President Mauricio Macri’s centre-right coalition’s victory in midterm elections has paved the way for a tilt at a second term in Argentina’s presidential elections in 2019, analysts believe. All the more so as the vote delivered a setback for his main rival Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, beaten into second place in the Senate race in Buenos Aires province. “This election allows the government to consolidate,” said analyst Gabriel Puricelli.
Macri’s Let’s Change (Cambiemos) coalition, “didn’t get an absolute majority, but the coalition he leads is more robust,” he added. “That means that voters are getting behind the government programme, showing satisfaction,” he said. “The opinion polls are showing that people are optimistic about their economic future.”
Macri took Argentina out of recession in 2016 and the country seems set for growth of around three percent in 2017. The 58-year-old said after his election in 2015 that he had inheriteda country “in r uins” after 12 years of unbroken rule by the back-to-back husband-and-wife governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in power from 2003-2015.
The task of his government, he said, was to fix it. He set about abolishing exchange controls, devaluing the peso, reducing subsidies for water, electricity and gas, and orchestrating serial defaulter Argentina’s return to the capital markets in April last year. Argentines have seen the purchasing power of their peso plummet, but while his government has been buffeted by popular discontent, it has so far managed to avoid electoral damage.
Macri “is expanding his power by winning in 14 of the 24 provinces,” analyst Roberto Bacman. And significantly, he had won all the country’s “big five” provinces “which accounts for 70 percent of voters.” “The conditions are very favourable for 2019. Politically, he is ideally positioned to face an election. In economic terms he still has problems, however,” said Puricelli.
Analyst Richard Rouvier warned that the government would have to improve the economic situation of Argentines, “because when you’re up against a weak opposition, it is the economy that becomes the opposition if you don’t manage to get inflation under control.” Macri pledged on Monday to continue with an austerity drive, rein-in a large budget deficit and pull down inflation running at 17 percent in 2017. However, Capital Economics consultancy said that despite Macri’s inroads, “our view is that the budget deficit will remain uncomfortably large over the coming years.”
Macri’s sweeping victory was helped by deep divisions in the Peronist camp which Kirchner failed to heal. “Cristina [Fernández de] Kirchner won, but Peronism lost,” summed up analyst Ignacio Zuleta.
“Macri’s victory is a signal of the departure of populism, that the economic goals will be maintained and that the idea of re-election has taken hold,” political commentator Rosendo Fraga said. Fernández de Kirchner may well seek a third term in 2019 but her failure to unite a divided Peronist movement, as well as appeal to right-wing voters, is expected to put paid to her chances.
“She may be a candidate, but under current conditions, she would lose. Her political space lost ground in relation to 2015,” said Puricelli.