At first glance, the results of the legislative elections reveals a paradox that may seem curious without context: the ruling Frente de Todos coalition appeared to be celebrating despite losing its quorum in the Senate, retaining the first minority in the Chamber of Deputies by one seat, and being defeated in powerful Buenos Aires Province. Beyond the convenient narrative, the ruling party embraces the (narrowly insufficient) comeback in that key territory to embrace the contradictory concept of "triumph," as the president himself described the election on Sunday night.
At the national level, Juntos por el Cambio led the Peronist coalition by 10 points. Even so, the mood was one of jubilation at the ruling party's campaign bunker. Things had got off to a bad start, especially when just after 7pm Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced on social networks that she would not be present at the bunker nor onstage. On medical advice, of course.
Her absence rounded off the government's bad closing campaign week, with a presidential blunder in Córdoba (where Frente de Todos came in a distant third), an official inflation figure of another 3.5 percent a month, the dollar rising above 200 pesos per greenback and marches demanding improved security in the Conurbano.
In any case, the snake's egg of expecting the worst appeared in the PASOs. A few days ago, several officials forecast the same outcome as in the September primaries, especially in Buenos Aires Province, where Kirchnerism tried to pull out all the stops. This is the context in which Peronist jubilation is to be understood: the achievement of cutting Juntos' lead in the country's most-populous district from four to just one point.
It won't come for free, though. Although the passing of the buck can be disguised (it would be surprising to see a week like the one that came after the PASO ahead of us), the ruling party's internal map will not lack the occasional tremor. One of them will be caused by many mayors of Greater Buenos Aires, whose more active roles in the campaign were key in winning back voters and increasing turnout. Martín Insaurralde, the mayor of Lomas de Zamora who was named provincial Cabinet chief after the September defeat, will lead the calls for greater representation in the administration.
Once the ruling coalition’s intoxication, whether forced or genuine, has worn off, the government will have to take decisions to address multiple social demands of all kinds, as well as resolve urgent pending issues, such as the agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
The Fernández administration would be making a serious mistake if it thought that with these results – and its interpretation of them – there is room to continue kicking the can down the road. More than serious, it would be very dangerous. For everyone.