Buenos Aires, Sep 13 (EFE).- President Alberto Fernandez’s administration suffered a major setback in primary elections to choose candidates for Argentina’s Nov. 14 midterm, a result that has shaken up the domestic political landscape.
The long-standing recession that led to conservative former President Mauricio Macri’s defeat at the ballot box in 2019 – an economic crisis further aggravated by pandemic mitigation measures – has now taken a political toll on his successor.
Fernandez also has come under fire for a photo that showed him hosting a birthday party at the presidential residence for first lady Fabiola Yañez in July 2020, when social gatherings were prohibited under strict Covid-19 rules.
No one in the photo was wearing a mask.
According to the provisional vote tally from Sunday’s primary elections, the pre-candidate lists submitted by the ruling Frente de Todos coalition of Peronist parties received the most votes in only seven of the country’s 24 jurisdictions.
By contrast, the opposition, investor-friendly Juntos por el Cambio to which Macri belongs was the big winner after garnering the highest number of ballots in 14 jurisdictions.
The ruling coalition’s Senate pre-candidates also fared poorly, emerging victorious in only two of the eight provinces that will hold elections for the upper house this year.
Victoria Tolosa Paz, Frente de Todos’ main lower-house hopeful in Buenos Aires province, acknowledged Monday after the coalition’s second-place finish there (normally a Peronist stronghold) that the result was a tough and unexpected blow.
The ruling coalition candidate said her bloc must have “humility” and work to alleviate people’s displeasure with the economic situation, which she says is improving even though the results are not yet perceptible.
“I think there’s a president and governors who are going to have to take the bull by the horns and start working to solve the problems” the country faces, she told Somos Radio.
Frente de Todos even failed to come out on top in Santa Cruz province, the cradle of Kirchnerism, the Peronist faction led by former head of state Cristina Fernandez (the current vice president).
Alberto Fernandez (no relation to Cristina), who on Sunday took responsibility for the defeat and pledged to work to reverse that result in November, took part Monday in a public event but did not refer to the primaries.
Macri, meanwhile, hailed the results of a vote seen as a referendum on Fernandez’s first 21 months in office.
“There’s a new opportunity for Argentina today. We’re starting to see the end of populism in our country,” the ex-president, who was not on any of his coalition’s candidate lists, said of the primary results.
Analyst Mariel Fornoni told Efe that many of the votes were cast against the ruling coalition (as opposed to for the opposition) and attributed the result to a series of poor economic indicators: a high poverty rate (42 percent), elevated unemployment rate (10.2 percent), spiraling inflation, the continuous depreciation of the peso and a reduction in purchasing power for both salary earners and retirees.
She said the “big winner” of the midterm primaries was Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, a leading opposition figure whose hand-picked candidates fared well on Sunday and who appears well-positioned for a presidential run in 2023.
A similar defeat for the ruling coalition in November would cost Frente de Todos its majority in the Senate.
No political grouping currently has a majority in the lower house. EFE