29 June 2007

Wrapping up the campaign

We're in veda electoral, that is, the common pre-election ban on political advertising, since this morning. Though next Sunday's is just a primary election, it works like a main one and it's equally a bother: it's compulsory and you can't sell (therefore can't buy) booze the night before and during the whole day (you can buy booze beforehand and save it for Sunday, though).

In Rosario, almost exactly 700,000 people have the right and the obligation to vote; in Santa Fe as a whole, about 2.3 million. We're selecting the candidates who will run for their respective parties in the main election in September. Until 2005 we had Ley de Lemas, a perverse system by which a candidate could win with fewer votes than most of their opponents (follow the link). In fact, with Ley de Lemas you could win with 2 votes against someone who had gotten 1 million votes, provided you had 999,999 other candidates of your own party running beside you and they each got 1 vote (which would make a total of 1,000,001 votes for your party as a whole).

The system was repealed and replaced by simultaneous compulsory primary elections — compulsory for the parties, even if a party has internally decided to run with only one candidate. That's the case of the Socialist Hermes Binner, the favorite to win the governorship according to all surveys. The Justicialists (Peronists) have a more complicated task ahead, since they're presenting two candidates (Agustín Rossi and Rafael Bielsa) under the name Frente para la Victoria (Front for Victory), the faction of President Kirchner, plus one more, Roxana Latorre, who rebelliously decided to run by herself, and (naturally) claims to represent the true interests of Peronism. Latorre is (or was) a pawn of Carlos Reutemann, the Formula 1 race driver turned governor by the magic of Menemist popstar politics in the 1990s, and she doesn't like how the dominant faction has taken up her space.

Now common sense tells everybody that Latorre's proclamation of independence means less votes for the "official" Peronists; it doesn't matter now in the primaries, but it will matter in September, since Latorre will draw votes (very few, but some) from either Rossi or Bielsa. Binner, who runs solo and only appears as candidate in the primaries to keep the letter of the law, doesn't have this kind of problem. Socialism is allied with the Radical Civic Union, which managed to preserve a degree of local power (smaller towns scattered throughout the province) after they blew it once and again and descended into obscurity on the larger context thanks to President Alfonsín selling out to Menem (1994) and President de la Rúa selling out to Domingo Cavallo and fleeing the Casa Rosada on a helicopter (2001), not to mention other stupid blunders and many gestures of misplaced moral authority in the meantime and up to now who would've made Alem and Yrigoyen spin in their respective graves.

In Santa Fe, most of the Radicals saw the convenience of selling out once again, this time to Binner's Frente Progresista (Progressive Front), and are therefore telling their people to vote for Binner, who has placed a number of Radicals in his associated list of provincial legislators; a sensible move that will allow them to keep a foot on the parliamentary door and maybe, in a few years' time, run their own candidate for governor. Reelection is not allowed, so if Binner wins he'll be out again in merely four years.

In Rosario the mayoral candidates will be competing as well. We have two heavyweights on the side of Justicialism, Héctor Cavallero (former mayor, former Socialist and Binner's mentor, very good in his time, sold out to Menem — a pity) and Juan Héctor Sylvestre Begnis (former Radical, migrated to Peronism, son of Santa Fe's best governor of all time, served as a very fine Minister of Health of Santa Fe, also a pity since the one we have today is a living shame). There's the usual assortment of unknowns crawling around, too. On Binner's side, the current mayor Miguel Lifschitz looking for reelection — an almost sure bet, and Carlos Comi, a concejal (city council member) who belongs to the local branch of ARI. ARI, you'll remember, is the party founded by Elisa Carrió, the party that won its first governorship last Sunday in the person of Fabiana Ríos, the rosarina that moved to Tierra del Fuego. Funny!

Comi and ARI in general are not too happy with Binner, since the Socialist ballot we'll find in the voting room next Sunday carries Binner and Lifschitz on the same piece of paper, while ARI will not have such a big name attached to its candidate. If you want to vote for Binner and Comi, you'll have to cortar boleta — cut the ballot manually (or with a scissor), while if you want Binner and Lifschitz, you just need to tuck the ballot in the envelope as it is. Lifschitz thus benefits from Binner's preference..., you know, like placing the brand of potato chips you want to sell next to the beer aisle on the supermarket. So Fabiana Ríos and Elisa Carrió came to Rosario this week to support Comi's campaign, and they mounted a kiosk with a gigantic pair of scissors. Subtle.

The official Peronist candidates have been much kinder to one another, to the point of boring us all and the media. According to both of them, everything in the province is so darn well done already they only need to continue doing what the party has been doing since 1983...

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