Tag Archive | "FPV"

Lower House Approves Holdouts Bill After 20-Hour Debate


Following a marathon debate, President Mauricio Macri’s government won its first legislative triumph, as the lower house of Congress voted overwhelmingly in favour of a deal to settle with holders of Argentina’s defaulted debt.

Macri may still face stiff opposition in Congress (Photo: Pedro-Ignacio-Guridi)

Macri may still face stiff opposition in Congress (Photo: Pedro-Ignacio-Guridi)

At around 8.30am this morning – some 20 hours after the session began – 165 politicians voted in support of the government’s agreement with holdouts or so-called vulture funds. There were 86 votes against the proposal, and no abstentions.

With a minority in the lower house, Macri’s coalition (Cambiemos) secured the vote with support from several opposition groups, including those led by ex-presidential candidates Sergio Massa (UNA) and Margarita Stolbizer (GEN) and the ‘Justicialista’ bloc that recently broke away from the Kirchnerist Frente para la Victoria party (FpV).

The proposal will now be sent to the Senate, where the FpV holds a majority, with a vote expected in the final days of March.

The Details

The bill approved this morning contained three key elements: repealing the so-called ‘Lock’ and ‘Sovereign Payment‘ laws, and authorising the government to raise round US$12bn to settle the debt.

The two laws were approved under Kirchnerist governments in 2005 and 2014, respectively, as a way of safeguarding the deal to restructure of around 93% of the defaulted debt left from Argentina’s 2001 crisis.

President Macri has pushed to settle the debt with the vulture funds in order to allow Argentina to return to international credit markets.

Days before the debate, the president underscored the urgency of the agreement, saying in a TV interview the alternative for Argentina was “austerity and hyperinflation”.

The original government proposal was modified in the days leading up to the vote, and even during the debating session, as part of negotiations with opposition parties.

Some of the changes included limiting the amount of debt the government could issue to settle with the holdouts (set at around US$12.5bn), making the law conditional on the US court lifting current embargoes against Argentina, and assuring that new debt would be subject to ‘collective action’ agreements so that a small group of bondholders cannot affect the decision of the majority in any future restructuring.

The Debate

The marathon debate include sharp criticism and tense exchange from different party groups.

Mario Negri, a legislator for the Unión Cívica Radical party within the Cambiemos coalition, questioned the previous government’s strategy regarding the vulture funds and accused it of “squandering” Argentina’s finances.

“Like it or not like, the strategy failed them. They are not the ‘Che Guevara’, they were not and are not now. They wasted the best opportunity Argentina had,” Negri confirmed.

Opposition leader Sergio Massa had clarified on Monday that his party would support the proposal, which he said left Argentina “with no access to credit markets that stopped investment. Without investment, people lack jobs.”

Meanwhile, former economy minister Alex Kicillof was critical of the proposal, stating, “It’s easy to settle by giving the vulture funds everything they want.” Kicillof also said that the deal would leave Argentina vulnerable to future claims, adding that “I have no doubt the vulture funds are going to ask for more.”

The Protest

As the debate was beginning to take shape in Congress, thousands gathered outside to demonstrate against the bill. The protest was led by leftist and Kirchnerist groups such as La Cámpora, Partido Obrero, and Movimiento Evita.

City legislator José Cruz Campagnoli, of Nuevo Encuentro-FpV, told Página/12 that: “The people will keep fighting to defend our sovereignty even though Macri has knelt before the vulture funds.”

Protesters gathered outside Congress to appeal against the deal. (Photo: Fabiana Montenegro, via Notas.org)

Protesters gathered outside Congress to appeal against the deal. (Photo: Fabiana Montenegro, via Notas.org)

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Recap: The Key Points of President Macri’s Speech to Congress


President Mauricio Macri formally opened the 2016 legislative year yesterday with a speech before a packed Congress. The address lasted just over one hour, and included both criticism of the legacy of 12 years of Kirchnerist governments as well as a look at his administration’s plans for the coming four years in office.

The speech was punctuated by applause from Macri’s supporters and interrupted at one point by heckling from the opposition Frente para la Victoria (FpV) party, whose members also displayed protest placards throughout the speech. Social media, obviously, also jumped up on the president’s gaffe in re-reading a page of his speech. “I’ve already read that,” said Macri, after realising his mistake.

Leaving that aside, here is an overview of the key points made by the president as he opened Congress.

The Inheritance

The first half of Macri’s speech was largely a run through of the difficulties he inherited from Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a common theme in the government’s communication since taking office in December.

“I was to be clear on what our departure point is, as we are coming from years in which the State has lied systematically, confusing everyone and blurring the line between reality and fantasy,” said Macri. “We found a state that was disorganised and poorly managed, with its navigation equipment broken. Information was hidden, documents missing, there are no statistics.”

Macri went on to list some of the economic problems he says his administration inherited: One of the world’s highest inflation rates, near 30% poverty, an “historically high” budget deficit of 7% of GDP, a slump in Central Bank reserves, and a long-running debt dispute with vulture funds that “we calculate cost Argentina US$100bn and more than 2m jobs that were not created.”

The president also railed against what he called a State “plagued with clientilism, wastefulness, and corruption.” He claimed that resources designated for health and education had been spent on political activism and said that the country’s infrastructure had deteriorated despite large sums of money being funnelled towards public works.

Finally, Macri criticised the rise of organised crime and lack of security, calling Argentina a “prosperous” country for drug traffickers.

“Crime statistics have not been published since 2008,” the president said. “The first figures we could reveal indicated that there are 3,400 homicides a year, an increase of 40% compared to 2008.”

Lamenting the country’s “inability” to protect its borders, Macri finished by saying: “It will be the job of the courts to investigate whether the situation we received was down to neglect, incompetence, or complicity.”

President Mauricio Macri delivers his first speech to open Congress as president (Photo via Casa Rosada)

President Mauricio Macri delivers his first speech to open Congress as president (Photo via Casa Rosada)

The First Months

Macri next reviewed the work of his administration in the short period since taking office – in his words, work to “normalise the country”.

The president said it was “his obsession” to create “more and better jobs and less inflation”, adding that this had started by reducing monetary emission and bringing down the budget deficit. This prompted heckling from the opposition FpV

After a brief pause, Macri highlighted recent measures such as lifting the minimum threshold for paying income tax and expanding social benefits for impoverished families, which he said would transfer $50bn from the state to households. He also noted the lifting of currency controls “without any of the predicted disasters happening”, the elimination of export taxes for primary and industrial sectors, and the “adjustment to reality” of the energy sector (known in other circles as the 300%-plus hike in electricity costs). Macri also mentioned the launching of the ‘Plan Belgrano’ to develop Argentina’s northern provinces.

The president then discussed the shift in approach to international politics, saying his government had “re-established” relationships with the US, France, Italy, Germany, Israel, and the UK, adding that “dialogue [with the UK] does not mean giving up our sovereignty claim over the Malvinas [Falklands] Islands.” Macri also named every other South American country except – conspicuously – Venezuela.

Calling on Congress

Macri challenged Congress – where his party does not have a majority in either house – to debate and approve key government policies as soon as possible.

The most urgent of these is the recent agreement with the so-called vulture funds to settle Argentina’s long-running debt saga. The settlement requires Congress to repeal two laws, with Macri stating that “now it depends on this Congress to end the 15-year conflict… I’m confident that responsibility will win over rhetoric.”

The president also urged Congress to debate changes to the scale of income tax brackets and to approve environmental commitments that Argentina signed up to in the Paris Climate Change summit. According to Macri, other “priorities” for Congress were new laws to combat drug trafficking, improve access to public information, and regulate public sector purchases.

Macri also asked Congress to quickly approve his government’s nominations to fill two vacancies on the Supreme Court.

President Mauricio Macri before Congress (Photo via Casa Rosada)

President Mauricio Macri before Congress (Photo via Casa Rosada)

Policy Pledges

Macri’s speech was relatively light on policy commitments, though the president did list a series of measures that his administration plans to implement.

In education, Macri promised to introduce new laws to make schooling compulsory from the age of three and create a new body to evaluate the quality of education. He also outlined a plan to provide high-speed internet for the entire country.

Key social policies include a plan to remove VAT for basic food goods, expand the existing Universal Child Allowance programme, and work towards a new ‘Universal Childhood Income’ as proposed by Macri’s ally, Elisa Carrió.

The government also plans to introduce electoral reform to end the use of paper ballots, make electoral bodies more independent, and unify the electoral calendar to reduce the number of voting days.

Reaction

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Macri’s speech divided opinion among legislators. Vice-president Gabriela Michetti said the speech was “balanced”. “It exposed the problems, with concrete figures and numbers… it laid out the reality on the table because the people should know what is going on in the nation.”

However, in a statement released yesterday, the opposition FpV said the speech was “violent and plagued with untruths”, adding that while calling for consensus Macri failed to mention a single positive from the Kirchnerist era. The legislators also called the speech: “empty, too general and without proposals.”

The FpV leader in the Senate, Miguel Pichetto, also criticised the speech for its “biased” review of the previous government, adding that “the part of the speech that should have included proposals and detailed a plan to solve the problems facing Argentines was very weak, almost empty.”

Sergio Massa, leader of the Una Nueva Argentina (UNA) bloc in Congress, said he shared the president’s view of the difficult situation inherited from the previous government but criticised the lack of new proposals. “Fighting from the terraces is not enough; we need to get busy solving the people’s problems,” said Massa. The lack of specifics in Macri’s policy pledges was a common criticism from opposition legislators.

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The Search for a Majority: Will Macri Win the Support of Congress?


When he officially opens Congress today, President Mauricio Macri begins a tricky legislative year that will require intense negotiations across the political spectrum. Without a majority in either house, Macri’s government will have to rely on alliances to approve every single bill it presents.

President Macri greets his supporters from a balcony of the Casa Rosada (Photo: Patricio Murphy)

President Macri greets his supporters from a balcony of the Casa Rosada (Photo: Patricio Murphy)

The Cristina Fernández de Kirchner government enjoyed a majority for most of its two terms, and the president could present decrees and laws without much concern for their passage through Congress. This made the legislative process more smooth but also led to criticism from those who claimed that key laws were sometimes approved too quickly and with limited debate.

With Macri in the early stages of his four-year presidency as leader of the PRO party, but without a majority in either the Lower House or Senate, everything is now up for negotiation. Macri’s Cambiemos coalition – made up of PRO, the Union Cívica Radical (UCR), and the Coalición Cívica (CC) – has 92 seats in the lower house, short of the 129 needed for a majority. This means that seeking approval from Congress for any government bill will involve negotiations and horse-trading that have not been a feature in recent years. In a way it is, as one source close to Congress noted, “the return of politics to Argentina”.

The Opposition: A Divided Majority

The main Peronist opposition appears to be more divided than ever, with the Partido Justicialista (PJ) in something of an identity crisis as it prepares to choose a new leader in May. The division was openly demonstrated when over a dozen legislators split from the Kirchnerist Frente para la Victoria (FPV) in February, leaving the party with 81 seats. Breaking out they also publicly signaled an openness to cooperate with Macri on certain issues, something the core FPV bloc has so far not shown a willingness to do.

With this latest split we now have at least four Peronist groups in the lower house: The FPV loyal to the ex-president, with 25 of the 81 members part of the more radical youth group La Campora. Then you have the breakaways, identifying themselves with the PJ, with 17 seats. Taking up another nine seats is Compromiso Parlamentario, a newly-formed Peronist alliance with representatives mainly from provinces in the interior of the country. Finally, losing presidential candidate Sergio Massa is also an important actor. He broke away from the FPV years back and his party now plays a leading role in the Unidos por Una Nueva Argentina (UNA) coalition, which has 35 seats. 

The latter three groups could be potential swing votes when Macri looks to create alliances and secure support for government projects, and he has already been busy building bridges. In January, Macri took Massa – who has also announced a legislative alliance with the non-Peronist opposition group Frente Amplio Progresista (six seats) – with him to the World Economic Forum in Davos. And last month the president met with the members of Compromiso Parlamentario in the Casa Rosada, who declared a willingness to support some of Macri’s policies. With both blocs fully on board, the president would potentially be able to reach the magic 129 figure.

Also in the Senate the government is far from having majority. Of the 72 senators, just 15 are from Cambiemos, while the FPV hold a strong bloc of 43. Of the remaining 14, three are from UNA and 11 are Peronists from regional provinces and not aligned with Kirchnerism. As in lower house, there will be a power struggle going on between the Peronist groups which, again, is something Macri can look to exploit.

Macri Wins First Rounds

Since his swearing in, Macri has caused some controversy by issuing 11 emergency decrees, the so-called DNUs, with critics saying he was simply by-passing democratic institutions. However, for the decrees to be validated, they need to be approved by a Special bicameral Committee. The Committee is made up of 16 members, with eight FPV lawmakers, six representatives from Cambiemos, one from UNA and one from the dissident Peronists lead by Senator Adolfo Rodríguez Sáa. The Committee chairman, in this case Senator Luis Naidenoff from the UCR, has the final vote in case of a tie. All 11 decrees have been approved in the past few weeks, with the two non-Kirchnerist Peronists voting with Cambiemos and the chairman breaking the tie in Macri’s favor.

With these first bicameral votes on the decrees we get a glimpse of the give-and-take across parties and alliances, with Macri emerging on top in these opening rounds. However, the real questions for Macri are: how solid is the support opposition groups can give and what will they ask in return? Everyone in Congress has their reasons to negotiate with the president, but nobody wants to be seen as betraying their own party’s ideology either.

This goes for within Macri’s own Cambiemos coalition, within which his PRO party does not hold a majority. The UCR – Argentina’s oldest party – contains a range of ideologies and its support on sensitive matters is unlikely to be unconditional or universal. Importantly, legislators have to be present in the debating chamber to cast a vote, providing parties (and individuals) an opportunity to silently support or block a bill. First of all it gives the opposition parties the chance to negotiate their presence at the day of a vote instead of having to vote for something that would go against their ideology. With some votes needing just a simple majority from those present, staying away is one method of supporting the passage of a bill without explicitly approving it. It is traditionally rare for either house to vote with every seat occupied.

On the other hand, as he is playing with tight margins himself, Macri will need to ensure his party members and allies turn up – and on time – when they are supposed to.

The First Key Battles: Supreme Court and Vulture Funds

The first of the polemic subjects to be debated is the government’s nominations to fill two vacancies in the Supreme Court. Based on their background and experience, there is nothing too controversial about Horacio Rosatti and Carlos Rosenkrantz, the two candidates put forward by the government. But President Macri originally designated the two by decree just a week after coming into office, and only later backtracked amid widespread criticism and legal challenges.

The bill to appoint the two new judges was presented to the Senate on 1st February in an extraordinary session. The appointment only needs to be agreed on in Senate and requires a simple majority consisting of two thirds of those present.

Macri is completely dependent on the different Peronist groups in Senate. In his favour, the FPV and the Senate in general tend to be more open for dialogue compared to Congress. This is mostly because the interests here are different; the Senators depend on the federal government to get money to their provinces. This is a good reason why it is probably going to be easier for Macri to negotiate this issue than several others. But since nothing is for free, the question is still what Macri has to offer in exchange for votes or empty seats.

New York Judge Thomas Griesa has been at the centre of the battle with the holdouts

New York Judge Thomas Griesa has been at the centre of the battle with the holdouts

The other key test coming up involves the long-running debt dispute with powerful holdout creditors (so-called ‘vulture funds’). One of Macri’s promises when he was elected to run the country was to negotiate with the vulture funds and reach a deal to resolve all outstanding issues and return Argentina to global financial markets, a stand that is welcomed by the US.
After 15 years Argentina of struggling with outstanding debt payments resulting from the mega default in 2001, the government finally reached a settlement agreement on Sunday night.

For the deal to go through, however, two laws passed under Kirchnerist governments – the so-called ‘Lock Law’ and ‘Sovereign Payment Law’ – must be repealed by Congress. The issue is controversial – the opposition claims the government is paying over the odds to settle the issue – and at the same time very important for Macri’s economic plans.

Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay yesterday sent a message to legislators, saying: “We’ve made it up to here, now it’s the responsibility of Congress.” The response is not yet clear. Sergio Massa said that his party is “willing” to support Macri in the search for a solution, though was hesitant to back the latest agreement. The 17 break-outs from the FPV have announced they are prepared to discuss the issue, a vague pledge but more than their old party is willing to offer.

Plaza de Mayo after a protest. Photo redit: Camille Ayral

Plaza de Mayo after a protest.
Photo redit: Camille Ayral

An exciting and challenging legislative year is about to begin for the president. Up until now he has used the summer recess to liberally exercise his powers of decree and make efforts to build support in Congress. We will soon find out how successful he has been. Nothing is certain in Argentine politics, and even less so when you don’t have a majority.

 

 

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Deputies Leave FPV Parliamentary Bloc


Twelve Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) deputies, led by Diego Bossio, announced yesterday their decision to leave the party’s parliamentary bloc and create a new one

After the shift, the FPV will be left with 83 representatives in the Lower House, retaining their place as the first minority. However, the combination of the parliamentary blocs of the governing Cambiemos alliance —PRO, UCR, and Coalición Cívica– gives the government a lead, with 90 deputies.

Diego Bossio with ex-president Cristina Fernández and ex-vice president (and his predecessor at ANSES) Amado Boudou in 2011

Diego Bossio with ex-president Cristina Fernández and ex-vice president (and his predecessor at ANSES) Amado Boudou in 2011 (photo courtesy of ANSES)

Following a meeting at the Taxi Labourers Union, the group released a document outlining the objectives of the shift.

“It is our duty to lead a responsible opposition within the political space confided to us in National Congress,” they outlined, stating that they would do anything in their power to oppose projects contrary to national interest and the common good.

As a “responsible opposition”, the group stated they also seek to “recognise past errors, correct them, and move on.”

The document also outlined the goal to “build bridges” between national and provincial governments to address the needs of the regional economies, giving resources to “the regions, provinces, and sectors that are the most vulnerable and most in need of the effort of all Argentines.”

Calling themselves Bloque Justicialista, the group wrote, “we are here, and we will work for the happiness of the people and the grandeur of the nation.”

The shift sent accusations through different areas of government, directed both towards the leader of the shift, former ANSES director Diego Bossio, and President Mauricio Macri’s government.

While FPV Bloc Secretary Teresa Garcia labelled Bossio a traitor, she has also blamed the break on the president, claiming that it was “undoubtedly a break promoted by the Casa Rosada.”

Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña denied any involvement, stating “we were not involved; we were always respectful.” He did, however, admit that the debate taking place within the FPV was “healthy.”

Within the FPV itself, bloc leader Héctor Recalde minimised the importance of the split, saying that although it was “not objectively good,” it would be wrong to call it a “fracture.” Similarly, Deputy Máximo Kirchner, claimed in a speech that those who left the FPV had been “functional Macrists.”

The 12 confirmed new members of the Justicialista bloc include Diego Bossio and Oscar Romero, deputies from Buenos Aires; Carlos Rubin, from Corrientes; Evita Isa, Pablo Kosiner, and Javier David, from Salta; Guillermo Snopek and Hector Tentor, from Jujuy; Nestor Tomassi, from Catamarca; Ruben Miranda, from Mendoza; Gustavo Martinez Campos, from Chaco; and Theresa Madera from La Rioja.

Three other potential dissidents have not yet made their positions clear.

 

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The Indy Eye: Election Night 2015


Last night Indy photographers went into the bunkers for presidential candidates Daniel Scioli, Mauricio Macri and Nicolás Del Caño to capture the excitement, anxiety, and celebration among the parties as they waited, and finally received, the results of yesterday’s election.

Photographers swarm Cambiemos candidate Mauricio Macri after he casts his vote. (Photo by Patricio Murphy)

Photographers swarm Cambiemos candidate Mauricio Macri after he casts his vote. (Photo by Patricio Murphy)

Front for Victory (FPV) candidate Daniel Scioli and his wife greet an excited crowd (Photo by Patricio Murphy)

Frente para la Victoria (FPV) candidate Daniel Scioli and his wife greet a crowd of supporters. (Photo by Patricio Murphy)

The Scioli bunker was alive with energy and hopeful supporters. (Photo by Patricio Murphy)

The Scioli bunker alive with energy. (Photo by Patricio Murphy)

Patricio Murphy

After first results reveal Macri and Scioli are closer than projected, Scioli supporters fear a run-off. (Photo by Patricio Murphy)

Patricio Murphy

After an hour or so of changing percentages, Scioli ends up first with 36.9%, but this was a disappointing result for his supporters. (Photo by Patricio Murphy)

In the Cambiemos bunker, Mauricio Macri spoke passionately and confidently about creating change in the country (Photo by Reilly Ryan)

In the Cambiemos bunker, Mauricio Macri speaks passionately and confidently about creating change in the country before official numbers are revealed. (Photo by Reilly Ryan)

Indy Eye - Macri bunker supporters

The crowd thins as hours pass without official numbers, but those who stay behind seem more hopeful than ever. (Photo by Reilly Ryan)

Supporters cheer. (Photo by Reilly Ryan)

The Cambiemos bunker erupts as supporters see the first official numbers with Macri ahead of Scioli. (Photo by Reilly Ryan)

Indy Eye - Macri Bunker macri celebrating

Though Macri finishes the night in second place with 34.3%, he and his team celebrate a closer margin than expected as they look towards a second round run-off. (Photo by Reilly Ryan)

Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores supporters celebrate candidate Nicolas Del Caño (Photo by Rodrigo Llauro)

Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores supporters rally for candidate Nicolás Del Caño. (Photo by Rodrigo Llauro)

Del Caño and his team address the crowd (Photo by Natalia Cartney)

Del Caño and his team address the crowd, happy to have come in ahead of candidate Margarita Stolbizer in fourth place and continue to develop the united leftist coalition. (Photo by Natalia Cartney)

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Resurgent Macri Takes Presidential Election to Second Round


Argentina’s presidential run-off will be decided in a second round run-off on 22nd November after a surprisingly strong performance by opposition alliance Cambiemos in yesterday’s election.

With 90.2% of voting tables counted, Frente para la Victoria (FpV) candidate Daniel Scioli had received 36.2% of the vote, while Cambiemos leader Mauricio Macri took 34.9%. Unidos por una Nueva Alternativa (UNA) candidate Sergio Massa came third with 21.3%.

Daniel Scioli (left) and Mauricio Macri will face off for the presidency on 22nd November.

Daniel Scioli (left) and Mauricio Macri will face off for the presidency on 22nd November.

The result came as a shock for many as most opinion polls had suggested Scioli would win comfortably. The incumbent governor of Buenos Aires province had received 38.4% support in the August primaries, while Macri’s coalition gathered just over 30%.

In a triumphant speech at the Cambiemos bunker, a delighted Macri said that “What’s happened today changes the politics of this country.” Vidal also spoke to jubilant supporters, saying that “tonight we made history.”

Speaking several hours before the official results were known, Scioli called for support from “undecided and independent” voters in an address that sounded much like a campaign speech.

Macri and Scioli will now face off in a head-to-head race on 22nd November, the first time a presidential run-off has been held in Argentina.

There was also a shock result in the province of Buenos Aires, home to over a third of the electorate and a traditional stronghold for the FpV. Here, Cambiemos candidate María Eugenia Vidal was elected governor with 39.7% of the vote, beating cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández (35.0%).

Voter turnout was estimated at over 80%, five points higher than in the August primaries.

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Recap: What’s Going On in Tucumán?


The provincial elections in Tucumán that took place on 23rd August have been a constant topic in national news coverage over the past few weeks.

In the election’s wake lay claims of fraud, burned ballot boxes, protests and violent police suppression, and a formal judicial appeal.

To cap it off, on the evening of 16th September 2015, the Administrative Appeals Court of Tucumán ruled that the provincial elections should be annulled and a new vote be called.

As wild accusations and new details continuously pop up across the media sphere, it is becoming harder and harder to keep an unbiased view of the events that truly occurred.

Here’s a recap of events to help answer the question: what’s happening in Tucumán?


(Timeline created by Reilly Ryan)

Election Day and Aftermath

Controversy arose from the onset of election day. Moments after 8am, two motorcyclists shot at the house of Gabriela Basso, an opposition candidate running for town councillor.

At around the same time, an electoral supervisor for Acuerdo Para el Bicentario (APB) — an opposition alliance comprised of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), PRO, and Frente Renevador —discovered a ballot box containing approximately 30 counterfeit votes for Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) candidate Juan Manzur before voting even began.

Election polls then opened an hour late, due to the large amount of people appointed by the political parties to supervise the process.

Things became even more serious as a total of 42 ballot boxes were burned during election day in various districts throughout the province. Provincial Electoral Board Secretary, Darío Almaraz, confirmed the next day that the ballots were “completely destroyed,” and wouldn’t be valid for counting.

Dozens of ballot boxes were burned in San Pablo, Tucumán (Photo: Diego Aráoz)

Dozens of ballot boxes were burned in San Pablo, Tucumán (Photo: Diego Aráoz)

Police arrested four individuals in connection with the burned ballot boxes. One of those detained was Hugo Alarcon, candidate for Community Delegate in the locality of Sargento Moya and member of the APB.

Though cumulatively these ballots represented just over 1% of the electoral roll, the violence and accumulation of irregularities sparked controversy and led the opposition to question the validity of the ballot.

On 24th August, the Tucumán Electoral Board announced that FPV candidate for governor, Juan Manzur, had won the election with 54,42% of the votes. APB’s José Cano finished second with 40,76%.

That night, thousands of opposition protesters gathered in front of the government headquarters at Plaza de la Independencía in the provincial capital San Miguel de Tucumán, claiming electoral fraud and calling for a re-vote.

After several hours, riot police violently suppressed the protests, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd and injurying more than 20 people. Some protestors dispersed, while others moved on to the house of Juan Manzur, where armed police protected the residence.

The violent scenes sparked widespread outrage, but the head of Tucumán’s police force, Dante Bustamante, defended police actions. “We received insults, spitting, hitting, and threats directly addressed to this zone [the government headquarters], until certain events that elevated the level of violence broke out,” Bustamante said. “But the aggression started with a determined group of young people who threatened to burn down the government headquarters.”

Conversely, socialist party leader Juan Carlos Sanchez — who was injured during the protests —testified against the police in judicial hearings following the clashes. He said: “The demonstration was conducted peacefully and the police, instead of acting calmly, carried out a planned, savage repression.”

Protests continued over the next week. On 31st August, seven days after the initial protest and violent police response, Clarín reported more than 10,000 people marched peacefully in the capital, led by APB candidate José Cano.

José Cano leads a march in the provincial capital (Photo via Notas.org)

José Cano leads a march in the provincial capital (Photo via Notas.org)

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The Judicial Appeal

Following up of their claims of fraud and various other irregularities to the media, Cano and the APB filed a judicial appeal on 4th September against the Tucumán Electoral Board and demanded that the results be annulled.

On 8th September the court ruled that the Electoral Board could not proclaim an official winner until it had delivered a ruling on the case.

During this period, information surfaced that the video recordings from the security cameras on the premise where the poll boxes were held had been damaged and lost. According to the company operating the cameras, the video footage was unable to be viewed due to equipment failures in electrical system.

This signified that there was no way to ensure that the poll boxes were not tampered with or manipulated – as at least two witnesses had declared – and became a major facet of the APB’s judicial appeal.

The APB lawyer handling the judicial appeal, Daniel Ponce, told La Nación: “We find ourselves faced with an unprecedented scandal in the electoral history of Argentina, and this adds to the long list of irregularities that prove fraud occurred in Tucumán.”

On 14th September, the Electoral Board announced the results of the recount, confirming Manzur’s victory with 51.64% of the votes against Cano’s 39.94%.

Luis Manzur won the contested election by around 110,000 votes. (photo: Wikipedia)

Luis Manzur won the contested election by around 110,000 votes. (photo: Wikipedia)

However, the Tucumán Electoral Board made clear that Manzur could not be officially appointed Governor until the Tucumán Administrative Appeals Court resolved the APB’s claims of electoral fraud.

On 15th September Electoral Board Secretary, Darío Almaraz, confirmed on Radio Red that, “Today there is not a governor elect, or any other newly elected government official.”

Cano responded to the recount saying that he would not recognise the result until the court made its final ruling.

“The result today is invalidated by justice, to such a point that the Electoral Court cannot proclaim anybody [as winner],” he told Radio America. “The legitimacy of this election has been marred by incidents and the outrageous events that took place on election day.”

Manzur conversely declared himself victor in front of thousands of supporters at Plaza 9 de Julio. He said, “We are here to celebrate because things turned out as we knew they would.”

President Cristiana Fernández Kirchner congratulated Manzur in a National TV Broadcast and requested that people “respect the election results.”

She also criticised the opposition for its repeated claims of electoral fraud. Referring to the opposition’s recent victory in Córdoba she said: “We [the FPV] don’t denounce fraud when we lose.”

Elections Annulled – What Next?

On 16th September the Tucumán Administrative Appeals Court ruled that the elections held 23rd August should be annulled and a new vote called to elect both provincial and municipal authorities.

The court sent the ruling to all parties involved, giving them 48 hours to respond to the decision. The following day the FPV filed an appeal with the Tucumán Supreme Court.

One of the judges who ruled on the case, Salvador Ruiz, explained the decision to local Tucumán newspaper La Gaceta.

“It didn’t matter how many votes one candidate had versus the other,” he said. “If the procedure is flawed, it logically follows that another vote should be called.”

Presidential candidate for the opposition, Mauricio Macri, applauded the court’s ruling. On his official Twitter account, he wrote: “What is happening in Tucumán gives us enormous hope.”

Meanwhile, current Kirchnerist governor of Tucumán, José Alperovich, criticised the court’s ruling.

“The institutional situation we find ourselves in now is a tragedy for Tucumán,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to go through with this [a re-vote] because Juan Manzur won by more than 100,000 votes. Tucumán does not deserve this instability.”

Alperovich also commented on the difficulties of orchestrating a re-vote with national elections just over a month away.

With the current administration’s mandate expiring on 29th October, there are rumours that the federal government will need to designate an interim governor until either the court’s decision is overturned or new elections are held.

Wider Impact

The events in Tucumán have resurrected the debate surrounding Argentina’s electoral process and the need for reform.

On 27th August, three opposition presidential candidates — Sergio Massa (Unidos por una Nueva Alternativa), Mauricio Macri (Cambiemos), and Margarita Stolbizer (Progresistas) — held a joint press conference calling for transparency in the upcoming national elections on 25th October.

They also pressed for widespread change to the electoral process, either in the form of electronic voting or a single-ballot system.

“Since 2006 we’ve fought for the adoption of a new voting system,” said PRO legislator, Pablo Tonelli. “Now we’ve reached an extreme situation when the traditional voting system can no longer be used in Argentina.”

The government responded critically to the opposition’s suggestions for electoral reform so close to the upcoming presidential vote, sighting the impracticality of implementing changes in such a short amount of time and accusing the opposition of political opportunism.

Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández commented that “it’s a stunt to make them appear serious at decision time, they lose elections and create this farce.”

Posted in Analysis, Election 2015, TOP STORYComments (2)

Scioli Takes Comfortable Lead in Presidential Primaries


Frente para la Victoria’s (FPV) Daniel Scioli won 38.4% of the vote in yesterday’s primary elections, over 12 points ahead of his closest rival, Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri, who gained 24.3%. Former cabinet chief Sergio Massa trailed the pair, picking up 14.2% of the vote.

Candidates Daniel Scioli (left), Mauricio Macri (middle), and Sergio Massa (right)

(L-R) Frontrunners Daniel Scioli, Mauricio Macri, and Sergio Massa

Three other candidates will also be on the ballot on 25th October, having won more than the 1.5% threshold: Margarita Stoblizer from the centre-left Frente Progresistas (3.5%), Compromiso Federal’s Adolfo Rodríguez Saa (2.1%), and Nicolás del Caño from Frente de Izquierda y Trabajadores (FIT) who picked up 1.7%, narrowly beating his FIT rival candidate Jorge Altamira (1.6%).

Five smaller parties did not make the cut, gathering less than 0.5% of the vote each.

Celebrations were strong in all of the camps, for differing reasons. Scioli highlighted his 12-point lead over Macri, whilst the Buenos Aires mayor and Massa were quick to celebrate all the votes picked up by their respective coalitions.

When looking at votes along party lines, the scenario changes, with FPV still leading the field, but by much smaller margins, making the chances of a run-off on 22nd November more likely. (To win outright, a candidate must win more than 45% of the vote, or more than 40% with a ten-point margin of victory over their closest rival.)

Governor of Buenos Aires province Scioli was the only candidate on the governing FPV’s ticket, after June’s announcement of his choice of vice-president – Kirchnerist insider Carlos Zannini – united the party behind a single candidate.

Macri and Massa, on the other hand, both beat out rivals to be on the presidential ticket.

Macri, running on the ticket for coalition Cambiemos, which includes his own party Propuesta Republicana (PRO) and the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), closes the gap on Scioli significantly when adding the votes of UCR senator Ernesto Sanz (3.5%), and Coalición Civica’s Elisa Carrió (2.3%). The coalition’s collective total is 30.1%, just eight points behind Scioli. Massa’s Una Nueva Alternative (UNA) alliance also won 20.6% overall, if second-placed Córdoba governor José Manuel de la Sota’s 6.4% is included.

Whilst all eyes were on the presidential race, six provinces also took to the polls to elect new governors yesterday.

Buenos Aires Province

The most watched race was Buenos Aires Province, where a third of the country’s population resides, and current governor Daniel Scioli’s man – Julián Dominguez – faced off against cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández (a close ally of the president). Whilst the latter only narrowly won the FPV ticket, together the two government candidates picked up 40.3% of the vote, ahead of Cambiemos’ María Eugenia Vidal’s 29.4%, and UNA’s Felipe Sola – who previously governed the province from 2002-07 – and who picked up 19.6%.

Catamarca

In Catamarca the incumbent FpV governor, Lucía Corpacci, comfortably led with 52% of the vote, making it seem likely that she will be reelected in October. Her closest rival, former governor Eduardo Brizuela del Moral, of Frente Cívico y Social, picked up 39%.

Chubut

In the southern province, incumbent Martín Buzzi won a landslide victory over his challenger to take the FpV candidacy and stand for re-election in October. The FpV also led overall, between them taking 40.4% of the vote, narrowly beating non-Kirchnerist Peronist, and former governor, Mario Das Neves of Alianza Frente Union Chubut Somos Todos (38.8%). Alianza Cambiemos Chubut trailed into third place with 15.6% of the vote, making it likely that the two Peronist candidates will face one another in a run-off in November.

Entre Ríos

With incumbent governor Sergio Urribarri not standing for re-election, fellow FPV candidate Gustavo Bordet came first in the primary with 44.3% of the vote, beating Cambiemos’ Alfredo de Angeli (35.8%).

San Juan

Current vice-governor Sergio Uñac had a good primary, taking over 85% of the votes cast for the FPV, ensuring he is on the ticket in October. It is likely that the FPV will be re-elected, after taking over 61% of the vote in the province. If he wins, Uñac will return to the position he held as caretaker in 2013 when incumbent José Luis Gioja was on medical leave for four months following a helicopter accident.

San Luis

Brother of presidential hopeful Adolfo, Alberto Rodríguez Saa took a seemingly unassailable in the primaries for Alianza Compromiso Federal, scooping 54% of the votes, close to 30 points ahead of Cambiemos, who picked up 26.4%, and FPV, with 16.9%. If he wins in October, which seems likely, Rodríguez Saa will continue the brothers’ dynastic rule of San Luis, which has seen them govern the province for 26 of the 32 years since the return to democracy in 1983.

Posted in Election 2015, News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Elections 2015: Thirteen Candidates Sign Up for Presidential Race


Thirteen candidates have been presented in the official race to succeed President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at elections later this year.

Saturday night was the deadline for the different political parties to register their candidates ahead of the open, simultaneous, and mandatory primary elections (PASO) on 9th August.

Only three parties presented multiple candidates to compete in the primaries, meaning that as many as nine of the 13 will run for president on 25th October, provided they gather more than 1.5% of the vote in the PASO.

Alongside the 13 tickets for president and vice-president, parties also presented their candidate lists for legislative elections. Around half of the seats in the lower house and a third of seats in the senate will be renewed in the October election.

Frente Para la Victoria

Daniel Scioli (right) and his running mate Carlos Zannini meet with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Photo via Casa Rosada)

Daniel Scioli (right) and his running mate Carlos Zannini meet with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Photo via Casa Rosada)

After last week’s controversial move by President Fernández, who supported Buenos Aires Province governor Daniel Scioli‘s candidacy by choosing loyal Kirchnerist Carlos Zannini as his vice-president — prompting Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo to abandon the race — the governing Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) will only have Scioli participating in the primaries for president.

In the province of Buenos Aires, however, Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández and former Agriculture Minister Julián Domínguez will compete to become the candidate for governor in the October election. Fernández’s running mate will be the director of the Federal Authority for Audiovisual Communication Services (AFSCA), Martín Sabbatella, while Domínguez will be joined by La Matanza mayor Fernando Espinosa.

Despite speculation over the past few weeks about a possible candidacy of President Fernández —for Congress or the Mercosur Parliament — she will not be running for any public office after her term ends in December. Her son Máximo Kirchner will head the list of candidates for national legislators in representation of the province of Santa Cruz. Other members of youth group La Cámpora will feature prominently in the lists in key districts: Secretary General to the Presidency, Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro, will head the list in the province of Buenos Aires, whilst Economy Minister Axel Kiciloff will do so in the city of Buenos Aires. Other ministers and former ministers, such as Julio de Vido and Nilda Garré, are also competing and likely to be elected to Congress, forming a bloc loyal to the current president.

Cambiemos

Macri, Sanz, and Carrió will compete to be the official Cambiemos candidate (Photos via Wikipedia)

Macri, Sanz, and Carrió will compete to be the official Cambiemos candidate (Photos via Wikipedia)

Cambiemos, a new coalition formed after a pact between the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), PRO, and the Coalición Cívica (CC), have three ‘pre-candidates’ for president. PRO leader and current Buenos Aires mayor, Mauricio Macri, will compete against UCR senator Ernesto Sanz and CC legislator Elisa Carrió to be the official Cambiemos candidate in October.

After much speculation, Macri chose Gabriela Michetti to be his running mate. Michetti, a senator for PRO, lost out to Horacio Rodríguez Larreta in the primaries for the Buenos Aires mayoral race in April.

Despite forming a national alliance, the parties of the Cambiemos coalition will present separate candidates for Congress in six provinces and the city of Buenos Aires. The alliance did hold for the key electoral battle in the province of Buenos Aires, with PRO’s María Eugenia Vidal running for governor accompanied by UCR’s Daniel Salvador as her vice.

Una Nueva Alternativa

Sergio Massa and José Manuel de la Sota will face off to represent UNA in October (Photos via Wikipedia)

Sergio Massa and José Manuel de la Sota will face off to represent UNA in October (Photos via Wikipedia)

Sergio Massa, leader of the Frente Renovador will run against Córdoba governor José Manuel de la Sota in the primaries, with the winner to be the official presidential candidate for Una Nueva Alternativa (UNA) in October. Felipe Solá, who became a national legislator for FpV in 2007, will run to be governor of Buenos Aires province, a position he held previously between 2002 and 2007.

Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores

Jorge Altamira and Nicolás del Caño are the two presidential hopefuls from FIT (Photos via Wikipedia)

Jorge Altamira and Nicolás del Caño are the two presidential hopefuls from FIT (Photos via Wikipedia)

The leftist coalition Frente de Izquierda (FIT) will also present two ‘pre-candidates’ for president at the primaries, with Jorge Altamira of the Partido Obrero (PO) running against Nicolás del Caño, of the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PST).

Others

The remaining five presidential candidates all belong to different political groups, meaning they just need to secure 1.5% of the vote in the PASO to qualify for the October ballot.

Margarita Stolbizer is the candidate for the Frente Progresistas, a centre-left coalition that includes the Partido Socialista, GEN, and Libres del Sur.

Former San Luis governor – and president for one week during the 2001-2 economic crisis – Adolfo Rodríguez Saá also formalised his candidature for his Peronist (but anti-Kirchnerist) party, Compromiso Federal.

Ex-union leader and current legislator in the lower house of Congress, Víctor de Gennaro is candidate for the Frente Popular.

Among the two remaining leftist parties, Manuela Castañeira is the candidate the Nuevo Movimiento al Socialismo (Nuevo MAS) and city legislator Alejandro Bodart will represent MST-Nuevo Izquierda.

If all of the above is too much to take in, Mendoza-based newspaper Los Andes has produced a useful infograph with all the presidential candidates and their selections for vice.

Infograph created by Diario Los Andes

Infograph created by Diario Los Andes

Check back on The Indy after the 9th August primaries for full profiles on the candidates who will compete for the presidency in October.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Buenos Aires Primaries: Victory for PRO’s Rodríguez Larreta


Rodríguez Larreta casts his vote (photo courtesy of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta)

Rodríguez Larreta casts his vote (photo courtesy of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta)

The hottest primary in the country was finally decided yesterday, with PRO’s Horacio Rodríguez Larreta beating rival Gabriela Michetti as the party’s candidate for mayor of Buenos Aires, coming well ahead of the pack.

The second place was also disputed, and eventually won by Energía Ciudadana Organizada’s (ECO) Martín Lousteau —the former Economy Minister whose 2008 ministerial resolution to modify taxes for agricultural exports triggered the government’s biggest crisis, now reborn as the fresh face of a somewhat incestuous opposition in the city.

The national government’s Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) and its seven pre-candidates were unable to regain the second spot in the preferences of porteños, lost in the 2013 election.

The Numbers

A total of five parties and/or alliances managed to surpass the 1.5% threshold necessary to participate in the election for mayor, whilst six will compete in the election for legislators. Both will take place on 5th July, when a new form of electronic voting is expected to be implemented.

The city government’s PRO obtained a landslide victory with a total of 47.3% of the vote, divided 60/40 between Rodríguez Larreta and Michetti. ECO came second with 22.3%, with Lousteau beating his two internal rivals (one of them another former Kirchnerist official, Graciela Ocaña) with 80% of the vote.

The FPV primary was quite fragmented, with seven candidates from different Kirchnerist factions and one clear favourite. With a combined 18.7% of the vote, Aerolíneas Argentinas president Mariano Recalde will represent the third party in the city, after beating his internal rivals by 65.6%.

The fourth and fifth spots went to the left, to Myriam Bregman of the Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores (FIT, 2.3%) and Luis Zamora of Autodeterminación y Libertad (AyL, 2%) respectively.

In terms of legislators, the numbers were very similar. The main difference is the inclusion of Camino Popular’s Itai Hagman, who scratched the necessary number of votes to overcome the threshold (1.7%), while his pre-candidate for mayor, senator Claudio Lozano, will be unable to participate in the election after getting only 1.44%.

Balloons

All eyes yesterday were on the internal battle between PRO candidates Rodríguez Larreta and Michetti. Whilst PRO has enjoyed a solid support from porteños since its first victory in 2007, and is a favourite to win the city election, yesterday’s poll was the culmination of a long-running dispute between the two leaders. Mayor Mauricio Macri’s support was crucial to prop up Rodríguez Larreta, who would have otherwise struggled before his better-known and more charismatic rival.

Macri’s involvement also gave the city election a national projection, as a positive result yesterday and on 5th July will strengthen his presidential candidacy, giving him something to show for ahead of the October election. Previous analyses suggested that a victory by Michetti could have hurt Macri’s chances —whilst this is unlikely, Rodríguez Larreta’s landslide victory will give the mayor a boost of popularity on which he will need to capitalise in the coming months.

PRO is also waiting for the definitive vote count in Santa Fe —where his candidate Miguel Del Sel came first by a negligible margin— after it was revealed last week that as many as 200,000 votes had not been included in the provisional vote count. Those results are expected to be available this week.

Fighting for Second Place

Martín Lousteau (middle) celebrates his second place (photo courtesy of Martín Lousteau)

Martín Lousteau (middle) celebrates his second place (photo courtesy of Martín Lousteau)

Despite Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández’s early optimism —exit polls in hand, he predicted a comfortable second spot for FPV— yesterday’s runner-up was new party ECO. The opposition between ECO and PRO is not clear-cut: Lousteau’s victory was celebrated last night by Coalición Cívica and UCR leaders Elisa Carrió and Ernesto Sanz — Macri’s (uncomfortable) allies at the national level.

Analysts also predict that, due to a certain affinity, at least in terms of image, Lousteau may be able to snatch some votes from Michetti in the July election, to try and compete on a second round against favourite Rodríguez Larreta.

Recalde said last night that his aim is to be a part of that second round (which will take place if none of the candidates obtains more than 50% of the vote). However, his chances are slim, as he is unlikely to expand his support base by capturing votes from his rivals.

Sergio Massa —at the moment, the third favourite in the national scenario— had an appalling performance in yesterday’s primaries, with his virtually unknown candidate, economist Guillermo Nielsen, becoming the butt of the jokes after he obtained a pitiful seventh spot, with only 0.9% of the vote. This is unlikely to help Massa’s already fading star.

 

Posted in News From Argentina, TOP STORYComments (0)

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