In the marquee presidential contest, six candidates who had been successful in the Aug. 9 primaries competed. The candidate of President Fernández’s Front for Victory (FPV) alliance was Province of Buenos Aires governor Daniel Scioli, while the candidate of the centrist We Can Change (WCC) alliance was City of Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri. The third principal contender was national deputy Sergio Massa of the United for a New Alternative (UNA) alliance.
Both Scioli and Massa belong to Argentina’s large Peronist movement, with Scioli aligned with the movement’s pro-Kirchner wing and Massa the leading figure in its anti-Kirchner wing. Three minor candidates also were on the ballot: Margarita Stolbizer (Progressives, center-left), Nicolás del Caño (Left Front, far-left), and Adolfo Rodríguez Saá (Federal Commitment, anti-Kirchner Peronist).
1. A Nov. 22 runoff will select the next president
In Argentina, a presidential candidate can obtain a first-round victory either by winning more than 45 percent of the valid vote or by winning between 40 and 45 percent and simultaneously besting the first runner-up by at least 10 percent.
Neither of those happened. Scioli, the pro-Kirchner candidate, was the plurality winner with 36.9 percent — but failed to reach that 40 percent threshold. Close behind was the opposition’s Macri, who garnered 34.3 percent. Massa finished third with 21.3 percent. The three remaining candidates were all in the low single digits.
2. The Peronist movement is alive and well — and won three-fifths of the presidential vote.
The election showed that Argentina’s large and diverse Peronist movement remains popular and vital. Three of the six presidential candidates were Peronists: Scioli, Massa and Rodríguez Saá. Together, they received 60 percent of the valid vote, on par with the 62 percent average won by Peronist presidential candidates in the three most recent (2003, 2007, 2011) elections.
3. Kirchner’s FPV won a majority in the Senate and a near-majority in the Chamber.
All 24 provinces voted for half of their seats in the Chamber of Deputies. One-third of the provinces voted for all three of their senators.
In the preliminary tally, the FPV and its allies won 61 of the 130 Chamber seats and 14 of the 24 Senate seats that were in play. Combine those with the seats occupied by the FPV or FPV allies among the 127 deputies and 48 senators who were not up for election this round, and the FPV and its allies will control three-fifths of the Senate seats and a little less than half of the Chamber.
The opposition party We Can Change and its allies won 47 seats in the Chamber and nine in the Senate. When added to the deputies and senators whose seats were not up for renewal this cycle, We Can Change and its allies will on December 10 control slightly more than one-third of the Chamber’s seats and about one-quarter of the Senate.
UNA and its allies gained 16 deputies and one senator. Come Dec. 10, the alliance’s members will occupy one out of 10 spots in the Chamber. If Macri wins on Nov. 22, the UNA delegation could be pivotal in determining whether the speaker of the Argentine Chamber will be a member of Macri’s We Can Change or of the FPV.
4. The province of Buenos Aires will have a governor who isn’t a Peronist.
Two out of every five Argentines live in the province of Buenos Aires. For the first time since 1983, the Province of Buenos Aires elected a non-Peronist governor, We Can Change’s María Eugenia Vidal.
Voters really disapproved of Vidal’s FPV rival, Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández, viewed by many as authoritarian, corrupt and with alleged ties to drug traffickers. Anibal Fernández’s presence on the FPV ballot probably cut Scioli’s national share of the vote by a couple of points. Vidal won 39.5 percent to Anibal Fernández’s 35.2 percent, with UNA’s Felipe Solá in third, with 19.2 percent.
5. The second-place Macri might make an alliance with Massa to improve his chances of winning the presidency.
While UNA’s Macri has some very good reasons to celebrate his success in forcing the FPV’s Scioli into a runoff, he is still confronted by two facts.
First, Scioli is closer than Macri to the popular majority needed to triumph on Nov. 22.
Second, between now and Nov. 22, the Scioli campaign and its supporters will inundate Argentines with dire warnings about a Macri presidency. They will ask Argentines to recall the devastating economic, political and social crisis of 2001 that saw President Fernando de la Rúa (1999-2001) of the UCR (Radical Civic Union) resign.
The Scioli camp will then further remind voters that De la Rúa assumed office amid growing economic and fiscal problems, was the leader of a diverse and untested opposition alliance, lacked a congressional majority, faced a league of primarily Peronist governors, and was not a Peronist himself — all five of which would apply to a ‘President Macri’ as well.
And they will attempt to paint Macri as a neo-liberal who wants to return Argentina to the now relatively unpopular Washington Consensus-driven policies of the 1990s, particularly those policies associated with the privatization of state-owned companies, fiscal austerity and trade liberalization.
If We Can Change’s Macri were to ally with UNA’s Massa, it would help him in two related ways: in closing the vote gap between now and Nov. 22, and in partially ameliorating swing voters’ fears about all those potential problems. In Argentine lexicon, Massa would be the ‘Peronist leg’ offering needed strength and stability to a Macri presidency.
Without an explicit alliance and Massa’s endorsement, a majority of Massa supporters will probably back Scioli in the runoff. Some would do so for reasons of affinity or self-interested strategic behavior. Others would because they are risk averse and fear a potential repeat of 2001.
6. The world’s second-longest-serving federal executive was re-elected.
In the northern province of Formosa, Gildo Insfrán was re-elected to his sixth consecutive four-year term with 73.3 percent of the vote (with 98.3 percent of precincts reporting). Among all sub-national executives in the world’s federal democracies, Insfrán is the second longest consecutively serving state/provincial governor/premier, bested only by Lower Austria governor Erwin Pröll.
7. The Kirchners aren’t gone yet.
The Patagonian province of Santa Cruz is the Kirchner clan’s home. Before becoming president, Néstor Kirchner was Santa Cruz’s governor from 1991 to 2003 and Cristina Fernández represented Santa Cruz in both houses of congress.
Santa Cruz governor Daniel Peralta (2007-15) rebelled against President Fernández during this past term. To retake control of their turf, Cristina Fernández had her sister-in-law, Minister of Social Development Alicia Kirchner, run for governor.
The only problem was that Peralta insisted on running for re-election. If both Kirchner and Peralta ran, they would split the Peronist vote and potentially open the door (under the province’s existing simple plurality electoral formula) to a victory by the province’s most popular opposition figure, the UCR’s Eduardo Costa.
President Fernández’s solution was, with the assistance of her loyal supporters in the Santa Cruz legislature and Peralta’s acquiescence, to bring back the double-simultaneous vote (DSV), which was in vogue during the 1990s but had been eliminated for gubernatorial elections. Under the DSV, the votes of candidates running under the same banner are pooled together to determine the election’s winner.
In Santa Cruz, bitter rivals Alicia Kirchner and Daniel Peralta were the gubernatorial candidates of the Santa Cruzan Front for Victory (FPV-SC). Eduardo Costa and Osvaldo Pérez both ran for the anti-Kirchner Union to Live Better (UVM). While Costa (41.0 percent) won a higher percentage of the vote than either Kirchner (34.8 percent) or Peralta (16.8 percent), the combined FPV-SC vote (51.6 percent) was greater than that of the UVM (45.8 percent). Three left wing parties with solo candidates won 2.6 percent (all with 96.7 percent of precincts reporting).
Since Kirchner was the plurality winner within the FPV-SC, which in turn was the plurality winner among the alliances/parties, she becomes governor on Dec. 10.
Mark P. Jones is the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s Political Science Fellow at Rice University.