We’ll be providing live coverage of the debate on Twitter from 9pm on Sunday, so be sure to follow us at @ArgentinaIndy before then.
You wait all your life for a presidential debate, and then two come along at once…
With one week to go before the unprecedented ballotage, the two remaining candidates will face off in Argentina’s second historic presidential debate. For the first time in this campaign, Frente para la Victoria (FpV)’s Daniel Scioli and Cambiemos leader Mauricio Macri will have the chance to directly challenge each other’s character, policy proposals, and suitability to become the next president of Argentina.
Here’s all the information you need to prepare for what could be an epic showdown (or a massive anti-climax).
The debate will start at 9pm on Sunday 15th November and run for approximately 75 minutes. As in October, it will take place in the University of Buenos Aires (UBA)’s law faculty, but this head-to-head debate has generated much more media interest so it will be shown live on almost all news channels as well as directly here.
This structure of this debate will be a bit different from the first, in that it should (in theory) resemble more of an actual debate.
The four broad subject areas to be discussed remain the same: Economic and Human Development, Education and Childhood, Security and Human Rights, and Democratic Quality.
This time, however, there will be more of a back and forth between the two candidates. In each of the four blocks, the candidates will have the chance to outline their policies before a direct exchange of questions and answers.
For example, in the opening segment about economic and human development, Macri was drawn to speak first, so the first exchange will proceed like this:
Macri: Two minute speech
Scioli: One minute for challenges/questions
Macri: One minute to answer/counter
Scioli: One minute rebuttal
Macri: One minute counter rebuttal
Then Scioli will have his two minutes on the same subject, with Macri firing the questions.
The same format will be repeated in all four segments, with Macri also speaking first on democratic strengthening while Scioli opens on education and security. At the end of the debate, both candidates will also have a final two-minute window to make a closing plea to voters, with Macri again drawn to go first.
Things have changed dramatically since the last debate, when Scioli was considered the clear favourite and with a good chance of winning the presidency outright in the first round.
Now almost all major opinion polls put Macri firmly in the driving seat just a week before the second round run-off.
What does this mean? Firstly, while the experience of 25th October should remind us just how unreliable polls can be, the latest trends put Scioli playing catch up. We’ve already seen a more aggressive side to his campaign since October, and it would fair to expect more direct criticism of Macri’s track record as Buenos Aires mayor, something that didn’t come under much scrutiny in the first debate. Then again, Scioli is also trying to portray himself as more conciliatory than the current administration, so his big challenge is to strike a balance.
As for Macri, he’s currently riding the wave of momentum and presenting himself as a figure of unity and peace. His latest campaign ad talks directly to Scioli voters, saying that they “will be included” in his plans for change. If Macri brings this approach to the debate, his main priorities will be to avoid any damaging blows, highlight the current government’s failings, and stick to a message of ‘change’ that seems to be working well for him so far.
– Will the candidates reveal new concrete policies in the subjects being debated?
– Will they focus their questions on policy issues or use them more to challenge the other’s character or past?
– How will the candidates use the debate to court Sergio Massa’s 5m voters, who will be hugely influential in next Sunday’s vote?
– Will Scioli seek to differentiate himself further from traditional ‘Kirchnerism’ or double down on the party line?
– Will Macri be able to dodge any attempts to engage in a ‘slugfest’ over policies and stick to his broad messages of ‘hope’ and ‘change’?
– Who will demonstrate the best speed-of-thought and improvisation to respond to repeated questions and challenges?
The novelty of the presidential debates has understandably made them a major talking point – perhaps disproportionately so – in this election campaign.
Yet the question remains: will the debate really influence people’s decision on who to vote for on the 22nd November?
On the one hand, the historic nature of the debate and the ballotage is expected to create a huge audience tonight, providing the candidates a real opportunity to reach the electorate. And the media’s forensic coverage and analysis of the debate will extend through the final four days of campaigning in the coming week.
On the other, this debate comes at the end of a long, long campaign, and the majority of voters have probably already decided on their preferred candidate. It would take a major shock, revelation, or gaffe for these people to change their mind. Will we get one? Tune in to see!