Elections in Argentina

Image: Gabriel Ramos


A powerful democratic sigh of relief

In political terms, Argentina is a real box of surprises. And when you're in crisis, it feels like a vertigo-inducing roller coaster. The results of Sunday's general elections have once again perplexed people, both local and foreign. Starting with ourselves, we didn't expect it. And they meant a turnaround compared to the August primaries. A change in trend, largely positive. A powerful sigh of democratic relief. An event full of meanings that we have to understand.

The most important message from the polls is the stagnation of Javier Milei's electoral performance. The libertarian wave suddenly stopped. And this occurred despite the acceleration of the social crisis having offered fertile ground for exponential growth.

The second fact that no one predicted was the awakening of the Peronist giant, for the umpteenth time. This time, he achieved the miracle of leaving the economic difficulties of the majority in the background, to give victory to minister-candidate Sergio Massa. And guarantee the governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, Axel Kicillof, a comfortable re-election.

The third conclusion was predictable, but it is still impactful due to its forcefulness: the failure of the Macrista coalition, incapable of reading the shifts in current conflicts, which could cause its disintegration.

But to understand the reasons for this remarkable change in the battlefield, perhaps one should not just look at the shelves of electoral offers. Perhaps it is appropriate to focus, in advance, on what could have been a tectonic movement in popular subjectivity.

The first interpretation, which comes from the media, guarantees that fear overcame the desire for change. We could go a little further and risk the hypothesis that an ancestral feeling of collective self-preservation has been activated. No one ignores that the present is calamitous, but there still seems to be enough wisdom to avoid the catastrophe. It is no small feat, in this cruel world, to reaffirm faith in a fundamental axiom of democratic politics, in its most plebeian meaning: the people are never mistaken.

Against all triumphalism

There are many reasons to move directly from celebration to vigil. The first and most urgent: on November 19th there will be a second round and nothing is yet defined. The election of thirds is over, in which the fundamental issue was maintaining a high floor. Now comes the final, in which whoever manages to surpass the ceiling wins. In this context, the sum of votes from the right (Milei + Bullrich) exceeds 50%. And officialism needs to increase at least 13 points if it intends to continue governing.

There will be four weeks of open warfare to see who can destabilize their rival. The new Peronist idol is a professional in the field, displays an unbridled desire for power and is one step away from crowning his zigzagging political career, which is why he will use all his artillery without ceremony. Furthermore, it has an inexhaustible source of resources, not only because it has the state apparatus, but also because it has the support of the hard core of local economic power. And he even has solid support on the international scene, such as the governments of Brazil and the United States.

It is a considerable instrument to persuade or, if this is not possible, blackmail the third parties in dispute, starting with the cordobesismo of Juan Schiaretti (6,78%), passing through the doves of Together for Change (and also some hawks). The pressure can even puncture freedom advances and cause ruptures in the enemy ranks. Some supporters of the economy minister are already hinting at the possibility of the libertarian candidate emulating his admired Carlos Saúl Menem and resigning from the second round.

Javier Milei's hosts know that their chances depend on their ability to deepen the deterioration of governability and, thus, convince half plus one of the need for change, even if it hurts. The fundamental weapon for this new stage of the campaign could be Mauricio Macri, who could convince an important segment of the establishment that the disease is worse than the cure. The use of violence to create a chaotic scenario should not be excluded.

In addition to this dispute that we will see unfolding in the underworld of politics, the rhetorical cards to convince voters have already been launched: the proposal for a government of national unity, against the attempt to unite the opposition around the Slogans of visceral anti-Kirchnerism.

Memory and balance

Sunday's result could well be read as questioning a statement that seemed to have become a truism: “society has become right-wing”. Despite the immense and justified discomfort with a progressivism that failed to solve the problems – and even worsened them –, citizens prevented this discontent from being manipulated to destroy historical achievements with strong democratic and popular content.

Immediately, Javier Milei was deprived of the aura of inevitable president that gave him the power to destroy the Argentine currency and prepare the ground for shock therapy. And, in his first statement about the result, the libertarian was forced to say that he did not intend to annul rights. Even if that promise is very unlikely.

However, what actually moved ostensibly to the right was the political system. Just look at the massive entry of far-right figures into the National Congress. But there is more: for those who believe that democracy can only be consolidated with profound transformations of the current power structure, it is not convenient to delude ourselves with a possible presidency of Sergio Massa, who represents the most conservative sector of Peronism. However, Axel Kicillof's categorical victory in the strategic province of Buenos Aires constitutes a promising counterweight that energizes the situation and reopens the horizon for new compositions of social justice that can no longer be sacrificed on the altars of possibilism and mediocrity.

The results of October 22nd were a breather, when everything seemed to indicate that anguish would lead us. Let us hope that it serves to make up for lost time and bring back to the center those democratic reserves that remain latent in the heart of an overburdened community.

*Crisis editorial collective is the group of participants responsible for the editions of the magazine crisis.

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published on the magazine's website crisis.

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