Argentine opposition wins midterm elections
Buenos Air — President Alberto Fernandez suffered a severe setback in Argentina’s midterm elections on Sunday amid widespread anger over high inflation and rising poverty, as his ruling coalition lost control of the Senate and threatened to quit its position as the largest bloc in the House of Representatives.
The victory of the centre-right Alliance for Change means two difficult final years in office for the president, who must deal with the acute social crisis and also seek a debt refinancing agreement with the International Monetary Fund to stabilize the economy. It could also exacerbate divisions within the ruling coalition.
The Front for All coalition led by Fernández, made up of a group of Peronist and leftist parties, was able to pass laws by controlling the Senate while counting on support from independents in the Chamber of Deputies, where the coalition had a strong minority.
According to the official count, the opposition received 40.1% of the vote in the province of Buenos Aires, the largest demographic in the country, while the president’s coalition received 38.4%. She also led Together for Change in Santa Fe, Cordoba and Buenos Aires, other areas of significant electoral weight.
Voters chose 127 deputies, representing half of the House of Representatives, and 24 senators in eight districts, one-third of the Senate.
The result was seen as a “punitive” vote against Fernandez’s government over unemployment and other hardships that accompanied Argentina’s 10% plunge last year along with persistently high inflation. More than 40% of the country’s 45 million people live in poverty, unemployment is close to 10%, and inflation in October hit an annual rate of nearly 42%.
The government has also been affected by perceptions of growing insecurity and a series of scandals including violations by Fernandez and his associates of epidemiological sanitary restrictions. He also had public disagreements with the vice president, former president Cristina Fernandez.
Analysts said the politicians, who are unrelated, are having a hard time.
“Both Fernandez and Cristina will be weakened. Tensions between the two will increase further, but a complete separation leading to resignations is unlikely,” said Danielle Kerner, Latin America director at Eurasia Consulting Group. “Fernandez is a weak and unpopular president, and if she resigns she will be left with support. My popularity is limited and there is constant and permanent opposition to Christina and her group.”
The difficult obstacle is the need for an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to refinance the approximately $45 billion debt left by the previous government led by conservative President Mauricio Macri in 2015-2019.
Cristina Fernandez has promoted Fernandez’s presidential candidacy in his successful run to defeat Macri in the 2019 election, but they have fallen out over economic policy and IMF negotiations. The president is calling for no delay in reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to calm financial markets, which could imply cuts in public spending that run counter to the vision of his more popular vice president.
The government will have to rethink many things. “Peronism has never ruled in an alliance before,” said Roberto Bachmann, director of the Center for the Study of Public Opinion. “Peronism has to find its own internal mechanism to determine the course, the economic plan, how to end the IMF case.”
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