Ar­gentina vote her­alds eco­nomic shake-up

Pro-busi­ness op­po­si­tion may win elec­tion

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

BUENOS AIRES: Ar­gen­tines de­cide tomorrow whether to end years of left­ist gov­ern­ment in a run-off vote that could see the probusi­ness op­po­si­tion seize com­mand of Latin Amer­ica’s third-big­gest econ­omy. Polls show that the mayor of Buenos Aires, for­mer foot­ball ex­ec­u­tive Mauri­cio Macri, could force a sharp re­align­ment by beat­ing his left-wing ri­val Daniel Sci­oli, an ex-power­boat­ing cham­pion.

If Macri breaks the grip of Pero­nism, the broad move­ment that has dom­i­nated Ar­gen­tine pol­i­tics for decades, he could lib­er­al­ize the econ­omy and lift the cur­rent lim­its on buy­ing of US dol­lars.

Ob­servers have com­plained that the two can­di­dates lack charisma, but the stakes of their con­test are po­ten­tially dra­matic.

The tone sharp­ened as cam­paign­ing wound up on Thurs­day with Sci­oli brand­ing Macri a “stuck-up” elit­ist. “I want to save you from sav­age cap­i­tal­ism,” Sci­oli told supporters at a rally in the sea­side town of Mar del Plata. “Macri wants to leave you at the mercy of the mar­kets.”

Macri in turn branded Sci­oli a liar. “It’s very bad what he is do­ing, based on lies. He has de­ceived ev­ery­one,” said Macri, af­ter at­tend­ing an in­dige­nous earth rit­ual in Ju­juy, a poor north­west­ern prov­ince. “The idea that only a Pero­nist can gov­ern Ar­gentina is just a myth.”

Ar­gen­tine pol­i­tics chang­ing The in­creas­ingly tense cam­paign has been fought on shift­ing po­lit­i­cal ground in the vast South Amer­i­can na­tion of 42 mil­lion peo­ple. If he wins, Macri will be the first leader to be elected who is nei­ther a Pero­nist nor from the rad­i­cal lib­eral move­ment.

Macri’s Repub­li­can Pro­posal party, known as PRO, “draws mostly non-Pero­nists, but it is not vir­u­lently anti-Pero­nist. There are even Pero­nists within PRO,” said Ser­gio Mor­resi, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at state re­search in­sti­tute CONICET.

Macri could be­come Ar­gentina’s most eco­nom­i­cally lib­eral leader since the 1990s. That has raised hopes among fi­nanciers, but fears among do­mes­tic busi­nesses and poorer Ar­gen­tines who have ben­e­fited from the so­cial and trade poli­cies of the com­bat­ive out­go­ing pres­i­dent, Cristina Fer­nan­dez de Kirch­ner. Sci­oli, 58, a milder ally of Kirch­ner, won 37.8 per­cent of the vote in the first round on Oc­to­ber 25. Macri, 56, was close be­hind, gain­ing 34.15 per­cent-a much closer re­sult than polls had forecast.

Un­usual elec­tion The elec­tion has been un­like any other in Ar­gentina’s history, with the first ever na­tional run-off vote and the first tele­vised can­di­date de­bate. The de­bate drew huge au­di­ences but pro­vided lit­tle en­ter­tain­ment. Me­dia ob­served that the can­di­dates dodged the ques­tions and failed to land a knock­out blow. Ob­servers have com­plained the two lack charisma, but the stakes of their con­test are po­ten­tially dra­matic.

The win­ner will have to tackle soaring in­fla­tion, cur­rently es­ti­mated at more than 20 per­cent. He will also face a dis­pute with so­called “hold­out” cred­i­tors who have sued Ar­gentina in the US courts for un­paid debts. Kirch­ner calls the cred­i­tors “vul­tures.” She and her late hus­band Nestor Kirch­ner tried to re­struc­ture tens of bil­lions of dol­lars of debt that Ar­gentina de­faulted on in 2001, when it was bailed out by the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. That was then the big­gest sov­er­eign de­fault in history.

The Kirch­n­ers presided over a spec­tac­u­lar eco­nomic turn­around that is now flag­ging. As well as po­lit­i­cal change, Macri has promised an eas­ing of re­stric­tions on im­ports. “I prom­ise to do the op­po­site of kirch­ner­ism” on the econ­omy and state con­trol of in­sti­tu­tions, Macri said in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view this week. Sci­oli has vowed to keep de­fend­ing Ar­gen­tine work­ers and busi­nesses, ac­cus­ing Macri of want­ing to cut wel­fare sub­si­dies. “It is clear that Macri rep­re­sents the mar­ket,” Sci­oli said. “I de­fend na­tional in­dus­try.” — AFP

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