The first major move on the electoral front. What until now looked like a contest with four fronts -two with chances and two without any, shifted to a scenario with three fronts -initially, all three with chances. Wisely, the minor forces looked at the mirror and were honest with themselves: either we die alone or we fight together. In what is a rarity for Argentina, this time the differences didn’t prevail.
The scenario the 2013 legislative elections left us could be simplified in the following categories: Peronism – non-Peronism and Left wing – Right wing. It was something like this:
Obviously, this drawing is tricky. Not so much for the labels but for the dimensions. Even though it is true that talking about Left wing and Right wing in the Peronism doesn’t make much sense (we should rather distinguish between those who support the ruling party -Oficialistas- and those who used to support the ruling party – ex or non-Oficialistas), in any way the non-Peronist voters are as many as the Peronist voters.
To put it in arbitrary percentages, let’s say the non-Peronists represent a 30%, the Peronists a 45% and the remaining 25% will support whoever seems to have an edge. Till now, it were Peronist times, so it was a 70-30 division. Last year, the short but successful UNEN experiment worked as a hurricane, dragging the lighter voters and making it a 45-55.
The New Scenario.
Given these unfavorable dimensions for the non-Peronism, divide the 30% was a double suicide. To avoid this, the radicals got together and decided that the line that separates them from the Peronism is wider than the older and blurry distinction between Left wing and Right wing. Sanz’s winning position was clear, “We have a unique opportunity for the democratic Republicanism to defeat the authoritarian Populism”.
So, a new scenario appears, with an associated non-Peronist group (Pro-UCR), a Peronist ‘Oficialista’ front and a Peronist ‘non-Oficialista’. From the non-Peronism side, things are already clear. The presidential formula will be resolved in the Simultaneous, Open and Mandatory Primaries (PASO for its Spanish term), in an internal between Sanz, Macri and Carrió.
Now it is the Peronism’s turn, who has on its side the last moves to set the scenario before the PASO. Their problem is simple: there are three strong names (Cristina, Scioli, Massa), but only two spots (‘Oficialista’ and ‘ex-Oficialista’). But the game is already being played, and two of the three already chose a team: Cristina with the ‘Oficialistas’ and Massa with the ‘non-Oficialistas’ (Rather unnecesary clarification: by “Cristina” I mean “Cristina’s candidate”. His/her name is not relevant.)
The key piece is on Scioli’s hands, who has to choose who is he going to play with. By being the last one to choose, he has certain advantage: whatever his move is, he kills one of them. To be direct, (1) if Scioli plays with Cristina, Massa is left alone, and (2) if Scioli plays with Massa, the Oficialistas loose. In both cases, this power allows Scioli to be in the major Peronist formula (so, Scioli has secured his place as first candidate for the Peronism).
An agreement Scioli-Massa would be the weakest option for the Peronism, since the first minority would then be the Pro-UCR front. On the other hand, even though they may not like it, a Scioli-Cristina agreement would make the first minority the non-’Oficialista’ Peronist front. In this scenario, with very small chances as a candidate, Massa may make a final move: go for the government of Buenos Aires and let the other two main candidates -Macri and Scioli?- fight for him. Massa would then have to figure out if he has a greater difference with the non-Peronism or with the ‘Oficialistas’ (or maybe, check who is doing better and what can he negotiate).
Regardless of the options and the fantasies, what is clear is that the next great move is on the Peronism side, which faces this new scenario.
Anticipating the Presidential Debate
Whatever the Peronism decision is – (1) Scioli with the ‘Oficialistas’ or (2) Scioli with the non-’Oficialistas’, the UCR decision of minimizing the Left-Right distinction anticipates the positions that will be at stake in October. By leaving their theoretical differences for later, the opposition forces decided to face the hegemonic party that governed Argentina for more than 90% of the last 25 years.
Therefore, we shouldn’t expect an ideological debate. The Peronism will raise its Nationalist-Populist flags, which will be responded with Democratic-Republican flags. That will be the only ideological debate; there will be no great debates about politics, economics or development models. We should rather expect a purely political election, with chicanes and big slogans which characterize the public debate of the last long years. Definitely, an Argentina® election.
An important clarification. The percentages of each space in the figure represent my opinion of the base each front starts from. Unless the Peronism unites, it looks like an even starting point. As it always happens, those who favor the candidate who seems to have an edge will have the last word. Though, in this case, there is a difference with previous elections: because there are not many differences in the start, a last minute event can determine the next president.