Incumbent Governors on Track for Victory in Argentina’s Lithium & Copper Belt Provinces: Jujuy, Salta & San Juan
On May 7 and May 14, three of Argentina’s four major mining provinces will elect their respective governor and members of the provincial legislature. In Salta and San Juan the incumbent governor (Gustavo Sáenz and Sergio Uñac respectively) is heavily favored to win, while in Jujuy the handpicked candidate (Carlos Sadir) of the term-limited current governor (Gerardo Morales) is heavily favored to win. In sum, the upcoming elections in Argentina’s Lithium and Copper Belt are expected to ratify the status quo and return the governing party to power for another four-year term in control of the provinces of Jujuy, Salta and San Juan.
Four Argentine provinces contain 57 of Argentina’s 58 active (ranging from feasibility study status to production status) Lithium and Copper mining projects: Catamarca, Jujuy, Salta, and San Juan. Of the 38 active Lithium mining projects, 17 are located in Salta, 14 in Catamarca, 5 in Jujuy, and 1 in San Juan, with 1 straddling both sides of the Salta-Catamarca border. Of the 20 active Copper mining projects, 15 are in San Juan, 2 in Salta, 2 in Catamarca, and 1 in Mendoza.
Three of these four provinces are holding their provincial elections in May: Jujuy (May 7), Salta (May 14), San Juan (May 14). Catamarca will hold its provincial elections concurrent with the Argentine presidential election on October 22.
In Jujuy the governor is elected by a plurality vote (whoever gets the most votes wins). Governor Gerado Morales of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), who has served as Jujuy’s governor since 2015, is term-limited. His hand-picked successor is his provincial Minister of Finance, Carlos Sadir, who will run as the standard bearer of Frente Cambia Jujuy (FCJ), a coalition of more than two dozen political parties, including the UCR and Propuesta Federal (PRO), which are the two leading members of the Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) coalition. JxC represents the principal opposition at the national level to President Alberto Fernández’s and Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Frente de Todos (FdT). Sadir faces five challengers in the governor’s race.
The political leaders and parties aligned with the FdT failed to rally behind a single candidate for governor. National senator Guillermo Snopek is the gubernatorial candidate of one main FdT faction, Frente Unidad por Jujuy, while national deputy Rubén Rivarola is the gubernatorial candidate of the other main FdT faction, the Frente Justicialista.
Other gubernatorial candidates whose ceiling of support ranges between the high single digits and low teens include Luciano Demarco of the Frente Vía + Libertarios, Rodolfo Tecchi of the Frente Jujuy Tiene Futuro, and Alejandro Vilca of the Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores – Unidad.
With a little more than a month until May 7, Sadir is a virtual lock to win the Jujuy gubernatorial election, with the only uncertainties related to his margin of victory and which Peronist will finish in second place, Rivarola or Snopek.
In Salta the governor also is elected by a plurality vote. Governor Gustavo Saénz is aligned with the FdT at the national level, albeit more with Minister of Economy Sergio Massa (Frente Renovador) and less with former president and current vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Saénz is running for a second term as the candidate of the Gustavo Gobernador alliance, consisting of more than a dozen parties, including the Partido Justicialista. Saénz faces 11 challengers.
Saénz’s opponents within the FdT are splintered into four different alliances, each with its own gubernatorial candidate, while the JxC, after a considerable amount of friction, mostly (but not entirely) united behind a single candidate, national deputy Miguel Nanni of the UCR. Lucio Paz Posse is the candidate of the libertarian Frente Salta Avanza Con Vos alliance
The four other FdT factions are the Frente Avancemos, Entre Todos, Salta para Todos, and Frente Salta Va con Felicidad, with the former three factions strongly tied to the wing of the FdT led by Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Saénz’s most prominent Peronist rival is Emiliano Estrada (a former Sáenz ally and left-leaning member of the FdT coalition) of the Frente Avancemos alliance. Avancemos is a curious combination of the leftwing pro-Kirchner Estrada with the rightwing populist party of former national deputy Alfredo Olmedo. Entre Todos is running provincial senator Walter Wayar as its gubernational candidate, Salta para Todos is running national deputy Lía Caliva, and the Frente Salta Va con Felicidad has Mauro Sabbadini as its standard bearer.
Five gubernatorial candidates representing small far-left alliances and parties are Violeta Gil of Política Obrera, Claudia del Plá of the Frente de Izquierda, Daniela Planes of the Partido de Trabajadores Socialistas, Marcos Tognolini of Movimiento al Socialismo, and Daniel Escotorín of the Partido Instrumento Electoral por la Unidad Popular.
With a little more than a month and a half until the May 14 election, Sáenz is a virtual lock to be victorious in the gubernatorial election, with the only uncertainties related to his margin of victory and who will finish in second place.
In San Juan the governor also is elected by a plurality vote, but in conjunction with a double simultaneous vote (DSV) electoral system. For the gubernatorial election this means that multiple candidates can run as part of an alliance and their votes are summed together in order to determine the plurality winner among the alliances. The next governor will be the plurality vote winner within the alliance which wins the plurality of the vote. In all 10 candidates from four alliances are running for governor.
Governor Sergio Uñac (2015- ) and former governor (2003-2015) and present national deputy José Luis Gioja are the candidates of the Peronist San Juan por Todos (SJxT) alliance, which at the national level is aligned with the FdT of President Fernández and Vice President Fernández de Kirchner.
The main opposition Unidos por San Juan (UxSJ) alliance is fielding four gubernatorial candidates: Marcelo Orrego (Cambia San Juan), Eduardo Cáceres (San Juan al Futuro), Sergio Vallejos (Evolución Liberal), and Marcelo Arancibia (Juntos).
In addition to these two principal alliances, two other smaller alliances are fielding gubernatorial candidates. The Desarrollo y Libertad alliance has three candidates: Yolanda Agüero (Libertarios), Paola Miers (El Rugido de Libertad), and Agustín Ramírez (Desarrollo y Unidad). The Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores – Unidad alliance is running a single candidate for governor, Cristian Jurado.
With a little over a month and a half until the May 14 election, Uñac is a virtual lock to be victorious in the gubernatorial election, with the only uncertainties related to the SJxT margin of victory over the UxSJ and Uñac’s margin of victory over Gioja within the SJxT.
This is the third entry of a series on the 2023 gubernatorial elections in Argentina’s leading petro-provinces (Chubut, Mendoza, Neuquén, Río Negro, Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego) and mining provinces (Catamarca, Jujuy, Salta, San Juan, Santa Cruz). The previous two entries are below.
This post originally appeared in the Forbes blog on Mar. 28, 2023.