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ECONOMY | 12-09-2021 19:06

Primary vote could be a non-event – or a game changer

Primary election will serve as early test on the political strength of President Alberto Fernández’s ruling coalition.

Argentines are voting in a primary election Sunday that will serve as early test on the political strength of President Alberto Fernández’s left-wing ruling coalition. 

Voters will pick candidates to lead their parties or coalitions ahead of the final midterm vote on November 14, when half of the lower house seats in Congress and a third of the Senate are up for election. The key races are in the City and Province of Buenos Aires, where the government’s Frente de Todos squares off against its main rival, the investor-friendly coalition Juntos por el Cambio.

Fernández isn’t on the ballot but, as voting is mandatory for most adults, the primary becomes effectively a nationwide poll two years into his mandate. After an initial success, the Peronist president has seen his popularity plunge this year amid the deadly pandemic, inflation above 50 percent, double-digit unemployment and damaging scandals. 

Fernández implemented one of the world’s strictest quarantines last year, but Argentina today ranks among the countries with the highest death rates from Covid-19. Sunday’s vote will show to what extent the president’s track record will help or hurt candidates from his coalition and how trusted the opposition is ahead of general elections in 2023.

After getting the results of the 2019 primary wrong by a large margin, leading local pollsters are avoiding publishing voters’ intentions, adding uncertainty to an already competitive race. Investors would cheer if the anti-business ruling coalition loses significant ground, potentially changing the country’s political dynamics. A narrow victory by the government or a tie is unlikely to have a relevant impact in the market.

Voting close at 6pm local time, with partial results expected Sunday night. A slower counting process is anticipated due to Covid safety protocols.

by Patrick Gillespie & Jorgelina do Rosario, Bloomberg

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