Milei Chronicles (13): Election 22nd. October, 2023

A protest election in Argentina.

On Sunday 22nd. Of October, 2023, Argentina goes to the urns in what will be an important and possibly decisive Presidential vote, with a possibility of a run-off in November.

There are five candidates, four of whom are important, with only three seen to have a real chance to be President: Javier Milei, La Libertad Avanza (LLA), Sergio Massa, Unión por la Patria (UxP) and Patricia Bullrich, Juntos por el Cambio (JxP). The other two candidates are Myriam Bregman (Frente del Izquierda) and Juan Schiaretti (Hacemos por Nuestra País).

Neither Bregman nor Schiaretti are probable 2024 presidents, Bregman is the candidate of the Left coalition and though Schiaretti’s alliance includes the (small) socialist party it is right of UxP. Bregman takes left-leaning votes from Massa on the centre-left UxP. As to protest votes, fleeing a failed political centre, Bregman also competes with Milei. None of the five Presidential candidates offer anything new for the tired centre left and centre right coalitions. They have vacillated ineffectually while destroying a livable economy for most Argentinians and enriching a powerful, though small, elite.

Protest Vote

It is expected that 2023 will be a different election to many Argentine elections in the last twenty years. Between 2003-2023 Argentina has seen a flip/flop of power between centre-right coalitions (currently JxC) and centre-left Peronist coalitions (like UxP). Over this period economic policy failures have emptied the pockets of the middle and working classes with multiple devaluations of the currency [Footnote:1] and the ensuing inflation, increased external and internal debt, persistent balance of payments issues (largely due to debt payments) and so the middle and lower classes have gradually, then rapidly collapsed into economic chaos. The reasons the 2023 election will be different are two sides to the same coin, that coin is the collapse of the Argentine economy devaluation and 120% inflation. Corruption and ineptitude have become just too glaringly obvious in both UxP and JxC in this period. This will be an election where the protest vote will decide pushing Argentine politics out of a failed centre into extremes on (both) the left, but mainly on the (better funded) right, c.f. Milei.

Sergio Massa is a compromise (a hold-your-nose-and-vote) candidate lacking charisma and Patricia Bullrich is also a weak and largely unloved candidate for the right. Massa as a compromise candidate is like choosing Hilary Clinton in the US (when the democrat electorate wanted Bernie Sanders / Christina Kirchner) while Bullrich is like republicans being offered Trump when people wanted Mike Pence.

In 2023 the key election issues are as follows:

  1. The economy and 40% of the population under the poverty line
  2. Secondly for those on the right
    — personal security (somewhat of a non-issue in a relatively safe South American nation but a common trope of the right for which Ms. Bullrich, a former terrorist, proudly carries the flag)
    — for those of the left of centre personal liberty issues (abortion rights human rights etc…)
  3. Finally ecology and corruption coming in at a distant third though more important for youth.

The problems for candidates on the right is a divided vote Milei/Bullrich and the problems for the centre-right UxP is Massa who, as a weak replacement economics minister, has been dropped in the deep end and is trying not to drown. It seems almost like the UxP did not want to win the Presidential election in 2023 and are doing everything in their power to lose to Milei.

The extremes are represented by a huge shift to a protest vote for the right. Javier Milei LLA leads this trend: he will receive most if not all protest votes on the hard right especially from younger voters. Milei’s showmanship and charisma generally wins out for his fans over his problematic insecurity and his weird mannerisms. This angry clown plays to anger at the failures in the economy.

The centre right (JxC alliance) has also shifted to more to the hard right with the defeat of Horacio Larreta —compromise centre-right candidate for JxC— by law-and-order hardliner Patricia Bullrich. Bullrich is not a protest vote but she will compete for the hard-right votes with Milei and she owns the centre-right upper middle class conservative votes in the cities and in the interior. The media has focused the hatred of that upper middle class on Christina Kirchner (the current vice-president who has been at the centre of political power until recently since her husband, former president, and former Santa Cruz governor, Néstor Kirchner, died.

On Sunday the only left alternative is Bregman but, although her candidature has managed to bring together much of the hard left in Argentina in a difficult alliance, the left in Argentina remains fractured and a small enclave for now. Ms. Bregman will absorb many votes from the left of the UxP who consider the compromise candidate that is Sergio Massa too right-wing for their tastes.

In short, protest vote or not, the extreme right and the extreme left will decide this election. If Bregman, who was by far the best communicator in the debates, manages to do well from the protest vote she may decide the election but has little chance of winning this time. Also if the Milei protest vote competing for the hard-right destroys Bullrich we might even see Milei winning the election outright on Sunday. If Milei cannot win outright on Sunday the most likely run-off candidates are Milei vs. Massa, however it could also be a hard right run off Milei vs. Bullrich.

What the 2024 election means for Argentina in the next ten years is that the tweedle-dum tweedle-dee, Peronist anti-Peronist centre is dead. It died of it’s own corruption and ineptitude destroying much of the environment and the middle class economy with it. These brand-name politics of the last 20 years will receive less support from the real owners of the country (Argentina’s true ‘Casta’) and politics shall swing hard left and hard right in the streets for the next elections till 2030. The casta will back the hard right to protect themselves from taxation. The poor will shift to the left again (and some to the racist hard right) and the next election will be fought in the streets! Stability is over, it will be 2002 all over again, but a new Argentina shall rise from these ashes.

[1] The “Blue” rate just days before the election is 900 pesos to one US dollar hence the peso devaluation is 89,900% since 2000 (when 1:1 parity with the dollar was maintained for the decade of the 1990’s) or 29,900% since 2003 (3:1) the year Nestór Kirchner took power

The official exchange rate on that same day is 365.50:1 so relative to this (restricted access) exchange rate cumulative official peso devaluations are: 36,450% or 12,080% respectively

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.