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ARGENTINA | 16-11-2021 11:31

Argentina’s midterm elections deliver president polarised Congress

President Alberto Fernández will face a polarised new Congress in December following Sunday's midterm elections.

President Alberto Fernández will face a new Congress in December with strong parity between the ruling party and the opposition following Sunday's midterm elections, in which libertarian Javier Milei also confirmed his arrival on the political scene.

The ruling Frente de Todos coalition made a comeback in several districts following its setback in the September primaries, but it was not enough to retain a simple majority in the Senate (37 out of 72 senators), losing six of the 41 seats it held.

Nevertheless, it remains the first minority in both chambers of Congress, defying the aspirations of Juntos por el Cambio, the coalition nominally led by former president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019). The opposition had remained hopeful that it would claim the presidency of the lower house Chamber of Deputies following its victory in the PASO primaries.

Officially, there is no count of the national vote, given that the elections were by district. A tally put together by the La Nación newspaper, with 98.84 percent of polling stations reporting, put Juntos por el Cambio on 41.97 percent, with Frente de Todos on 33.57 percent. 

The renewal of half of the benches in the lower house took place across the country, while the votes to renew a third of the Senate’s 72 seats took place in eight provinces. 

In the upper house, the government will have a bloc of 35 senators to the opposition’s 31, with the other six belonging to various provincial forces. Frente de Todos will have to seek alliances in order to progress legislation and make key appointments.

According to projections, when the new Congress takes office on 10 December, the Chamber of Deputies will be polarised almost evenly between the Frente de Todos bloc with 118, and Juntos with 116 seats. 

The rest will be divided among minorities, including federal Peronists (six deputies),  among minority groups such as Federal Peronism (six deputies), ultra-liberals (five) and left-wingers (four), among others.

 

Notable races

Reading the races, the novelty in Buenos Aires City, the nation’s capital with 2.8 million inhabitants, was the emergence of Javier Milei, a 51-year-old ultra-liberal economist who made headlines constantly during the campaign. 

With a fierce discourse, which involved condemning the “political caste,” Milei obtained 17 percent of the vote, improving on his performance in the primaries and winning his slate two seats in the lower house.

His ally, fellow economist and former presidential candidate José Luis Espert, won 7.5 percent – more than 650,000 votes – in Buenos Aires Province. Together, their allied forces, Avanza Libertad, will now have five lawmakers in Congress, underlining the growth in liberal and libertarian support.

"Milei is a transgressor who aims at the transgression of youth, but it will be like a summer love affair. Espert, on the other hand, is something else, he is serious and thoughtful," political consultant Raúl Aragón told the AFP news agency.

Countering the liberal surge, the Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores – Unidad (Workers Leftist Front, FIT-U) recorded its best election ever in the race for lower house seats, scoring 7.8 percent in the capital (and a seat for Myriam Bregman), 6.8 percent in Buenos Aires Province (two, Nicolás Del Caño, Romina Del Plá) and an unprecedented 25 percent (one, Alejandro Vilca) in the northern province of Jujuy. 

In Buenos Aires City, the opposition – which has controlled the capital since 2007 – once again won by a large margin. Its list, headed by former Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal took 47 per cent of the vote against 25.1 percent for the slate put up by Frente de Todos, topped by Leandro Santoro.

In the province of Buenos Aires, a key battleground which accounts for more than a third of the electorate, Juntos won with 39.81 percent, with the Peronist coalition taking 38.53 percent. Frente de Todos nevertheless painted that performance as “a triumph,” having narrowed the opposition's gap from five points in the primaries to just one. Both forces will add 15 deputies to their respective blocs.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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