Buenos Aires Hours | To (H) not ask me


With so many voices cast by the various media throughout this momentous week and with so much in the air following the midweek Cabinet crisis (at least at the time of writing), this column is found simultaneously with nothing and everything to write. Make the best approach to retreat to the usual comfort zone of that space – relating the present to the past based on a Herald of Buenos Aires newsroom experience dating back to the very first elections of this current democratic period in 1983.

But in my personal case and in an electoral context which goes back even further – from 1977 to 1979, I was part of a European university team which worked on a uniform electoral system for the first direct elections of the European Parliament of the last one. year. Still none, so not too much of a bragging claim, but it has given me vast experience in things like the D’Hondt electoral system adopted by Argentina – so much so that I can actually spell that name correctly, unlike almost everyone here (D’Hont is almost universal local use). Victor D’Hondt (1841-1901) was a Ghent jurist and mathematician who devised the method of successive division of proportional representation used to allocate seats – since this method is misunderstood almost as often as the name of its Belgian creator is misspelled, this column could explain it a bit further down if space allows.

But for now on more immediate and central issues. Let’s start this week with its beginning with the PASO primary vote last Sunday. The ruling coalition crisis that has occurred now makes this already seem like old news, so let me condense all the myriads of votes into a single 70 percent that basically tells the story – 70 percent have voted against the government, 70 percent voted for the two main coalitions (as against nearly 80 percent in PASO 2019 and almost 90 percent in the actual presidential vote) and the turnout in the central battlefield of the province of Buenos Aires was 70 percent (well, okay, 69.3 percent and 66.2 percent nationally).

Almost the mirror image of the PASO 2019 primaries with the common denominator of a heavy anti-government oscillation confusing the anticipated expectations of close competition. Ahead of the vote, a cryptic electorate offered little clue as to whether all the calamities and mistakes of the past 18 months would result in a massive protest vote or disenchanted abstention, but the former largely prevailed. At the time, the government may have had reason to hope those ballots were catharsis that could be reversed in November, but the ongoing autistic power games only fuel anger against a dysfunctional coalition. .

Little light at the end of this tunnel but rather than speculating on an uncertain future, let’s see what exit strategies the past can offer. For the most obvious (especially for any populist government), one need only go back to the penultimate PASO primary of 2017 in San Luis, when the Rodríguez Saá clan turned a loss of nearly 20 points into a triumph with the comfortable margin of 12%. halfway through the simple expedient of throwing money and everything except the kitchen sink (including even the kitchen sink, since household appliances were generously distributed) to the electorate. Even though replicating this formula nationwide would cost around 90 times that cost, it immediately occurred to many Kirchnerite minds and indeed, early last week, the announcement of a package of Election giveaways (including a resumption of IFE emergency documents from last year) was scheduled for Thursday. But massive midweek resignations, including heads of social security services in charge of many of the potential benefits, have delayed all this (at least at the time of writing) – on that front, Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would appear to be his own worst enemy.

Another reference to the recent past seems to have been a main catalyst for the Cabinet crisis – the head of La Cámpora and provincial minister of Buenos Aires, Andrés’Cuervo‘Larroque pointed out that the last two mid-term defeats of a Kirchnérite government in 2009 and 2013 were countered by changing the chief of staff and the minister of the economy in both cases. What he failed to mention was that the 2011 landslide was more the result of a vote of sympathy over the death of Néstor Kirchner the previous year than of having Aníbal Fernández (suddenly become under the limelight) as chief of staff or Amado Boudou as Minister of the Economy. when the 2015 presidential election was in fact lost. What he also omitted was the deciding factor of strong dissident Peronist lists in previous defeats as last Sunday’s debacle was suffered by a supposedly invincible united Peronism (unheard of since 1983), thus rendering it unseen. all the more shattering.

Larroque’s suggestion was most likely inspired by his current boss, Axel Kicillof, who became the economy czar in the latter case in 2013 and who kept the crisis largely asymptomatic through capital controls and devaluation. major, but these methods would hardly work now – how can monthly dollar purchases be less than US $ 200 (US $ 2,000 was the cap in 2013)? There is no room for devaluation with annual inflation already around 50% as a result of printing billions of dollars in money against the pandemic and the tax burden also cannot be increased by realistically in a society with more people below the poverty line than ever before.

Not that there is anything new about the economic mega-crises or the changes of ministers in Argentina. There were no less than six ministers of the economy in the hyperinflationary year 1989 and four at the other end of convertibility in 2001, while the current presidency theoretically still has 27 months to run. Rather than a cabinet reshuffle, President Alberto Fernández needs a coalition reshuffle if institutions are to be preserved.

More room to go into the explanations of successive divisions while leaving readers unaware of what is happening or what will happen – but at least they can now spell “D’Hondt” correctly.

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