Approximately one voter in every seven went to the polls last weekend in five provinces with two wins for President Mauricio Macri’s national government and three for the Peronist opposition but in every case the analysis is the same – the dice are loaded in favour of the incumbents.
In fact, all four of last Sunday’s election winners were incumbent governors gaining re-election – Peronists Juan Luis Manzur (Tucumán), Gustavo Bordet (Entre Ríos) and Mariano Arcioni (Chubut) with Radical Gerardo Morales (Jujuy) giving Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos its first provincial joy this year. Mendoza does not permit re-election but Radical Governor (and national party chairman) Alfredo Cornejo still came out on top with his nominee Radical provincial capital mayor Rodolfo Suárez winning the PASO primary.
Bordet was the biggest winner with just over 58 percent, virtually identical to his PASO primary performance eight weeks previously. Despite giving each voter an “emergency social aid” of 3,000 pesos just before the election and starting the night on 72 percent in early returns, Manzur fell just short of an absolute majority.
Morales lost over 50,000 of his 2015 votes with his percentage down from 58.3 to 43.65 (which was only fractionally ahead of the combined total of his two Peronist rivals, Julio Ferreyra and the governor’s brother-in-law Guillermo Snopek) but with Cambiemos wins so few and far between this year nobody in the government was complaining.
Arcioni, heir of the dissident Peronist Mario de Neves who died in office 20 months ago, was the only re-elected governor with a relatively slender single-digit margin, facing a stiff challenge from Comodoro Rivadavia Kirchnerite Mayor Carlos Linares – Arcioni survived with 37.5 percent of the vote as against just under 31 percent for Linares, dedicating his triumph to Sergio Massa.
As a PASO primary, Mendoza voting was as much within as between parties. Suárez was facing not only Peronist opponents but also an internal challenge for the Cambiemos gubernatorial nomination which he surmounted convincingly with 29.46 percent as against 12.15 percent for PRO’s Omar De Marchi. The Peronist nomination was also contested between Kirchnerite Senator Anabel Fernández Sagasti and mainstream Peronist Alejandro Bermejo – the former edged the latter with 18.3 percent to 17.3 percent, a rare case of Kirchnerism topping moderate Peronism this year (especially in a conservative province like Mendoza). The combined votes of Cambiemos and Peronism give Suárez a seven percent lead for the final provincial election on September 29.
Apart from the Jujuy victory, Cambiemos could draw some satisfaction from second place in Tucumán (where Senator Silvia Elías de Pérez faced strong rivals apart from Governor Manzur in three-term ex-governor Julio Alperovich and the rightist Ricardo Bussi). The highest percentage went to Radical Atilio Benedetti in Entre Ríos with around 35 percent but still trailing Bordet by over 20 percent. Squeezed out by the dogfight between the two Peronists, Chubut Radical Gustavo Menna fared worst with 14.2 percent. Comparing these five results with 2015, Cambiemos slumped from some 950,000 to 670,000 votes while the Peronist total improved slightly from just over 1.3 million to almost 1.4 million.