After 12 years of leftist government, Argentina shifted towards the centre-right on Sunday by giving a presidential victory to Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri of the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) party. With 98.87% of the vote counted, the former chief executive of the Boca Juniors football club was on 51.44%, nearly three points ahead of his rival Daniel Scioli of the Peronist Victory Front who was on 48.56%. The result is likely to reverberate across Latin America.
Four weeks ago, it was widely expected that the next president of Argentina would be the candidate of the ruling party. But in a first-round election that stunned the nation, opposition leader Mauricio Macri stole the momentum, and as voters return to the polls on Sunday the presidency looks like his to lose. Macri is the more market-friendly candidate and global companies are lining up to invest, persuaded that the country will reopen for business since he is leading the ruling Peronist party’s Daniel Scioli by 6 to 8 percentage points. Up to a tenth of voters remain undecided, however, and polls were off a month ago, so there is room for surprise.
Mauricio Macri’s surprisingly strong showing against Daniel Scioli in the Oct. 25 presidential election shook up Argentina’s political landscape. The main question before the election was whether Scioli, the candidate of president Cristina Fernández’s Front for Victory (FPV) alliance, could gain enough votes to avoid a runoff election. Since Scioli led many of the polls by more than 10 points over Macri, the front-runner and mayor of Buenos Aires, the concern was whether he could get either 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent and a 10-point advantage over the second place candidate — the conditions necessary to win in the first round without a runoff. Indeed, many pundits speculated that Macri would go the way of Mexico’s Andres Manuel López Obrador, claiming the election was stolen from him. None of this happened.
Argentina has crossed a political threshold into a new era. The presidential elections on 25 October 2015 represents a rejection of President Cristina Kirchner’s brand of Peronism that has dominated the country since 2003, and possibly ends her political relevance. But does this signal the end of Argentine populism? Across Latin America, and especially in Venezuela, populism as a form of authoritarian anti-liberalism is fading. A majority of Argentine voters rebuffed it and thus Daniel Scioli (the president’s chosen candidate) was unable to secure the presidency in the first round, meaning that Argentines face a run-off election on 22 November now for the first time in the country’s history. The significance of this run-off is immense. Voters wanted a change from the populist past. Some Peronists seem to have lost their so-called captive votes and they are now talking of “understanding the message sent by the ballots” and bipartisanship. Argentines now have the chance of substantially increasing the quality of their democracy.
In a much closer first round of presidential voting than expected, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri did well enough to force a Nov. 22 runoff with first-place finisher Daniel Scioli, the candidate of Argentina’s ruling party. With nearly all votes counted, Scioli, who is governor of Buenos Aires state and a former vice president, tallied 36.9% of the ballots cast. Macri was close behind with 34.3%. Scioli, the handpicked choice of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez, needed at least 40% and a 10-percentage-point advantage to avoid a second round of voting. When it became clear he would not win outright, Scioli emerged from his campaign headquarters in Buenos Aires on Sunday night to ask for independent voters’ support. Macri was more euphoric: “What happened today has changed the political history of the country.”
Argentina’s voters set the stage for a bruising presidential run-off next month after a surprise first round on Sunday in which Daniel Scioli – the candidate of the ruling Peronist coalition – was denied an outright victory. The centre-left candidate, who was endorsed by outgoing president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, was tipped by the exit polls to end the night with a comfortable lead. But preliminary results showed both he and the pro-business Buenos Aires mayor, Mauricio Macri, were neck and neck on 35% each.