Saturday, October 27, 2007


Get ready for the year's most boring political contest - tomorrow's Presidential Election in Argentina.

None of the leading figures (two lawyers and a businessman) bring anything new or outstanding to the table, and in any case the result is a given. While the Guardian's report lists the three principle candidates, eight pollsters interviewed by the left-leaning Buenos Aires daily Pagina 12 predict a landslide victory for Cristina Kirchner, of between 22 and 30% points. The Argentine system requires the leading candidate to lead by at least 10% over his/her nearest rival. A second-round run-off looks, therefore, to be a virtual impossibility. Indeed, from the moment the election campaign began, an air of inevitability has hung over the result.

The one noteworthy aspect of the election is that Kirchner will be the first democratically elected female head of state in Argentina's history. She has the overwhelming support of working class voters, especially in Buenos Aires province and the northern cities of Salta and Jujuy, where the urban poor were hit hardest by the collapse of the peso in 2001.

Kirchner's victory will be the result more of a wish for stability in Argentina (her husband is the current President, and his economic policies are credited for bringing Argentina in from the cold) and a deeply splintered opposition. Since 2003, the Argentine economy has grown steadily, and Cristina is generally seen as the safest pair of hands. But inflation is said to be rising beyond the government's conservative predictions, which means the prices of essentials (especially fuel) could become unaffordable for the poorest in society. Time will tell whether Kirchner's promises to redistribute wealth to the poor will materialise; certainly nobody should expect the socialist politics taking root in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

But tomorrow's election, while dull, should not be seen as a depressing affair. Each of the three main candidates are running on a centre-left, Peronist platform. I have discussed before how Peronism can mean one thing to one politician, and something completely different to another, but the semi-fascist, militaristic strain of Peronism seems to have lost favour altogether - hardly surprising after a military dictatorship and a decade and a half of crippling privatisation. The criminals of the Dirty War are, slowly, being brought to justice, and Argentina (or at least, the visible side of Argentina) is regaining its confidence. While some might yearn for a more radical politics, one can hardly blame Argentina for its pragmatism.


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