19 March 2007

Elections afoot

Provincial elections are already on the run. Since every province is an autonomous state regarding authorities, each has its own rules and schedule. Most often the provincial elections are held on the same day as the national ones (presidential and legislative), but this depends mainly on two factors: whether the province was intervened or had its government otherwise removed prior to the end of the usual term, and whether its government chooses to manipulate the schedule (within a limited timeframe dictated by its own electoral laws). When people vote for a party's candidate (say, for president), a significant part tend to vote also for the other candidates (e.g. for governor and legislators).

This "dragging effect" can be advantageous or disadvantageous for the people in charge to call for elections. A governor is typically obligated to name a day for the election of his successor based on the day of the end of his term — e.g. between 90 and 120 days before. That leaves him some room to play.

President Kirchner is nowadays extremely popular, so he's viewed as a touchstone for electoral success by many a politician. The Radical Civic Union, the long-time rival of the Justicialist/Peronist Party, has de facto broken into many local factions; the rest of the opposition is also mostly localized (for example, the Socialist Party is strong in Rosario, less so in Santa Fe as a whole, and definitely not anywhere else; Mauricio Macri's right-wing PRO is strong in Buenos Aires City and to a much lesser extent in the metropolitan area; fronts made up of provincial parties dominate in several jurisdictions but have no national projection at all). Local political groups with even the slightest ideological affinity with the Kirchner administration seek approval and support from the president, and the president happily gives it if it looks like it might be a net gain.

With most of the provinces burdened by poverty, lack of infrastructure and growing budget deficits, the national government has the tools to co-opt provincial governments. This leaves provinces in the hands of fleeting minions (fleeting, because they're always ready to change masters) and makes Argentina's federalism a joke. Unfortunately, it's in the politicians' best interest to keep the people poor and continue plundering their budgets, as long as the national government comes to the rescue with political and economic support before the elections.

The electoral calendar has already begun. In Catamarca a Peronist governor won the election against another Peronist — the word "Peronist" is really not used anymore, being replaced by "Kirchnerist" or "non-Kirchnerist". Granted the loser is a veritable mob leader... Luis Beder Herrera, the new governor of La Rioja after ousting his own fellow Peronist companion (who was formerly a fanatic supporter of the right-wing neoliberal Carlos Menem, then swiftly turned into a fanatic supporter of left-wing populist Néstor Kirchner) is calling for elections 180 days from now, or so he says. Of course he will run for governor; that was his goal all the time. How low can you go? Yesterday two Kirchnerist candidates came in first and second in the governor's race in Entre Ríos; the winner is a minister of the current administration. Governor Jorge Busti, in a rather vulgar (and uncalled-for) confrontational style, saluted the victory of his faction as a victory of his own and of President Kirchner, by calling his opponents "losers", and by telling politicians of other parties to go home to their own territories.

In Santa Fe we'll have primaries in July, provincial and municipal elections in September, and the national presidential election in October. Santa Fe, unlike most of the provinces, is awash with money, and the likely winner, Hermes Binner, is a Socialist who carefully doesn't... officially... dislike... a priori... with Kirchner... all the time... in general. Kirchner looks the other way and has left the campaign in the hands of the local Peronism, whose leaders are understandably worried, if not a little pissed off by the lack of presidential support. So unlike the situation in other provinces, the outcome (besides the sheer numbers) is a mystery.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:17

    I favor having separate elections. In a young and inexperienced democracy like in Argentina, help people think what's best for them at different levels is a good thing. Not so good, may be, is the fact that there's more money involved, that people have to bother three times to vote and that there's political interests lobbying to be that way. However, the benefit outweighs the burden, if voters can concentrate better on what and who they are electing is a step forward for democracy. I hate the "long sheet" of candidates and the "small printing" when voting.
    Here in the US, in preparation for next year presidential election, California has changed primary election from June to February.
    Legislators hope the move will increase the influence of California's presidential primary, which had been in June and too late in the process for the state's voters to have much of an effect on the nomination battle in either major party. As many as 15 other states are considering moving primaries to same day.
    Although is "primary election" (elect candidates for every party), state (or province)autonomy works in favor of their people and their will, or at least that's the way it looks on eye of the beholder.


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