2011 is a massive election year for Argentina, where we will see votes for almost every administrative level. Most importantly, we have the national General Elections on October 23rd, including the presidential. Secondly, all but two of the provinces are holding gubernatorial and legislative elections this year, which began in March with Catamarca (provinces can set their own election dates), though about half of the provinces are holding theirs on general election day. Finally, there are elections for the departamentos and partidos – which are the secondary levels of provincial governments (essentially US counties), and for municipalities. Phew!
This past Sunday was the second round of mayoral elections for Buenos Aires (the autonomous city, not the province). Much like Washington DC, BsAs does not belong to any province and relinquishes certain aspects of power to the national government and federal authorities; the city elects a mayor instead of a governor and is run by a city-level legislature. Unlike Washington DC, however, the Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires has national senate and congressional representation. Argentina employs a run-off voting system for some of the major elections, essentially using a formula of percentage of total votes. A second round is held if the lead candidate doesn’t reach the threshold, pitting the top two candidates against each other. Though it’s not a particularly complex formula, the details make my eyes bleed if I think about it too much. I’ve often wondered how this method would work in the US on a widespread level.
The first round of elections for the new Jefe de Gobierno was held several weeks ago, with 17 candidates. That’s right: diecisiete different people, each representing a different party. No one received the magic number of votes to avoid the run-off, so Mauricio Macri, the incumbent, and Daniel Filmus were left to square-off on the 31st of July.
Petty Political Fights: A Bit About Macri and Filmus
The feud between Mauricio Macri and Daniel Filmus has been going on for several years- they ran against each other in the 2007 mayoral election, with Macri winning 61% of the votes in the runoff. Macri, from the right-wing PRO party, is the opposition to the Kirchner party Front for Victory, and hasn’t had the most constructive relationship with la presidente. Daniel Filmus has run as the officially sponsored candidate of the Kirchners, though he is not technically a member of FpV. Say, what? It took me a second to figure out how that works…
Sometimes, in my US dual-party control mindset, I forget about the existence of multi-party systems. Like the reality show Survivor, Argentina’s political parties (of which there are a ridiculous number) are keen on forming alliances. Instead of having several large, disorganized parties that can’t seem to get anything accomplished (the Democrats and Republicans, anyone?), they have lots of smaller factions that form flexible coalitions and act as a larger, multi-unit party. The small parties would be largely incapable of effective campaigning and governing on their own were it not for the alliances, just as two (or three) large parties suffer from in-fighting and fragmentation.
I would like to add that it doesn’t matter what party you are a member of, everyone but the Radicals calls themselves a Peronist.
Back to Macri and Filmus. Macri is a businessman at heart, having held top positions in several companies. He gained notoriety for presiding over the popular La Boca football club, and was once kidnapped (seriously, look it up!). Filmus is an academic and the current Minister of Education. He is also known for his involvement in communism as a youth.
President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner and her party can barely hide their distaste for Macri. The national government definitely appears threatened by him, though I am not entirely sure why. The ruling party has only suffered two major defeats in this election season. FpV has a considerable amount of national representation, particularly compared to partido PRO, yet good ol’ CFK releases polls claiming her campaign is unscathed. One of the funniest post-election quotes I read is from the Chief of Staff Aníbal Fernández, who said, in light of his party’s loss in the runoff-
“This makes us the first political force nationwide and the second largest force within the City of Buenos Aires, a district that was always adverse to us.”
Interestingly enough, this city has a history of voting for mayors in the party opposing the ruling government. What is most interesting to me is that on the streets everyone talks shit about Macri. Even I, in my limited understanding of Argentine politics, could discern that a lot of porteños don’t think he did anything for the city in his first term. Some of the bigger complaints against him are transportation management and the lack of solutions for the city’s increasing levels of poverty. Also, in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario, it is that the national government set up a 20-day indigenas protest camp to irritate the entire city, thus forcing Macri to look like a bad guy by removing them (and by not dealing with the situation fast enough). This, though, is just speculation and the public may never know if the protest was legitimate (I think it was).
Yet, there were clearly enough people who voted for him to beat the national candidate. Fernando had me laughing pretty hard last night with his rant on the porteños voting habits. He claims the city can barely lead themselves, “always going the wrong way… Not only do we go against, but like the Titanic we go downwards.” I’ll let you guess who he voted for.
So, Macri crushed Filmus despite all the money and effort the government put into Filmus’ campaign. And presidente CFK is behaving like she was slapped in the face. Oh, Argentina- I am having so much fun being immersed in your political atmosphere without worrying about my personal voting agenda… That is, when I’m not pulling my hair out trying to get a better grasp on your complexities.