Understanding the upcoming Argentine Presidential Elections

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This year, Argentina will elect a new president, vice president, and members of Congress.  Understanding the country’s electoral process and the concerns that drive voter choices is crucial.  Here is what you should know about the upcoming Argentine presidential elections.

Overview of the Electoral Process

  • In 2023, Argentina will elect a new president, vice president, and members of Congress (for both lower and upper houses). Since its amendment in 1994, the Argentine Constitution specifies a four-year term for the president and vice president, limiting them to two consecutive terms. After stepping down for at least one term, they can run again for the same office.[1]
  • National elections are mandatory for all citizens between the ages of 18 and 70 (optional for citizens between the ages of 16 and 18). Outcomes are directly determined by the popular vote (no electoral college).
  • Candidates are grouped together in slates (listas) based on party affiliation. This makes it difficult for voters to freely choose from among candidates of different slates.
  • This year, 21 of Argentina’s 23 provinces will hold gubernatorial elections. Because of the relative unpopularity of the current administration, several provinces have scheduled their gubernatorial elections to be ahead of the national one.

2023 Electoral Timeline

  • June 14: Deadline to register alliances between political parties to run together as coalitions.
  • June 24: Deadline to register presidential tickets (fórmulas) to couple candidates for president and vice president, to declare affiliations with recognized political parties or coalitions, and to present their policy platforms.
  • August 13: Open primaries (Elecciones Primarias Abiertas Simultáneas y Obligatorias or “PASO”) are held. While the ostensible goal of the PASO is to narrow intra-party competition, its accessibility to all voters often serves as a straw poll on overall popularity and, therefore, general election outcomes.[2] Parties or coalitions failing to receive at least 1.5% of the votes are excluded from the general elections.
  • October 22: General elections are held. The ballots are limited to those candidates who successfully advanced from the PASO. Argentina uses a two-round ballotage process to elect the presidential ticket. Thus, the ticket may only be declared a winner in the first round if it obtains 45% of the popular vote or at least 40% of the popular vote with at least 10% more votes than the runner-up.
  • November 19: Second-round or ballotage held, if necessary. The ticket receiving the most votes wins.
  • December 10: Inauguration of the new president and vice-president.

Key Voter Issues

2023 promises to force the candidates and the electorate to evaluate various substantive issues conspicuously absent from prior campaigns.

One such issue is whether to privatize government enterprises operating in the commercial sphere. Most clearly at stake is Aerolíneas Argentinas, the national airline that has squeezed out nearly all domestic competitors through subsidies at great cost to the taxpayers. Years of profligate spending, corruption, and inflation have seemingly rekindled an appetite for better management and increased efficiency.

Macroeconomic factors like inflation (triple-digit annually), high taxes, and the absence of consumer credit have sparked a serious discussion on adopting the U.S. dollar as the national currency (as was done in Ecuador and other countries).

Crime continues to show itself as another significant voter concern, particularly in metropolitan areas. Proposed responses to increasing violent crime include tougher sentencing and enforcement and even involving the military in the fight against drug trafficking.

Argentine politics is also becoming a referendum on cultural matters like abortion (legalized in 2020[3]), LGTBQ+ rights, housing crises, and drug legalization, which was largely absent from previous voter discussions.

Conclusion

Understanding the electoral process and the concerns that drive voter choices is crucial in comprehending the dynamics of Argentine politics and the outcomes of its elections. Four or five months away from declaring a winner, the 2023 electoral outcome remains highly uncertain, and forecasting is a fool’s errand. The unpopularity of the current administration portends a shift to the centre-right. Nonetheless, the opposition’s infighting and failure to coalesce behind a single candidate forestalls any accurate prediction of a successor. We will have to wait for the PASO results of August 13 to “know which way the winds blow.”

Footnotes

[1] Nothing prohibits a president and vice president from alternating offices for an indefinite number of consecutive terms. This was the plan to maintain the Kirchner power couple (former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) until Néstor Kirchner’s death in 2010.

[2] The effect of the PASO on general outcomes is prominent. At a minimum, it can prompt a voter to migrate to a less-desirable candidate to either support a front-runner or the front-runner’s most credible challenger. In other election years (as in 2019), the PASO can so clearly harbinger a ruling party’s loss, that it leads to accelerated policy shifts and capital flight.

[3] Law No. 27610 on Access to the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy (IVE), dated December 30, 2020, came into effect on January 24, 2021.

Know More

For more information on this subject, please contact Caroline Carothers (pasantes@wsclegal.com).

LAURENCE  P. WIENER

Attorney at Law

AV. PTE. ROQUE SÁENZ PEÑA 637 – 1° PISO. 

Buenos Aires. Argentina (C1035AAB).

(+5411) 5365-8355

lwiener@wsclegal.com

WWW.WSCLEGAL.COM

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