Santa Fe Province voters spelled out their verdicts in capital letters in Sunday’s PASO primaries, thus confounding the opinion poll forecasts – both in the overall result and within the main coalitions. Only the mayoral voting in troubled Rosario was close.
In the general result throughout the province, the opposition coalition Unidas para Cambiar Santa Fe more than doubled the Peronist Juntos Avancemos with just over 63 percent to almost 28 percent of the vote with 98.69 percent of the voting precincts reporting, a humiliating setback for the national government.
But the impact of this upset was rivalled by an almost as lopsided a result within the winning coalition – former provincial Security minister Maximilano Pullaro trounced Senator Carolina Losada with over half the Unidas para Cambiar vote as against just over a third for his internal rival with Rosario socialist ex-mayor Mónica Fein picking up the rest.
Both Pullaro and Losada are Radicals but were strongly identified with the two PRO rivals for the national presidential nomination – City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and party chair (on leave) Patricia Bullrich with the latter backing Losada while Pullaro was supported by the former (who joined the victory celebrations alongside Radical Senator Martín Lousteau). The result was a setback for PRO as well as for Bullrich since her replacement at the national party helm, Federico Angelini, was Losada’s running-mate.
This clash became more than formal during the primary campaign when Losada accused Pullaro of drug-trafficking links via connivance in the deals of a corrupt provincial police with local rings, to the point of saying that she would not work with him should he win for “ethical reasons.” But after conceding defeat at 9pm on election night, she said: “I’ve congratulated Pullaro and as from Monday we’ll be pushing for him to win (the September 10 provincial elections).”
Apart from the front-running Pullaro, only four of the 13 gubernatorial hopefuls cleared the 1.5 percent hurdle for running in September to succeed outgoing Peronist Governor Omar Perotti – Peronist Senator Marcelo Lewandowski, Edelvino Bodoira of Viva la Libertad with three percent for his pro-life stance, the Trotskyist Partido Obrero’s Carla Deiana with a winning share of the Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores-Unidad’s 2.7 percent and Eduardo Maradona with 1.95 percent for Elisa Carrió’s Coalición Cívica-ARI (a partner of the Juntos por el Cambio coalition with PRO and the Radicals nationwide but running outside its Unidas para Cambiar Santa Fe provincial branch where the Socialists replaced them as the third leg in a “front of fronts”).
Lewandowski had hoped to be the candidate with the single highest vote total thanks to the clash within the opposition but ended up third behind them both with just under 18 percent of the total vote although well ahead of his three internal rivals, deputies Marcos Cleri of La Cámpora militant grouping and Eduardo Toniolli allied to Cabinet Chief Agustín Rossi and the Movimiento Evita picket movement’s Leandro Busatto (with 4.3, 3.1 and 2.5 percent of the total vote respectively).
In municipal voting Rosario Mayor Pablo Javkin (of Coalición Cívica origins and aligned with Losada) looks to be on the way to re-election in September, brushing off a strong internal challenge from Pullaro-backed football journalist Miguel Tessandori, with Juan Monteverde his surprise future Peronist rival after topping Perotti’s nominee Roberto Sukerman. There was another surprise in the provincial capital where incumbent mayor Emilio Jatón was displaced within Unidas para Cambiar Santa Fe voting by hospital director Juan Pablo Poletti who now seems set for an easy win in September with the Peronist vote not even reaching double digits.
Turnout was around 64 percent while blank votes and spoiled ballots totalled 7.2 percent. Thousands of policemen ensured tight security, especially in Rosario where drug vendettas have made murder an almost daily event.