Post-Election Report: Argentina

In our continuing series of election reports, we welcome political scientists Natalia C. Del Cogliano and Mariana L. Prats with the following post-election report on last week’s Argentinian elections:

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The fact that this report could largely have been written two months ago right after primaries were held is a reality we cannot avoid. Is uncertainty in results a necessary condition for elections in a democratic context? It seems not. Besides the unhappy claims of the opposition saying that there has been fraud in the primary elections, the final results provided by the National Judicial Power rejected such a possibility. And the citizens of Argentina reconfirmed it on Sunday, October 23.

In August, the primaries resulted in a difference of 8.150.000 votes (38.04%) between current President (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Frente para la Victoria) and the runner-up candidate Ricardo Alfonsín (Unión Cívica Radical/Unión para el Desarrollo Social) a difference that was not easy for the opposition to accept as having occurred legitimately. Consequently, some claims of fraud emerged from among the opposition, but even then the claimed fraud was not at level that would be likely to change the eventual outcome of the election. Instead, the message the opposition took from the primaries was, in the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez “the chronicle of a death foretold”. With such a result, the country was almost fully painted dark blue (the color of the ruling party: Frente para la Victoria).

Here are the actual results from the election, compared to the results from the August primary:


Source: National Electoral Office Ministry of the Interior

After August everyone predicted that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) was going to win the general election by an enormous margin, there would be no runoff, and Hermes Binner would finish in second place. That is, the and 3rd places candidates would fall behind Binner who had come in 4th place in the primary. And this is what really happened.

It is also worth noting that this is the first time in the electoral history of our country a socialist candidate for president obtained more than 10% of the vote. Hence, the President’ closer challenger was a former socialist governor who was allied with different small progressive forces, seeming to emerge as the main opposition front. Today Frente Amplio Progresista looks like a very well positioned force for future elections (something remarkable if we consider that these were the first elections in which the front contended).

Related to that, a noteworthy fact is that the first and second places were obtained by political forces that seem to occupy and demand for themselves the center-left position in the ideological spectrum. Also, for the fourth time in history, the Unión Cívica Radical Party, the eldest modern political party in our country, was clearly shifted from its second place.

The electoral results this last Sunday were historical; the president obtained the highest number of votes since the re-democratization process in 1983 when former president Raúl Alfonsín got 51.7% of the votes. Moreover, considering the 18 elections held since 1916, President CFK is now third in the podium, only surpassed by Yrigoyen (1928) and Perón (1951, 1973).

Cristina F. de Kirchner obtained the 53.96% of the votes, Hermes Binner 16.87%, Ricardo Alfonsín 11.15%, and the remaining four candidates summed 18.02% altogether. Hence, there has been a difference of 7.968.505 votes, that is, a 37.09% between first and second places. Such gap is the second highest since 1916. Compared to the previous four widest winning margins registered in our electoral history, CFK could not break Peron’ mark in the elections of September 1973:

As recently as two years ago, CFK had seemed a long shot to win a second four-year term. On 2009 a heated dispute over agricultural export taxes sent her approval ratings below 30 percent. But as the New York Times noted, Mrs. Kirchner, who succeeded her husband, Néstor Kirchner in 2007, to become the country’s first female president, made a more than a remarkable comeback, being the first female president reelected.

Besides, it is interesting to observe that although this is now CFK’s second term in office, this overwhelming victory may correspond to a third term, bearing in mind that the first was her husband’s tem in 2003. As we all know, time and political power usually don’t get on very well. But her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, won the 2003 presidential elections only with 22.24% of the votes and eight years since then CFK gets a 53.96%, placing herself as one of the most powerful and widely supported presidents. No doubt can be cast on the fact that this landslide victory represented the clear consolidation of her political leadership.

Apart from novel technical aspects introduced by the new electoral reform (Law 26.571) such as a unique electoral register and ballots containing photos of candidates, the homogeneity of the vote across the whole country is another interesting piece of information. President CFK won in every province (every electoral district), but one: San Luis, ensuring herself the majority in both national legislative chambers. What’s more, the ruling party, CFK’s party, won seven out of eight governorships this Sunday and even in provinces historically opposed to her and her party.

All in all, it cannot be denied that these elections have propelled CFK as one of the nation’ most popular leaders in recent history. In the context of recent times of popular political disenchantment, this election—such an overwhelming victory—make us wonder whether that mood is being replaced by a different political spirit.

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