With less than four days for Sunday’s midterm elections in Argentina, Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli called on “undecided” and independent voters to cast their ballot for President Cristina Fernandez Victory Front (FpV) top candidate Martín Insaurralde “in favor of the province and the country.”
Scioli has taken the lead in pushing for the government’s ticket at a time when the Victory Front is trying to pull at the heartstrings of supporters who may be tempted to vote for another political force on Sunday.
A television ad released Sunday by the presidency remixes one of late former president Néstor Kirchner’s most famous speeches into song, featuring several famous faces. It is a clear effort to recall the glory days of the Kirchnerite movement, and holds special significance considering the midterms are taking place on the anniversary of his sudden death.
With the absence of President Cristina Fernández, who continues recovering from surgery, it is now up to Governor Scioli to try to shorten the gap with Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa, who beat the Kirchnerite candidate by 5.5 percentage points in the August primaries.
“Insaurralde expresses the responsibility of taking care of the achievements made in the social, economic and productive areas,” said the governor, who criticized “those who want to sow fear and worry” among the population.
Scioli, who ratified his alignment with President Cristina Fernández administration hours before the June 22 deadline to register electoral tickets, said he “believes” in the work “that is being done” by the national government.
“What is most important is that we’ve shown huge progress in the decentralization of resources to benefit municipalities, and that’s why I expect a favorable vote” for the FpV, the provincial leader said.
The latest poll by Poliarquía consultancy agency, published on October 19, revealed the Tigre mayor Massa is still leading the race in the province with 41.2% of the vote compared to 33.2% for Insaurralde.
This means a wider difference from the primaries, but a shorter distance than the one seen in a late September survey by the same pollster.
However it must be said that the FpV has not been lucky in recent weeks. Not only was Cristina Fernandez knocked out of the battle, although there could be some solidarity votes, but the acting president Amado Boudou is a negative asset for the campaign, given his corruption reputation and several pending court cases. He has been entirely relegated and only been left for strict protocol activities.
Likewise three events have further tarnished the campaign: a train accident at the same Buenos Aires station where 18 months ago 51 people were killed and dozens injured; apparently the breaks did not work because of poor maintenance and the conductor somehow failed to control the train that crashed past bumpers into the Once station. Fortunately there were only injured commuters including the driver, who seems to have forgotten what happened.
A protégé of Insaurralde and candidate, Cabandié was caught on camera bullying a female traffic gendarme, who stopped him and requested the vehicle's papers and insurance. The whole incident, even when it happened last May, was filmed by several cellular phones, lasting over twenty minutes, with Cabandié trying to intimidate the traffic officer and phoning Insaurralde and the lady's chief.
The vast coverage of the incident on camera, in several different presentations has been devastating, even more when it was confirmed that the officer had been fired and there was a witch hunt into the Gendarmerie to find out who had filmed the incident.
Finally the renewed dispute with Uruguay regarding the Botnia/UPM pulp mill since Argentine public opinion is divided on the issue, and somehow feel that the Cristina Fernandez administration is again bullying the next door neighbor and a faithful and charming Jose 'Pepe' Mujica, an example of austerity and prudence in contrast with the display of money and pomp in Argentina.
However it has emerged that whatever the results on Sunday, victory or defeat for the government, Cristina Fernandez can rightly allege she was out of the fray (if defeat and blame Scioli) or collect praise for the good results.
This is crucial looking ahead to the two remaining years before 2015 when the re-elected president must step down. Although Cristina Fernandez could end losing more than half the ballots that supported her in 2011, she nevertheless will consolidate a strong block which will have an important say in the nomination of the hegemonic Peronist movement presidential candidate in 2015. The candidate of her making apparently could be Sergio Urribarri, governor of the province of Entre Rios.
In effect in August primaries, an anticipated picture of what most probably will happen on Sunday, despite heavy losses the FpV of President Cristina Fernandez with a projection 28% of the national vote is expected to remain as the largest minority force. Most probably with alliances it can maintain a fragile control over Congress and undoubtedly with sufficient strength to be part of the 2015 candidates' jockeying.
On Sunday Argentina renews half the 257 seats in the Lower House and a third of the 72 Senators. Proportionally the (divided) opposition has more seats at stake than the government.