The populist party founded in 1945 by the military Juan Domingo Peronwhich dominated politics for almost 80 years in Argentina never expected to reach such a crossroads: this Sunday he will compete in the presidential elections sandwiches between two right-wing rivals and the continuation of the Casa Rosada is at stake.
The ruling Union for the Homeland (UP), a coalition of Peronism and 17 smaller parties that have governed the country since 2019 presents as a presidential candidate Sergio Massa -51 years old, lawyer, and professional politician-. Until 2022, he headed the Congress of Deputies, but last year he left that position and was replaced by hot potatoes of the Ministry of Economy of the national government.
Now he is joined by two other presidential candidates. Besides, Javier Miley -53 years old, ultra-liberal, far-right economist, linked to Vox- from the La Libertad Avanza (LLA) party, which leads the voters’ preferences, according to surveys. In another, Patricia Bullrich -67 years old, communications graduate, political professional- from the right-wing coalition Together for Change (JxC).
It is the pincer movement of right-wing forces about Peronism is something that has never happened in Argentina. It threatens left-wing populism by removing it from the podium of hegemony it maintains in the political system (except in times of diffuse civil-military dictatorship). And he will be judged in the second or third place.
Peronism has sunk to third place for the first time in its history in the primary election last August. UP de Massa collected 27.28% of the votes; JxC of Bullrich, 28%; and LLA de Milei, the most votes, 29.86%. The truth winner is absenteeism: 30.4%, almost 10 million citizens, did not go to vote although mandatory.
Now the great hope of the three presidential candidates from the leading platoon – two others are running without a chance: Juan Schiaretticenter-right, and Miriam Bregmanfrom the left – is to increase the importance of this Sunday in the polls when those who abstained from the primaries leave home, go to vote and return the results to one side or the other.
A worker prepares ballot boxes at a polling station outside Buenos Aires.
However, in a poor Argentina that is super polarized between Peronists and anti-Peronists, there is no climate of citizen warmth or democratic participation. Worse: half of Argentines would accept “an undemocratic government if it solves the people’s problems,” according to a survey released Friday by the consulting firm Poliarquia.
Many Argentines are angry with democracy, just four decades after its conquest in 1983, and with politicians in general, especially with the current Peronist presidential government. Alberto Fernandez and the vice president Cristina Fernandez, Kirchner’s widow. And popular anger has Massa, presidential candidate and Minister of Economy, in its sights.
Massa’s management at the head of the Treasury portfolio shows disastrous figures: the CPI rose to the highest value in the last three decades, 138% year-on-year average, with the resulting destruction of purchasing power. And Argentina’s currency, the peso, dropped 279% against the US dollar.
Poverty reached 41% of the population, that is 18.7 out of 45.8 million Argentinesa large number for this country that, in the 20th century, attracted immigrants from all over Europe because of its prosperity and knew how to have the widest middle class among the Latin American countries, thanks to strong social movements.
The case of children and adolescents is also alarming, up to the age of 14. In this social group, according to recent Unicef reports, vulnerability is high: two out of three women and men are poor by family income or by not have access basic rights such as housing, health, water, education, and social protection. It consists of 66% of men and young people.
This Sunday, 35,394,425 citizens were called to the polls to choose candidates for the presidency of the Republic – the ninth since the restoration of democracy in 1983 – vice president, senators, deputies, and mayors. In the parliament, half of the deputies and a third of the senate will be changed, thus the political power of the government and the opposition is different.
The favorite in the polls and with winning momentum is Milei, an outsider advocate of antipolitics, who proposed radical reforms of questionable implementation, for example, the abandonment of the peso and the adoption of the dollar as currency. At the end of his campaign, he called on Argentines to go to the voting centers to “win in the first round.”
Bullrich concluded his campaign by assuring that “we know how to organize and restore happiness to the Argentines. He promised that when he reaches the Casa Rosada he will “the strictest government in history”. “We will turn the tables: money is for the people, and the State must take care of what is basic, which are doctors, teachers, police and military,” he said.
For his part, Massa tried to distance himself from the current President Fernández and Vice President Kirchner. “My government will be different from this”, he promised and assured me that “next year will be a very good year of reducing inflation.” The official candidate announced that if he is the president he plans to “assemble the best in a Government of national unity” to “build Argentina in the coming years.”
If the prediction of the polls indicating that Milei will be the candidate with the most votes this Sunday comes true, but does not achieve a sufficient percentage to be a conclusive winner, Argentina is going to the second round of presidential elections or ballot, this November 19, between the first and second this Sunday.