Rampant inflation and an ongoing GDP contraction continue to dog Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s chances at getting re-elected this year, as his popular opponent Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is leading a centre-left charge against his neo-liberal economic policies.
Kristian Rouz – Massive union demonstrations, sweeping blackouts, and a broader economy which is in a free fall paint a bleak picture for Argentina moving forward. The nation is bracing for a presidential election on 27 October, and voters are growing increasingly disgruntled with the laissez-faire economic policies of President Mauricio Macri.
Argentina is gradually sliding into the abyss of complete economic dysfunction, as the nation’s inflation rate hit 57.3 percent last month, while its economy has been in a recession since early 2018.
Ongoing economic turmoil appears to have weighed on Marci’s chances of getting re-elected this year, as aside from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance programme, the embattled president has yet to come up with a sound plan to fix the ailing economy.
“In terms of positive image, Mauricio Macri stands at 29 percent, Roberto Lavagna at 32 percent and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner at 34 percent. For the first time, she’s overtaken the president,” said Diego Reynoso, director of the Public Opinion Centre at Universidad de San Andres.
Macri is seen as a centre-right, pro-business president, who is also friends with US President Donald Trump – according to Trump himself.
Meanwhile, Macri’s top contenders this autumn are Roberto Lavagna, a moderate candidate, who is not opposed to increasing state intervention in the national economy, and the centre-left – and hugely popular – senator and former president Fernandez de Kirchner.
Kirchner is running for Vice President this time; she is the running mate of presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez (the two aren’t related).
In this light, Macri is facing a tough challenge, which some refer to as a possible return of the ‘Kirchnerismo’ – a form of state capitalism with solid social guarantees, and an emphasis on self-reliance in international economic affairs.
Some say Macri’s business-friendly and free-market stance has wrought a level of desperation and abandon in Argentine economy commensurate in scale with the well-publicised effects of the socialist experiments of the left-wing governments in Venezuela and South Africa.
Others blame Kirchner’s presidency that ended in 2015, and even her campaign this year for Argentina’s present-day problems. However, most such claims lack credible evidence most of the time.
However, Macri cabinet officials continue their attempts to reassure the public and investors that the government has the situation under control – despite macroeconomic data casting doubt over such statements.
“We are beginning to emerge from the crisis”, Macri’s Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne says. “We hope that by restoring order, tranquillity and activity to the economy, we’ll allow voters to appreciate our reforms.”
Top contenders for the Argentine presidency are required to confirm their candidacies by 22 June by law, after which this year’s electoral season will move into its most intense phase.
While it remains unclear if Macri still has a chance to stay in power, some experts say the election will be decided by centrist voters. This expansive group, they say, might oppose a return of Kirchnerismo more than they disapprove of the current administration’s handling – or mishandling – of the economy.
However, if most centrists believe that leftist populism is less of a concern than a protracted recession, it appears highly possible that the Fernandez-Fernandez duo could ascend to power.