Argentine opposition candidate Mauricio Macri accused the ruling party of fear mongering after a weekend barrage of online attack ads warned he would throw people off welfare and reduce living standards by devaluing the currency. The same kind of spots were reiterated during the final match of the Argentine football league.
Imagine yourself without a home. Imagine yourself hungry ... Imagine yourself if Macri wins, says one ad, flashing images from the 2002 economic crisis that threw millions of Argentines into poverty. It was tweeted by ruling party loyalist Luis D'Elia.
Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires and an advocate of free markets, defied opinion polls by easily getting enough votes in the Oct. 25 election to push ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli into a Nov. 22 run-off.
The official party is showing a dark strategy of trying to sow angst and fear with the sole goal of frightening people over the possibility of change, Macri said on Facebook. But it's not going to work, said Macri, who promises to jumpstart investment and fight inflation while keeping needed social programs in place.
Scioli is from the same party as outgoing president Cristina Fernandez. He said his campaign seeks not to sow fear but to remind voters of the risk of returning to the free-market policies of the 1990s, which preceded the 2002 crisis.
On state-owned TV, a sports commentator on Saturday suggested Macri could return the rights to air soccer games to pay-per-view channels, a franchise ended under Cristina Fernandez when she instituted her Soccer for Everyone program.
Are you going to have to go back to paying? Think about it, commentator Javier Vicente asked. Football is the national sport of Argentina attracting huge crowds to the stadiums.
Last Friday Scioli said Macri plans a major currency devaluation, which would mean a loss of wages in real terms. Macri says Argentina's peso is overvalued, but he has not laid out a time-table for devaluation.
Neither candidate backs the kind of sharp fiscal adjustment that Wall Street says is needed after years of free-spending populism under Cristina Fernandez, who reluctantly endorsed the more market-friendly Scioli earlier this year.
Although from the same Front for Victory party, Fernandez's inner circle accepted with resignation her nomination of Scioli. Argentine media has been full of accounts of rising tensions between the Fernandez and Scioli camps since his poor performance in the Oct. 25 first round election.
In effect opinion polls anticipated that even when Scioli could or could not make the 40% of ballots in the first round, he was almost ten points ahead of Macri. The difference shrinked to two and a half percentage points, plus the loss of Buenos Aires province governorship, the country's main electoral district.
Furthermore some analysts believe that such an aggressive campaign could end up backfiring against the Scioli camp, since it's another display of Cristina Fernandez arrogant style of government.