Argentina’s Election: A Race to Saving the Economy
Grace Watt (Staff Writer Online)
September 24th, 2019
Canada’s election isn’t the only one to look out for this fall, as Argentina is having a presidential election on October 27th. While there are nine different nominees officially running, most eyes are focused on the two front runners: incumbent President Mauricio Macri of the Republican Proposal Party and nominee Alberto Fernandez of the Justicialist Party.
The incumbent president has been on a rollercoaster of popularity since his inauguration in 2015. Previously a wealthy businessman, Macri inherited serious damage to the economy left by former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. She has since been haunted with corruption scandals from her time as president. He settled into office, a rare centre-right president in Argentina, having campaigned on rebuilding a strong economy and improving infrastructure. Despite his promises, Macri has struggled to follow through and is currently sitting with a 10% unemployment rate and an inflation rate that hit 55% this April.
His plan of long-term economic healing even managed to anger the population across party lines. In September of 2018, Macri announced that Argentina would pair a USD$57 billion loan from the IMF with some tightened economic policies as his plan for economic reform. While this conservative approach relieves investors, it provoked many to protest the return of the IMF in Argentina, as their involvement was largely to blame for Argentina’s economic collapse in 2001. Considering this blow to Macri’s popularity, he’s recently been scrambling to find other methods to appeal to voters. This has been done through rapidly planning out high-profile infrastructure cases, and by changing his vice president from conservative Gabriela Michetti to moderate Peronist Senator Miguel Pichetto. This reach to the left allows Macri to increase his appeal as he attempts to compete with candidate Fernandez for Peronist voters.
The frontrunner of the opposing candidates is Alberto Fernandez, former Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers from 2003 to 2008, spanning both presidencies of Nestor Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. While he worked closely with them both, he grew to be critical of Cristina Kirchner, resigning after only a few months into her term. While Fernandez lacks some of the charismatic qualities required to gain national traction, his running mate makes up for it through her infamous political past. In fact, Fernandez’s campaign was announced not by him, but by his running mate, former President Cristina Kirchner herself. Considering the one-eighty that Fernandez has pulled in his attitudes toward Kirchner, some are questioning the dynamics of their possible government. Hopefuls believe that he could be a moderating force to Kircher’s ideology, while some question how much power his vice president may wield over him. Fernandez himself has included elements of “kirchnerism” in their campaign. He claims that if elected, he would return Argentina to “pragmatic nationalism,'' which essentially is a restrained version of Kirchner’s protectionist policies. These include currency and capital controls, as well as pausing structural reform and working to protect Argentina’s domestic market from foreign competitors.
It is pretty clear which candidate has the most potential when it comes to stabilizing the economic crisis. Cristina Kircher simply has a disastrous economic history. While she was in office. She fired the head of the central bank and implemented policies which in the short-term, set the economy up for failure as she left office. While Macri has been slow to deliver on his promises of turning the economy around, his plans are more sound for long-term stabilization. Essentially, Macri’s new policies aim to freeze the growth of the money supply, and hopefully will see a rapid decline in inflation.
Ultimately, the people of Argentina will be the ones to decide their own fate, which currently remains unclear. Both tickets are currently neck and neck, hovering around 40% each. The criteria for winning the election is at least 45% of the votes, or 40% with at least a 10% difference between the top two candidates. Considering this criteria, a runoff is more than likely to occur, with the date having already been set in late November.
While the Justicialist Party and its Peronism has had a long running streak in Argentinian government, the current precarious state of the country’s economy has thrown historical tradition out the window. With inflation rates only second in the continent to the defaulting Venezuela, the third-most populous country in South America has a deeply important decision to make. South America has been facing serious economic and political uproar recently, between Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. This also affects surrounding countries and ultimately has been destabilizing the entire continent. On October 27th, will Argentina elect someone with a long-term solution, albeit somewhat rocky? Or someone with short-term bandaids that will ultimately send another South American country into an economic abyss?