Odd year is an electoral year in Argentina and this time legislative elections are coming. In the coming months we will have a new conformation of the Congress in which, possibly, the ruling party will manage to have some more national deputies and the opposition improves its situation in the Senate. The crack allows us to forecast an electoral result that will translate into a majority of the ruling party that, however, will be insufficient to legislate at will and will need to negotiate with allies. In this sense, the result will not mean huge differences in the way Congress works.
Midterm elections are usually favorable for governments that are just taking. From 1983 until now, the only president who won the presidential and lost the first legislative was De La Rúa. Alfonsín won in 1985, Menem in 1991, Kirchner in 2005, Cristina Fernández in 2009 and Macri in 2017.
Alberto Fernández had a bad first year in office. His positive image managed to escalate in the first moments of the pandemic’s management but that popularity faded. In the extraordinary situation that he had to administer, he condemned Argentina to one of the longest quarantines in the world, invented a tension between health and economics just to fail on both planes, was capable of say and undo On practically all issues, he tried to hide Cristina’s court markings by responding to her criticisms with praise and we were excited and disappointed by ensuring ten million Argentines would receive vaccinations during the summer.
Alberto wasted the opportunities that would have allowed him to get the operator suit and become the leader of its political force. The promise of a moderate government was left in 2019 and whoever is interested in national politics does not need to look so much at the President as at Congress.
The most important movements of the government during 2020 happened there, led by Cristina and Máximo and not for the Casa Rosada. Decisions such as YPF’s, the anti-export onslaught, the proposal to limit the capacities of the Supreme Court with an intermediate court and the attempt to go for a big box when proposing a complete reform of the health system show the leadership of Cristina and the radicalization of a government that had promised to be moderate.
This year we will have to continue to focus our attention on Congress. The week ended with a decree that expanded the agenda of the extraordinary sessions: “Health emergency and Electoral Calendar 2021” was included. Possibly this means that the suspension of the STEP will be voted.
Good legislative practices state that the rules of the game are not changed in election years. Beyond this question more linked to the forms of a desired country, suspending the PASO has consequences. The possibility of intervention in the selection of candidates is taken away from the citizens and, at the same time, the electoral calendar is running. All governments try to postpone the decisions that will affect citizens the hardest until after the elections, so between now and October there will be juggling so that the population does not feel too much about the loss of their purchasing power.
Argentina is a country that never resigned to surprise us. In any case, if we risk planning the next few months, there are three central issues: vaccination, the economy and the return to schools in person.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government decided to manage the health crisis by betting everything on the vaccine. This week Ginés González affirmed that 51 million doses are guaranteed. But it’s hard to believe because Vizzotti spoke days ago about 20 million and the President later denied it. But it was Fernández himself who in November promised that 10 million Argentines would be vaccinated before the end of the year. A few days later he postponed the deadline but kept the number: 10 million vaccinated for February. There is a week left and only 280 thousand people received the vaccine. The President will he missed his prognosis by more than 9,700,000 doses.
Beyond the question of the number, Argentina distributes a vaccine that has no known data on its phase 3. Sputnik has not been evaluated by the main regulatory agencies in the world and the lack of transparency in the information makes it less reliable. Will Alberto be blamed for an unvaccinated country? Will the citizens punish him in the elections?
It is also valid to wonder if voters will punish him for mismanaging the economy, for having drowned it with the pandemic and for making a banner of not having an economic plan.
During 2020 the basic basket increased more than 45%. It also increased poverty, destitution and the unemployed, although this last number is still contained by the temporary prohibition of dismissals and the validity of double compensation. There is less and less private investment and less market. The State is privileged as the engine of the economy, without admitting that our State is poor and that it can only divide its poverty among all.
Political analysts often agree that people vote out of pocket. If so, the punishment for Alberto would be heavy. However, something that can work in their favor is that economic crises already seem constant and that, in addition, they do not have an opposition on the other side that allows citizens to believe that they will be better off in the short or medium term.
The third theme is back to schools. When the government closed everything, it also closed the schools. But, while in many other places they were opening with protocols and showing themselves as safe spaces, the Minister of Education said that here they would only return to classes when the teachers are vaccinated. With sufficient information on the harm inflicted on children and with the possibility of taking the example of schools in other countries, civil society groups -among which @ PadresOrg stands out- began to request protocols for returning to the classroom. .
The opposition joined the claim: the government of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta made a re-link at the end of 2020 and now ensures that classes will begin in person on February 17. Mauricio Macri also called to return to the classrooms. The opposition imposed an agenda and as it managed to interpret an increasingly popular demand, Alberto Fernández and his government do not want to be left out, so that what some government officials called “gift the education agenda to the right”.
Soon the end of the summer recess will come and we will know if Argentine children go back to school or the terrible decision of another year like 2020 will be made. What is done may have an impact on the electoral results.
The arrival of the election will allow us to know the public spirit and the first evaluation of the Fernández government. The bad governments win elections too, as happened with the re-election of Menem when the numbers of the Argentine economy were dramatic and the prospects for the future even worse. It is also true that good governments may not receive support, as happened when Illia was overthrown even though he was carrying out an excellent management. It is the passion of politics, after putting all the rational arguments in order, people come to vote for the most multiple reasons and none of them is based on the political analysis of the experts.