The question of the election
Por Ignacio Fidanza
Beyond the polls, the Argentinian presidential election holds a key question: What is the ideal option to escape the economic crisis?

 The main pollsters are registering a recovery in the vote intention for President Mauricio Macri and some, like Synopsis, are already talking of a tie in the second round, against Alberto Fernández and former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's (no relation) ticket. But even this outcome highlights that the President is still behind the former President's formula by four points, who is a few tenths over the forty percent.

This second fact is important because the result of the primary election is most likely to impact the political process opened from that moment until the second round. As well as in the dollar rate. "The currency has been tossed and Sandleris will define", jokes a Wall Street analyst, who is convinced that the exchange rate stability is the key for Macri to remain in the competition.

Now, this poll -among others- has to be read with caution, as if we were manipulating poisonous vermin. Not because of its origin, but because it is clear that the election has not started inside the people's minds, who are still more worried about facing the effects of the Argentinian economic crisis in their everyday lives.

That is, this "feeling" running through the political landscape, that this is going to be a close election, might just be that when it is time to count the votes.

The last provincial elections point out a significant decline in votes for Cambiemos, President Macri's party: in places where they lost in 2015, Peronism has now broaden the difference. In some of the places where they won in 2017, this year they lost. To worsen matters, this electoral deterioration reached the large urban centers, which were a stronghold for Macri. It is possible that this drop is linked to the punishment the middle class suffered in their income. We are talking about votes here, not polls.

But the Casa Rosada holds its narrative. These are two separate elections. Many of those Peronist opposition governors that swept in their provinces are closer to Macri than to Cristina. If this is so, so far it has not been seen in reality, except for Schiaretti. The photographs of Peronist governors with Alberto Fernández are increasingly common and even Santa Fe native Omar Perotti has said he supports him, just like LPO had anticipated. There was no shortlist, and no wink to Macri. And that is just one example.

Perhaps the Government is hurting itself more than necessary when they dwell in forced "interpretations" that then reality turns into announced defeats.

But it would be a mistake to call the election at this stage. It is more interesting to find out what question the election holds. In every electoral process, an alpha question lies beneath.

In this case, it is highly probable that such query circles around whoever proposes the best way out of the current crisis. Every qualitative survey indicates that economic problems prevail: employment, inflation, poverty, a drop in purchasing power.

The government, of course, will make efforts to achieve that at least a portion of what the voters think includes the "Venezuela Risk", "the Madness", and uncontrolled corruption they tried to associate with Kirchner. Not to minimize the impact of these topics, but for the Casa Rosada, the virtuous sum is an ordered economy plus the moral issues. One against the other means an open ending and that is what we are living.

The government can present a certain financial normalization, especially in the exchange rate, but not in the interest rate. Added to that is the lowering of the inflation and the faint signals of economic recovery, thanks to the farmers. But industrial activity, commerce, and consumer confidence are still in very, very bad shape.

Are we stepping out of the tunnel, then? Would it be a monumental error to change the direction of the train after all the efforts? Or is the tunnel, actually, a highway to the bottom of the sea?

That was why the announcement of the Mercosur agreement with the European Union was such a relief for the government. Because it can be showcased as ratification towards the chosen course, as a landmark in the building of the globalized and modern country which Macri promised and has not, as of yet, showed up.

The chosen course for the economy is part of the question, maybe the other, deeper one is: Is Macri going to be able to do what he could not during his first administration thanks to the map traced by this electoral process, and which features a refreshed Peronism? And if he can not, how possible are recovery and reform? These are questions, don't get angry.

On the other side, there are not so many doubts about political power. Peronism, we already know, gets in order from the power, which, truthfully, this time is two-headed, right?

But from the economic point of view, the questions that Kirchnerism drops, at least for the markets, climb to the very top. Associated with said queries is the geopolitical landscape, which, like Cristina herself acknowledged when she stepped out of the race to take the VP candidacy, today is against them. From Peronism, of course, they affirm that this situation was created by Macri and his policies, and the country can only grow again by changing a model which they define as financial. But they know that their last experience in power was so unsatisfying that it allowed for Macri to rise.

That is why Cristina's move in enthroning Alberto Fernández is only understandable with the inclusion of Sergio Massa. Showing what he proposes is something different, and above all, a turn to the center. But it is also electoral math 101 to overpass an election that questions the who's and hows.

So, what road is the most viable to step out of the economic crisis? It is likely that whoever offers the best answer to said question, in the broadest possible way, might be the next President of Argentina. 

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