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ARGENTINA | 22-06-2019 10:33

Macri pickup places Cristian lead within margin of error

Race tightens as real campaign starts with definition of candidacies.

After months of negative news for the government of President Mauricio Macri, and his aspirations for re-election, it seems as if fate is beginning to turn around. With the electoral season in full swing, last-minute candidacies were still being shuffled at press time as the deadline to register candidacies approached. With the announcement of Senator Miguel Ángel Pichetto as his running-mate two weeks ago, and the confirmation of Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa’s return to Kirchnerism, both markets and poll numbers have moved favourably for the president. With the three major electoral alliances already in the books, there was still time for some last minute wrangling among secondary players looking for coveted spots in the lists for deputies and senators, along with the odd municipality. Still, the major battlelines have been drawn.

Leaked polling numbers from political consultancy firm Isonomía made the rounds on social media toward the end of the week, indicating solid gains for Macri. According to the figures, which were part of a private study that Isonomía did not publish but the authenticity of which it confirmed, indicated President Macri’s approval ratings jumped from to 43 percent, from 33 percent in previous surveys, while his disapproval figures dropped from 65 percent to 57 percent. What makes Isonomía’s figures all that more relevant is it was the same firm that had released the fateful April 18th report indicating Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would take the election in a runoff, sparking a run on the peso and a spike in the riesgo país index which measures the spread between Argentine sovereign bonds and their US counterparts.

Another key insight for the government’s political aspirations is Fernández de Kirchner’s own figures which have been slumping since announcing Alberto Fernández as the presidential candidate on her ticket. If the election were today, 36 percent of the electorate would support the former two-term president, compared with 34 percent for Macri. In April, the spread showed a nine percentage points differential, giving Fernandez de Kirchner a clear lead. If the runoff were today, though, the Fernández-Fernández ticket is still projected to win by two points with 45 percent of the vote, with 12 percent still undecided or unwilling to vote for either candidate.

As expected, the last few weeks have been positive for the government, but continue to indicate that the situation will be extremely fluid. While the initial reaction to Fernández de Kirchner’s decision to take a supporting role as the vice-presidential candidate did not appear to hurt her chances, the final deflation of the “third way” supposedly represented by the Alternativa Federal (Federal Alternative) coalition has set up an electoral campaign marked by polarisation between macristas and cristinistas, and a progressive move toward the centre by both major parties. As Massa sided with the Kirchnerites and Pichetto with Macri, Alternativa Federal was hollowed out from the inside, with former Economy minister Roberto Lavagna teaming up with Salta province governor, Juan Manuel Urtubey, a Peronist.

Yet, as the market looked on positively at Pichetto’s candidacy, and the dollar-peso exchange rate remained under control, Macri had reasons to celebrate. Inflation figures released last week for the month of May showed further deceleration from 3.4 percent to 3.1 percent, a trend which is expected to continue. While it is too early to speak of green shoots, certain macroeconomic indicators could point toward a tepid recovery.

DEPUTIES AND SENATORS.

With the three leading tickets already confirmed, negotiations were going down to the wire for today’s deadline to register candidacies. Within the ruling Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña, Buenos Aires province Governor María Eugenia Vidal, and firebrand Elisa “Lilita” Carrió came out on top, positioning their key people in the top ballot spots for deputies and senators.

Among the Kirchnerites, Massa managed to gain some space at the expense of hardcore loyalists. The former national deputy will lead the Frente para Todos (Everyone’s Front) ticket in the run for national deputies, with Máximo Kirchner taking the third spot on the list. By press time, he was still negotiating on behalf of his wife, Malena Galmarini, for the Tigre municipality, where his former protégé Julio Zamora has staked his claim. Matías Lammens, president of San Lorenzo football club, will be competing for mayor of Buenos Aires City against incumbent Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.

Finally, in Consenso Federal 2030, the political coalition that emerged from the ashes of Federal Alternative, Lavagna and Urtubey were still shuffling their cards as of press time. At stake are the positions of deputy Graciela Camaño —who abandoned Massa’s Renewal Front after the man from Tigre inked a deal with Fernández de Kirchner— and Margarita Stolbizer of the GEN party.

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