Argentina has voted in its first ever run-off presidential election since the end of the military junta and the return of democracy in 1983. The centre-right candidate, Mauricio Macri, former mayor of Buenos Aires, won by a narrow margin—51.4% of the vote over his rival Mr. Scioli’s 48.6%. Daniel Scioli was the handpicked candidate of outgoing president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Judicialist Party.
Macri’s victory puts an end to the political era of Kirchnerismo, a political doctrine that laid claim on the populist legacy of the Juan and Evita Perón. Miss Fernández de Kirchner and her deceased husband Néstor had held the reins of power since 2003. They carried out a very popular leftist platform of welfare policies promoting education and social programs for the poor. Since Miss Fernandez took power in 2007, however, Argentina has run progressively larger deficits, reaching 4% of GDP annually in 2014. Inflation has run rampant, hovering around 25% per annum. The state has technically defaulted to two of its American creditors who bought up purchased at a discount Argentine debt after the 2001 crisis, or ‘vulture funds’, as Miss Kirchner prefers to call them. Currency control and trade restrictions have been choking productivity and exports.
Macri, the son of one of the country’s most prominent construction business magnates, has promised to revitalise the withering Argentine economy, tackle narcotrafficking and lead a harder right line in South American geopolitics. Clearly, concerns over the economy brought Mr. Macri to power. He has promised to implement pro-business policies, rein in inflation and cut deals with foreign creditors over Argentina’s 2001 default. Many see the rejection of Mr. Scioli as an outcry against the corrupt and clientelist establishment of the Judicialist party. Miss Kirchner has indulged in the Peronist practice of “aggrandising presidential power at the expense of other institutions.” Ms Fernández enfeebled Congress, the central bank and especially the official statistics agency which she repeatedly stopped from reporting bad news. Macri, notably an unconventional politician, acquiring a career as a civil engineer, and president of the Boca Juniors football club, is anticipated to clean house and restore balance to the country’s democratic institutions.
Mr. Macri has also been particularly vocal about the alleged civil rights abuses of the by the socialist government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a close ally of Ms. Fernández. He has vowed to uphold democracy in the region and has proposed that Venezuela be suspended from MERCOSUR, the regional free trade union. Moreover, Miss Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was present at his victory rally. The message to Maduro is loud and clear. Macri also intends to realign Argentina’s foreign policy away from Iran towards the USA and the UK, adopting a less controversial stance over the Falklands—or Islas Malvinas, a favourite political ploy of the Kirchner government to distract the masses from importation issues.
Photo credits: Wikicommons