President Mauricio Macri's coalition scored an important victory on Sunday night, retaining the governorship of Mendoza by a large margin in a crucial electoral victory.
Rodolfo Suárez, the Radical candidate running for Cambia Mendoza (the local offshoot of Juntos por el Cambio), emerged with a margin of more than 15 points over his Peronist rival. As counting closed in the nation's fifth-largest electorate, the Cambia Mendoza Front (UCR-PRO) was the clear winner, taking more than half of the vote in the penultimate provincial election before the presidential vote on October 27.
In total, four candidates were seeking to succeed outgoing Radical Governor Alfredo Cornejo, one of Macri's key UCR allies who is prevented from seeking re-election under provincial legislation. The leading candidates were: Suárez, the current mayor of Mendoza City; Kirchnerite senator Anabel Fernández Sagasti; national deputy José Luis Ramón, allied to Consenso Federal's Roberto Lavagna; and outgoing provincial senator Noelia Barbeito for the Frente de Izquierda.
With 100 percent of votes tallied, the sitting Mendoza City mayor had taken 50.12 percent of the vote to score victory, breezing past Fernández Sagasti, who took 34.82 percent. In third was Ramón, with 8.36 percent, ahead of Barbeito, who took only 3.27 percent.
Fernández Sagasti quickly acknowledged her defeat on Sunday night, prompting Suárez to declare "we don't like populism here" from his party's bunker. "It's good to govern with austerity," the governor-elect added.
"Thank you for this support, which is support for the good government of Alfredo Cornejo, for sound administration, for a huge team of mayors who have done things well and have been recognised by the neighbours," Suárez told cheering supporters.
Cambia Mendoza, linking the provincially ruling Radicals with Macri’s PRO, topped the provincial primaries in June, obtaining 42 percent of the vote, followed by 35 percent for Frente Elegí.
The result will offer a timely boost to Macri's re-election campaign, with the president seeking a new four-year term in office.
Over the weekend, the PRO party leader held a rally in the capital that sought to reactivate his base, with thousands of supporters gathering under the banner "#SiSePuede." That phrase, which roughly translates as "Yes, we can," was chanted by celebrating supporters on Sunday night in Mendoza. The president will hold 30 rallies over the next month for supporters as he seeks to rally his base.
What makes the result extra pleasing for the government is the apparent turnaround from the August 11 PASO primaries. Macri's main rival, Frente de Todos hopeful Alberto Fernández, was victorious in the presidential primary in Mendoza Province by a three-point margin
Fernández, the clear frontrunner in the presidential vote, had recognised the importance of the race in Mendoza, visiting the province several times during campaigning.
Neither Macri nor national government officials visited Mendoza during the campaign.
In the 15 elections that have decided provincial governors to date, Macri's Juntos por el Cambio coalition has prevailed only in Jujuy and Mendoza. Ten governorships have remained in the hands of Peronists and three have been taken by separate local provincial forces.
The last provincial contest before the presidential vote takes place on October 13 in Chaco Province.
Argentina's general election takes place October 27, with Macri battling against challenging economic circumstances in his bid for re-election.
The economy has been gripped by recession since 2018, unemployment has risen to 10.6 percent, poverty has soared to 32 percent and inflation is continuing to accelerate. Prices have risen 30 percent this year up until August and the rate of inflation is expected to close out the year at 55 percent.