Surprise election result in Argentina may push back conservative wave in Latin America

By María José Haro Sly Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/12 22:19:37

People inside and outside the bunker of the Front of Everyone celebrate winning the primary election on August 11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The country's general election will be on October 27, 2019. Photo: IC

Argentina organized primary elections on Sunday. It is the preliminary election for defining candidates in the different parties. The final election will be held in October. 

People looked for a more progressive change. Alberto Fernandez, a criminal law professor at the University of Buenos Aires and the chief of the cabinet during the presidency of Nestor Kirchner, made an alliance with former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to be the vice presidential candidate. They defeated President Mauricio Macri with 47 percent to 32 percent of the vote. 

The numbers are still provisional since the software installed to count the votes is not working well. The government delayed the outcome of the election for a couple of hours. Macri as a presidential candidate admitted a blunt defeat and called for the people to go to "sleep" without offering any official result.

Although the Macri government counted on the support of the IMF and the ultra-concentrated private media, people decided to vote against the neoliberal agenda. After four years of Macri as a president, the country sank in an economic crisis. The alliance with the IMF led the country to a rise in the debt to GDP ratio of nearly 90 percent. The IMF gave Macri the largest loan in the entire history of the institution, but there have been no signs of economic recovery. 

Neoliberal policies contributed to a social and economic situation that was unbearable for most people. Poverty spread to 35 percent of the population, inflation is more than 50 percent, interest rates reached 70 percent, and the devaluation of the national currency was 370 percent. Small and medium companies closed and the trade deficit is the worst in the history of the country. The "rain of investments" never happened. 

"With Cristina it is not enough, but without her it is not possible to win," said Fernandez during the electoral campaign. The Front of Everyone was the alliance that brought together most of the leaders that were dispersed since 2015, and was looking for a Peronist leader capable of drawing together the different voices. This could change the country's economic model.

In October, this result probably will be the definitive outcome. But in a volatile economic situation, October seems to be far away. No one knows what the IMF will do in the coming weeks. Will the IMF admit once again the complete failure of its program for the developing world? Can Alberto Fernandez solve the problem? He was a key negotiator with Nestor Kirchner for the country's default in 2001. He promised to reestablish a Keynesian economic agenda to promote a better economic and social situation based on production instead of financial speculation, and real economic growth based on inclusion.

What happens in Argentina will be important for the whole region. It could change the right-wing wave of governments in Latin America. In most of the countries in the continent, after the militaries lost their central role in launching coup d'états, the new era saw a focus on judicial power. In Brazil, this went too far, with former president Lula becoming the victim of an unjust condemnation by judge Sergio Moro. But in Argentina, reality has defeated the imaginary world depicted by the media and the unpopular policies of Macri.

This result will have repercussions for China-Argentina relations. Although China is Argentina's second-largest trade partner, Macri was pressed by the IMF and the US to keep some distance from the Asian power. At the very beginning of his presidency he wanted to cancel most of the projects signed by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. At the end, he renegotiated most of them, but he did not create a clear position that could benefit Argentina.

Argentina will need Chinese support in dealing with its external debts. Increasing our exports to China and easing the rising trade deficit will help balance the external sector. This strategic global partnership could set a new stage for both countries. 

The author is an Argentine scholar at the Renmin University of China.
Newspaper headline: Argentina vote may hit conservative agenda

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