03 August 2009

Primary election results

A few weird numbers came out of yesterday's election. The main thing was that the opposition represented by the Justicialist Party (that is, the Peronists) won in Rosario, where it usually loses by a wide margin, and the Progressive Front won in Santa Fe City, where it usually doesn't do that well and was vanquished in the latest legislative election. What happened?

You need to remember this was a primary election and, although it was compulsory, many people didn't turn up. It was a local election and in Rosario, also, it was a local election pitching a diverse (some would say promiscuous) opposition party against a fairly monolithic government party whose administration is showing some wear after 14 years in office. People who are more-or-less OK with the Socialist administration didn't vote for it because the main list of candidates was seen as a bunch of yes-people ready to raise their hands on the mayor's command. I myself voted for Nire Roldán, one of the minor, dissident candidates of the Progressive Front, instead of the "loyalist" Clara García (currently a top municipal official), because I don't want a Deliberative Council with an absolute majority of the government's faction.

In any case, the Progressive Front had differences in opinion among its factions, basically regarding the closeness of the candidates to the mayor's power. On the other hand, the Peronists are profoundly divided, and so they went to the primary election: a Kirchnerist faction led by extra-partisan, former Socialist and Menemist sell-out Héctor Cavallero, with the explicit support of the now disgraced Kirchnerist mouthpiece Agustín Rossi; a faction led by one Diego Giuliano, a political unknown who answers to formerly fervent Kirchnerist, now right-wing anti-Kirchnerist Carlos Reutemann; another one led by Osvaldo Miatello, the only one with a current and established legislative career, backed by former governor Jorge Obeid; and an assortment of no-names. These will have to get along somehow — they'll all be together in a single ballot in September.

My analysis is that many people just took the Progressive Front for granted and refused to show extra support for the mayor's faction (that's what I did after all) as a way of letting them know they'll have to work harder to stay in power, while each of the various competing Peronist candidates conducted an aggressive campaign just to make themselves noticed, and their wide differences encouraged their supporters to go out and vote.We'll see what happens with those figures in September. I really can't see a traditional, conservative Peronist voting for a former Socialist with Kirchnerist backing, or viceversa.

The flu

I haven't written about the influenza A(H1N1) epidemic in Argentina. Everyone else has, though, so I'll leave it at that. For me, it had its good and bad sides. The good side was that children and teenagers cleared the streets, buses, and other public venues for us grownups, leaving us room to enjoy our city without being bumped into,  or bombarded with trashy music out of MP3 players. Oh, some people died. Not many, certainly an insignificant number compared to the people who die of other preventable diseases or in traffic accidents caused by drivers' carelessness. Several acquaintances of mine fell with the flu, but it was nothing serious.

The bad side was the hysteria and the paranoia. I'm sure you've seen your share of this. What happens here is that as soon as, let's say, an outbreak of a disease is announced, society divides itself into two main groups: those who panic, go to ridiculous extremes to protect themselves, and generally bother the rest of us, and those who just dismiss it all as an invention of the government, the media, or both to make us forget of the really important matters, and place the rest of us at risk because of their carelessness. You may have noticed there's a third group, what I've called "the rest of us" — make of that what you want.

As the first wave of the flu subsided, many people have started to forget the cautionary measures against contagion. This may or may not be OK. Others continue to be hysterical, in both the usual and the figurative meaning: they remain fearful and paranoid, and they're very funny — tending towards the "pathetic" kind of funny. At work, I've had perfectly healthy people, who usually offered me their cheek to kiss every morning, refuse to come even close to me. During the initial phase of the epidemic, one of my co-workers first became very agitated, then tried to force her daughter's school to shut down, and then basically locked her up at home (this was a few days before the Ministry of Education finally decided to shut down the schools). There's still alcohol gel everywhere, and by the looks of it, some people think it's an all-powerful, virus-proof barrier against the flu.

The cold, and with it the flu, will be gone in less than two months. I can't wait to tell you about the upcoming dengue epidemic...

02 August 2009

Just voted

I've just voted on the (arguably) most boring election ever — a primary to select candidates for the city's Deliberative Council.

Not only did most people not know exactly who the candidates were, what general views (as opposed to nice specific ideas) they had, or even which party they belonged to, but also, as a result of the flu epidemic, the election should have taken place a month ago and didn't. It was postposed, but the legal ban on political advertising wasn't reset, so it's been more than a month since any of the candidates was allowed to appear on TV or be heard on the radio to explain the citizens what they intend to do if they're elected. Now I don't really love politicians broadcasting their promises along with catchy, unsubstantial slogans every ten minutes on the radio, but I do appreciate those things have a purpose.

Some of the major candidates evaded the ban by campaigning through Facebook. I think this is a very nice idea. It was pioneered, I think, by mayor Miguel Lifschitz, and spread quickly to other candidates, who apparently saw that just having a website was useless if nobody noticed it. The digital divide makes this practice a bit problematic, though.

I'll be posting the results here as soon as I have them, but nobody expects a surprise. The real election, with the candidates from each party already selected, will take place on September 27.