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ARGENTINA | 13-07-2019 08:58

Macri’s odds of winning election are rising, says pollster

President Macri’s official coalition launch event dominated by references to inheritance left by Fernández de Kirchner administration.

President Mauricio Macri’s chances of winning this year’s election are improving as public sentiment climbs and the economy begins to find its footing after last year’s currency crisis, according to Alejandro Catterberg, director of polling firm Poliarquía.

“If the social climate keeps improving for four more months, the government’s chances of winning are very high,” Catterberg said in an interview with Bloomberg, referring to the October 27 vote. “My gut feeling is that Macri wins, but if I just look at the economic indicators, I say Macri loses.”

Poliarquía does not have a contract with Macri’s government and isn’t working with any presidential campaign but Catterberg shares his polling data with top government officials. Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, one of Macri’s top allies, pays Poliarquía for polling data. He wouldn’t disclose key data, such as voter intention, because he’s contractually obligated to only give those figures to clients.

Macri is benefitting from the economy’s newfound stability although the country remains in recession with unemployment in the doubledigits. His approval rating jumped to 34 percent in June from 28 percent in May, according to numbers Catterberg was willing to share. That’s still far from the 62 percent approval rating he enjoyed in November 2017 right after the midterm elections.

Catterberg also said the election has become more polarised in recent months, and that there’s a 30 percent chance it may be decided in October, most likely with an outright victory by Macri’s main rival, Alberto Fernández, whose VP candidate is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in the first round. Only two months ago, Catterberg said, chances of such an outcome were zero.

A first-round victory requires the leading candidate to win over 45 percent of the votes, or 40 percent with a lead greater than 10 percentage points over the secondplaced candidate.

PRIMARY ELECTION

From investors’ perspective, Catterberg says the bestcase scenario in the upcoming August 11 primary vote is that Fernández receives less than 40 percent of votes and Macri trails him by less than five percentage points.

“I think if that happens the markets – or people – are going to believe that it’s a distance that can be overcome in the remainder of the election cycle,” sa id Cat terberg, adding that’s half the distance Macri had to leap in his surprising 2015 victory.

Lower voter participation in the August primaries, as it is usually the case, would likely favour Macri in October, because he is better positioned to capture the support of those less politicised Argentines who only show up on the actual election day.

“The lower the level of participation [in August], the less worse it should be for Macri,” Catterberg said. “I think there’s an understanding in all political parties that if this goes onto a run-off, Macri’s chances are better than those of Kirchner’s party.”

Another possible boost to Macri’s bid should come when long-shot contenders are out of the race. Catterberg expects Macri to get more of those voters in the potential November 24 run-off than Fernández.

Besides that, Macri has more experience – he has twice won for Buenos Aires city mayor while Fernández has never run in a national race, says Catterberg, adding that the president has a more experienced campaign staff with a more effective communication strategy.

POLISHING NARRATIVE

With a stable economy, Macri can focus the election narrative on his accomplishments: infrastructure projects, international credibility, the European Union-Mercosur trade deal and a crack down on drug-trafficking.

If Fernández wins, he’ll face tough choices. Even if he doesn’t want to impose currency or capital controls reminiscent of Fernández de Kirchner’s presidency, conditions could be so severe that he may have no other choice, Catterberg says.

“If the reaction by markets and Argentines is so immediate, if capital flight is so high, he won’t have another option,” Catterberg said. “Fernández may not want to reprofile the debt, but if the exchange rate reaches 80 pesos per dollar, you have to re-profile the debt.”

by BY PATRICK GILLESPIE & JORGELINA DO ROSARIO

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