The 2015 Election Season in Argentina: Seven Key Dates

ARG-feat-Elections.jpgOver the next six months, several important events will have a prominent impact on the dynamics of the 2015 Argentine presidential campaign and the prospects of the three leading presidential candidates: Mauricio Macri of the Republican Proposal (PRO), Sergio Massa of the Renewal Front (FR) and Daniel Scioli of the governing Front for Victory (FPV). Massa and Scioli both belong to the country’s large Peronist movement (as does the term-limited President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the FPV’s undisputed leader today), with Massa the informal national leader of the anti-Kirchner/anti-government wing of the movement. Macri is competing nationwide as part of an alliance that includes the more than 100-year-old Radical Civic Union (UCR), which for almost 70 years has represented Argentina’s principal political counterweight to Peronism.

In Argentina’s robust federal system, provincial governments are empowered to schedule the date of their provincial elections, with a few provincial constitutions mandating the provincial elections be held on a separate date from the federal elections. In 2015, the first provincial election takes place on April 26 in the province of Neuquén and the last provincial election will be held six months later, concurrent with the October 25 federal elections.


June 10 – Final Day to Register Alliances

June 10 is the final day for the Argentine political parties to constitute political alliances for the federal presidential and congressional elections. Argentine politicians often wait until the very last minute to cement political alliances. Several influential provincial-level political bosses such as Adolfo Rodríguez Saá of San Luis and José Manuel de la Sota of Córdoba could wait until this date to decide whether they formally join forces with one of the three leading presidential contenders (with Massa the most likely ally, followed by Scioli), run for president under their own banner (either alone or together), or adopt a formally neutral position in the presidential contest.


June 14 – Local Elections in the Province of Santa Fe

Santa Fe is Argentina’s third most populous province and since 2007 has been governed by the Progressive Front (FP), a non-Peronist center-left alliance. The spotlight will be on the gubernatorial contest, where Macri’s candidacy could receive a substantial boost if the PRO’s gubernatorial candidate, Miguel Del Sel, is able to defeat his principal rival, the FP’s Miguel Lifschitz. A majority of the members of the FP alliance are supporting the presidential candidacy of Margarita Stolbizer, the standard bearer of a coalition of small center-left parties. A Del Sel victory would highlight the electoral viability of the PRO — and by extension, Macri — outside of the party’s bailiwick in the city of Buenos Aires while also starkly underscoring that Macri, not Stolbizer, is the only viable option for voters who do not want a Peronist to be the next president.


June 22 – Formal Close of Filing for Primaries

With the formal close of candidate filing for the August 9 primaries, we will know for certain which of the three leading presidential candidates will have to contend with an intra-alliance competitor (or competitors) in their alliance’s August primary. We also will learn, by and large, which specific senate and national deputy candidates will accompany the three presidential candidates across the country, a clear signal regarding with whom the myriad of provincial and municipal political machines are casting their lot this election cycle.


July 5 – Local Elections in the City of Buenos Aires and Province of Córdoba

Macri has served as mayor of the city of Buenos Aires for eight years. While there is little doubt that the PRO’s candidate, Horacio Rodríquez Larretta or Gabriela Michetti, will be the next mayor, alone among Argentina’s most populous jurisdictions, the city of Buenos Aires requires a candidate to win more than 50 percent of the valid vote to avoid a second round runoff two weeks later. A decisive first round PRO victory would underscore Macri and the PRO’s continued popularity in Argentina’s political and media capital, as well as the country’s fourth most populous district. In contrast, a weak first round performance would raise doubts about Macri’s true level of popularity among the voters who know him best. A second round would also force Macri to spend precious time campaigning in the city of Buenos Aires and focusing on the mayoral election instead of canvassing the nation in preparation for his August presidential primary.

Provincial elections will also be held in the province of Córdoba on this date. The marquee event will be the gubernatorial election between the candidate of the governing Peronist Union for Córdoba (UPC), Juan Schiaretti, and Oscar Aguad (UCR), the standard-bearer of the alliance between the PRO, UCR and the Córdoba-based Civic Front (FC). During the 1980s and 1990s Córdoba was considered to be the UCR’s most important provincial bastion. However, for the past 16 years Peronists have governed Córdoba. An Aguad victory would simultaneously underscore the vibrance of the PRO-UCR alliance in the Argentine interior and strengthen the pro-PRO alliance faction within the UCR by ratifying the wisdom of its decision to ally with Macri. Conversely, a victory by Schiaretti would be seized upon by detractors within the UCR of the PRO-UCR alliance as evidence that the fruits promised by the alliance supporters were not being borne, and consequently foment internal dissent within the UCR. A Schiaretti win would also raise doubts about Macri’s level of popular support outside of metropolitan Buenos Aires. Finally, if a Massa-De la Sota alliance comes to fruition, the Schiaretti-Aguad race will be widely viewed as a Massa-Macri proxy battle.


August 9 –The Mandatory Open Primary Elections

Argentina requires every party or alliance to choose its federal candidates in simultaneous primaries open to all voters, with participation compulsory for those between the ages of 18 and 69. While there is no doubt that Macri, Massa and Scioli will win their respective primaries, the results of this massive pre-election census will be used to measure the relative viability of each of the three leading candidates as they enter the homestretch of the presidential race. Unlike in many countries, in Argentina there do not exist a large number of independent and widely trusted (by the elite and mass public) public opinion polling enterprises, and as a result, the “poll” elites and voters will place the most stock in is the one that occurs on August 9.

Analysts, donors, politicians and voters will pay close attention to several aspects of the primary vote totals. First, the percentage of the vote won by the candidate or candidates running in each of the alliances will be examined. The principal goal for each of the three contenders is to have their respective alliance’s combined proportion of the vote be as high as possible, and most crucially higher than that of both, or at least one, of that of their two rivals. Second, each candidate will strive to obtain the most overall votes possible, to signal their level of personal support vis-à-vis the other two and compared to their intra-alliance competitors. Macri and Scioli are at present expected to face at least one primary challenger while it is unclear whether or not Massa will have a contested primary.

Particularly important will be the comparative performance of Macri vs. Massa. Each wants economic elites, political elites and voters to view them as the leading option to eject the governing party of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from power; the more daylight between the level of support for their respective electoral alliances on August 9, the greater the likelihood that the loser in this face-off will begin to see their financial, political and electoral support erode over the subsequent two-and-a-half months.

Macri will also hope that Stolbizer receives only a modest share (i.e., in the mid-single digits) of the overall primary vote. The larger the vote for Stolbizer, the greater the doubts that will rise about the extent to which Macri’s alliance with the UCR is translating into actual votes by traditional UCR and other non-Peronist supporters at the polls.

Finally, only those presidential candidates whose alliance/party garners at least 1.5 percent of the valid presidential vote in the primary will be eligible to participate in the October presidential election. It is likely that only five presidential candidates will cross this threshold and move on to the October general election: Macri, Massa, Scioli, Stolbizer and Jorge Altamira of the far-left Left Front (FIT).


October 25 – Federal Election Day and Local Elections in 11 Provinces

On October 25 Argentina will hold its presidential election as well as elections in eight provinces to elect a total of 24 senators (one-third of the Senate) and elections in all 23 provinces and the city of Buenos Aires to elect 130 deputies (one-half of the Chamber of Deputies). Simultaneous gubernatorial, provincial legislative and mayoral/city council elections will be held in 11 of the country’s 23 provinces, including the province of Buenos Aires, which contains 39 percent of the Argentine population.


November 22 – Presidential Runoff Election

If on October 25 the first-place candidate does not win either more than 45 percent of the valid vote or at least 40 percent of the valid vote and at the same time finish more than 10 percent ahead of the second-place candidate, a runoff election between the top two candidates from the first round will be held on November 22. The candidate who receives the most votes on this date will be elected president for a four-year term and assume office on December 10.