The Argentine legislative primaries this Sunday dealt a strong setback to the government of the center-left Peronist Alberto Fernández, as the candidates of the opposition center-right alliance Juntos were the most voted for the midterm elections on November 14.
The primaries, because they are mandatory, represent a full-scale survey regarding the president’s management, in his first electoral test since he became president in December 2019.
In most of the country’s districts, the candidates of the ruling Frente de Todos alliance supported those of Juntos, led by former President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019).
In the province of Buenos Aires, a traditional stronghold of Peronism with a third of the country’s electorate, Together they obtained 38.3% compared to 33.5% of the ruling party, scrutinized more than 76% of the voting tables.
In the federal capital, where the right wing force is strongest, the numbers are even harsher for the government. With 96% of the tables scrutinized, Juntos obtained 48.27% of the votes compared to 24.62% for the Fernández alliance.
“It is a catastrophic scenario for the government, with these numbers the perspective is that the opposition victory should be consolidated within two months,” political scientist Carlos Fara told AFP.
Argentines will return to the polls on November 14, when 127 of the 257 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 24 of the 72 in the Senate will be renewed.
The ruling coalition risks the majority it currently has in the Senate. In the lower house, these two years have passed in the minority and he would need ten more seats to secure the majority.
The primaries were marked by the covid-19 pandemic that delayed voting due to sanitary measures in the voting centers.
A total of 34 million people were authorized to vote, although the turnout reached just over 67%.
The result is “punishment” for the government, Fara said.
“These results reflect that the majority prefer that the government lose the legislative elections, although it remains to be seen what will finally happen in November,” he said.
Fernández became president in December 2019, three months before the first case of covid-19 was registered.
The pandemic has caused more than 113,000 deaths out of 5.5 million cases with a marked decrease in infections in recent weeks as vaccination progresses, one of the strengths on which he based his campaign. 63.81% of the 45 million inhabitants of Argentina have received one dose and 40.52% both.
“But the main issue of people’s concern is the economy and it is the government’s worst evaluated issue, although the handling of the pandemic with vaccination stabilized it,” said Fara.
Despite all this, the government is betting on sustaining the reactivation that began to be evident in an economy that has been in recession since 2018 and fell 9.9% last year.
However, the pockets of Argentines continue to be hit by an inflation that does not give truce and accumulated 29.1% from January to July last, with an emphasis on food prices.
“It is a government that has come with more disapproval than approval for more than a year, which had lost the moderation that was one of the demands that the electorate had awarded in 2019 and with a lot of arrogance that wore it down,” explained Fara.
It is a “strong call for attention to the government” and the second part of Fernández’s term will depend on its interpretation, he added.