Legislative elections: The opposition in Argentina cautiously receives calls from the Peronist government for a dialogue | International

The leaders and candidates of the opposition alliance Together for Change celebrate their triumph in the legislative elections on Sunday in Buenos Aires.
The leaders and candidates of the opposition alliance Together for Change celebrate their triumph in the legislative elections on Sunday in Buenos Aires.ALEJANDRO PAGNI (AFP)

The opposition distrusts any dialogue with Peronism. In the heat of the election night, the president, Alberto Fernández, called on his political detractors to discuss in Congress “a multi-year economic plan”, a requirement that the International Monetary Fund puts to discuss a new debt payment schedule that drags the South American country. But the leaders of Together for Change, the alliance that won last Sunday’s legislative elections, have set conditions. Above all, they demand that it be clear that any medium-term plan must have the approval of the vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, referee in the struggles that divide the government coalition. They also want a political gesture: that Peronism admit that on Sunday it lost the midterm elections and desist from the triumph displays.

Sunday left a result that activated celebrations on both sides of the political rift. The opposition Juntos por el Cambio seized control of the Senate from Peronism and in the global vote count, it surpassed the ruling party by almost nine points. It was a resounding victory, but with nuances that gave oxygen to the Government. When they believed they were defeated on all fronts, as anticipated by the results of the primaries held in September, the candidates of the Frente de Todos came back in the province of Buenos Aires, the main electoral district of the country and historically Peronist, and managed to at least remain as first force in Deputies. The recovery of half a million votes with respect to the September primaries in the province had epic readings in the Casa Rosada. So much was the euphoria that President Fernández called to celebrate “the triumph” this Thursday with a large demonstration in the Plaza de Mayo. The government’s hubbub overshadowed the opposition’s numbers.

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In the midst of the celebrations at the Casa Rosada, Fernández launched the proposal for dialogue. Together for Change is unable to accept what it considers to be a poisoned dart from a weakened government. But there are still two years of Peronist administration left, and the certain possibility that the crisis will get out of hand could sour any project to return to power in 2023, when the presidential elections will be held. There is also the threat from the extreme right, which, boosted by the discontent and vote of the youngest, will be in Congress for the first time with five legislators.

The agenda will now be dominated by negotiations with the IMF, and that is where President Fernández is pointing. In a message recorded on Sunday, he announced the sending, by early December, of “a bill that spells out a multi-year economic program” that gives predictability to Argentina’s economic future. The president clarified that the plan has the approval of Cristina Kirchner and Sergio Massa, the president of the lower house and third leg of the coalition. Thus, he tried to clear up doubts about the political sustainability of his proposal.

“There was no formal call for dialogue. We do not understand the government’s message, ”said the head of the UCR and member of Together for Change, Alfredo Cornejo, on Monday. The former governor of Mendoza was one of the spokespersons for an emergency meeting in which opposition leaders analyzed the government’s offer. “The call was quite ambiguous, we do not know what type of agreement they are looking for or what type of agreement there will be with the IMF. They summon the opposition, but first they have to agree Cristina [Fernández de Kirchner] and Alberto [Fernández]”Added Cornejo. The opposition distrusts, above all, the willingness to dialogue of the vice president. They wonder if it will be willing to accept the fiscal adjustment that the IMF will demand and, above all, if it will stop torpedoing the management of its political dolphin.

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The background is not for optimism. Days after the official defeat in the primary and mandatory elections held in September, Kirchner forced a cabinet change that President Fernández resisted. Her strategy was scorched earth: she ordered the ministers who represent her to submit their resignation; and in a public letter he asked for the head of Santiago Cafiero, chief of ministers and right hand of the president. He even suggested the replacement: the governor of Tucumán, Juan Manzur. Alberto Fernández yielded in everything. That is the current framework of the call for dialogue.

“Is the letter of intent with the IMF going to be brought to Congress?” Asked opposition senator Martín Lousteau, an active member of the campaign, on Monday. “It is not clear what the government wants to discuss. Or is it going to send conceptual frameworks of what needs to be done to improve the situation the country is in? Will you talk about the delay in the rates [de servicios públicos]From the exchange system, we don’t know what it will send to Congress? ”he added.

The economic situation is dire. Inflation is around 50% per year and the peso loses value every day against the dollar. Restrictions on the purchase and sale of foreign currency barely stop the drain on the Central Bank’s international reserves, which are at a minimum. The only light that the Government sees at the end of the tunnel is an agreement with the IMF that at least provides investors with predictability.

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On election night, President Fernández ratified the Minister of the Economy, Martín Guzmán, the man who is talking to the Fund today and who has been in the sights of Cristina Kirchner since the electoral defeat in the primaries. In any case, what will reach Congress in December will not be the letter of intent with the multilateral, but the economic plan that Argentine negotiators will offer in Washington. Presidential sources told EL PAÍS that the idea is for this roadmap to be endorsed by Congress, to make it more credible to foreign eyes. It is not easy for Argentina to make long-term promises. In 2018, the IMF lent Mauricio Macri $ 57 billion, of which it gave $ 44,000. Only one year later, the country entered into default.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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