President Macri’s veto of a law to freeze future price increases on consumer utility services and wind-back rates to November 2017 levels came just as the government’s self-imposed timeframe for delivering bad economic news expired.
The World Cup in Russia is just around the corner, offering Argentines the chance for some distraction and fun. The 2019 Argentine presidential campaign will begin as the final 90 minutes of play are over and one national team is crowned champion.
The opposition in Congress has recently tried to initiate a tacit start to the campaign.
The country's current economic situation has given the Peronist movement a cause around which to mobilise, and also renewed hopes that it could reach the Pink House even as it seemed that Mauricio Macri was a shoe-in for a second term in office.
But there is still a long way to go, with no strong candidates among those who stand in opposition to the ruling PRO Party.
However, it is possible to start analysing possible outcomes for October, 2019.
Instead of measuring voting intention, at Ipsos we work with other fundamental aspects of policy: approval of management, evaluation of the economy and whether the President is willing to stand for re-election or appoint a successor.
With these three data, we can see if any given situation favours the ruling party or the opposition.
The main premise is that the President in office has two and a half times more chances of being re-elected (2.64) than his dauphin: that is, a successor within his own party. If we cross it with presidential approval, the President has a 78 percent chance of being re-elected when approval of his management is at 45 points, while a successor has only a 14-percent chance at the same level of approval.
To reach this conclusion, Ipsos analysed more than 450 elections in 35 countries over 30 years.
The model works best when the election has two main parties or candidates, but we can also confirm it with the most recent elections in Argentina.
Néstor Kirchner left office with an approval rate of 71 percent and saw his successor, Cristina, become president. She, in turn, ended her first term with 64 percent and was reelected. But in 2015, with a 52-percent positive approval rating, her chosen successor Daniel Scioli was defeated.
In the latest IPSOS Argentina survey, 41 percent approved the Mauricio Macri government’s management. In this light, the President would have a 55 percent chance of being re-elected, while the possibilities of Buenos Aires Province Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal — whom many see as an option for president — is reduced to six percent. Plan V would be almost certain defeat.
To improve his chances, Macri must convince more than half of all Argentines that his first term in office has been a good one. In this sense, the trend has been downward as of November last year.
After the midterm elections came a wave of bad news, and May was no exception.
In the last report we saw a strong decrease in all the management evaluation indicators: the proportion of respondents who consider that Argentina is heading in the right direction dropped by 14 points; the positive evaluation of the economy, nine points; and five points among those who say that the the economy will improve in the near future. Those expectations reached an historical low when it came to evaluations of Macri’s management, to 37 percent approval, which is significant considering that the correlation between management approval and expectations has been strong since he took office in December 2015.
More than half of respondents place inflation in 2018 at over 20 percent, and eight out of 10 say that in the last few months they had to cut personal spending to make it to the end of the month.
In turn, an absolute majority evaluates public service rates as “expensive”. This figure reaches 79 percent in the case of electricity prices.
The tension in May surrounding financial matters also had an impact on the perceptions of citizens with 69 percent of respondents saying they are worried about the value of the dollar, and 41 percent disagreeing that it is convenient for Argentina to maintain good relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The need for austerity, although some consider it understandable, is not well received by public opinion. Macri's plans to cut costs in public works could affect the satisfaction among voters of the best evaluated of the government’s public policies.
Macri’s mid-term electoral triumph in October, 2017 has long passed and the ruling party has not been able to take advantage of this political capital: in November, respondents’ evaluation of economic indicators began to fall.
If Macri’s administration fails to highlight its successes, or at least restore the idea that things will get better in the future thanks to its unpopular economic measures — which the ruling party says it was forced to take — then a 2019 electoral scenario could open up.
Messi says that the National Team is not landing in Russia as a favourite. Perhaps nor will Macri when it comes to the 2019 presidential elections.
*Brenda Lyncha is accounts and communications director at IPSOS Argentina.
This article was published originally in Spanish on Perfil.com