession of increasingly violent cases of insecurity and scandals that splashed the presidential administration, such as the operation of a discretionary vaccination scheme against COVID-19 for officials and those close to power and rape. by the president and relatives of the sanitary restrictions.

The elections, in which a third of the Senate and half of the Chamber of Deputies will be renewed, are also held amid the president’s disagreements with the vice president and ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015), exponents of a wing more moderate and another more leftist of Peronism, respectively.

Analysts predict that on Sunday the defeat that the ruling party suffered against the center-right opposition alliance Together for Change in the open and mandatory primaries in September that consecrated the candidates for Sunday’s legislative elections will be repeated or even deepened.

The consulting firm Jorge Giacobbe & Asociados predicted in a report that The Associated Press had access to that “the slap (slap) will be gigantic, no matter what the final finite numbers were,” since the ruling party would be around 13 points below the 48% that it harvested at the national level in the 2019 presidential elections.

Rosendo Fraga, from the Nueva Mayoría consulting firm, indicated that “it would be the fourth consecutive time that Kirchnerism lost a mid-term election.”

According to Fraga, “there will be a divided Congress, with a Senate in which the ruling party will be weakened” by not having its own quorum to hold sessions and “with a sort of tie of forces in deputies”, where the ruling party would cease to be the first minority and “the two main spaces will have difficulties to negotiate circumstantial majorities”.

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In the province of Buenos Aires, the province with the greatest electoral weight, the ruling party is betting to overcome the defeat suffered in the primaries from a greater turnout of voters than in September.

In Argentina voting is mandatory, but in the primaries there was more abstention than in previous electoral appointments, which was attributed to the pandemic and the discomfort of many citizens with the ruling class.

The president has urged Argentines to show him their trust again and warned that support for the opposition alliance would represent a return to the employment problems left by his predecessor Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) -one of the referents of the opposition – and “surrender” to the International Monetary Fund, with which the government tries to refinance a debt of about 44,000 million dollars taken by the previous government.

Mariel Fornoni, director of the consulting firm Management & Fit, said that despite official efforts to regain votes, the approval of the government “is taking a nosedive”, which will mean a loss of several points of electoral support with respect to the primaries. “The opposition would get more than 39% of votes at the national level and the ruling party 26%,” he said.

Fornoni attributed the foreseeable setback to the malaise of the Argentines with the handling of economic problems such as the rise in prices, which ranks first among the concerns.

Inflation in October was 3.5% compared to the previous month, while compared to the same month last year it climbed to 52.1%, the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, in the first nine months of the year the accumulated price increase was 41.8%. These indices place Argentina as the second country in the region with the highest increase in the cost of living after Venezuela.

Analysts agree that the deteriorating relations between the president and the vice president weaken the Peronist coalition. Those frictions were clearly exposed after the defeat in the primaries, for which Fernández de Kirchner held the president responsible in a public letter.

“Alberto and Cristina showed that they don’t handle emotions very well. In the primaries it was stronger what happened next, which amplified the defeat. The vote is an expectation on the management capacity and little can be trusted if they are disunited, “said Fornoni.

The focus of the election will also be placed on the performance of candidates without previous experience in politics who proclaim themselves liberals and captured the attention of a disillusioned sector with a speech against the traditional leadership and the state. One case is Javier Milei, candidate for deputy in the capital for Libertad Avanza.

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