LATIN AMERICA

“Kirchnerites” lose in half of Argentina’s provincial legislatures but remain major governing force

Victory for dissident Peronist Massa opens way for a possible tilt at presidency

Sergio Massa, mayor of Tigre near Buenos Aires, kisses his wife Malena next to their children after the results of Sunday's legislative elections were announced.
Sergio Massa, mayor of Tigre near Buenos Aires, kisses his wife Malena next to their children after the results of Sunday's legislative elections were announced.ENRIQUE MARCARIAN / REUTERS

Candidates from the ruling Kirchnerite leftist coalition lost in half of the legislative districts in Argentina — including the country’s five most populous — which were up for grabs in Sunday’s midterm elections, according to the latest race results released on Monday.

Nevertheless, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will continue to enjoy an absolute majority in both chambers of Congress, which will take her through the last two years of her second term.

But her official Victory Front (FpV) will not hold the two-thirds majority in Congress required in order to reform the Constitution should the president wish to seek a third term. Fernández de Kirchner has not said whether she wants to run for re-election in 2015, but many FpV members have already ruled out this possibility after the poor showings in last August’s mandatory-vote primaries.

The biggest winner in Sunday’s election was Sergio Massa, the president’s former cabinet chief who broke away from the Kirchnerites to become leader of the Renewal Front, a separate Peronist faction.

With 42.6 percent of the votes won, the Renewal Front will hold a 16-seat majority in the important provincial legislature of Buenos Aires, where 37 percent of nation’s voters hail from. Massa, the mayor of Tigre, a town north of the capital, campaigned against his former boss’s policies, including those that have spiked inflation to 24 percent and seen the crime rate spiral to new heights.

President Fernández's bloc is short of the two-thirds majority required to change the Constitution

Fernández de Kirchner’s FpV took 32 percent of the votes in Buenos Aires, or 12 seats in the provincial legislature, despite the president’s overwhelming support for the official candidate, Martín Insaurralde. Fernández de Kirchner, however, was sidelined from campaigning earlier this month when doctors ordered her to rest after she underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot on her brain.

Massa, who served as cabinet chief from 2008 to 2009, hopes to use this victory to consolidate support across the country for a possible tilt at the presidency in 2015, a race that will still be fraught with difficulty.

Despite heavy losses in the provinces, the Kirchnerites — those who support the government — still comprise the major political force in Argentina. The FpV’s losses occurred in the provinces where Massa’s dissident Peronist grouping was victorious and where the Civic Radical Union (UCR) formed alliances with centrist and liberal parties or with the conservative Republican Proposal Party (PRO), which is headed by Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri.

At the national level, the FpV and its allies will now hold 132 seats in the 257-member Chamber of Deputies, followed by the UCR and its supporters with 54 seats and PRO with 18. Massa’s Renewal Front will hold 19 seats following this midterm election.

The Kirchnerites will also hold a majority 38 seats in the 72-member Senate, according to the latest official results.

In Córdoba province, Argentina’s second largest in terms of population, the dissident Peronists took 26 percent of the vote with the UCR getting 22.4 percent. The Kirchnerites garnered just 15.2 percent.

Socialist Hermes Binner, who formed a coalition with the UCR in Santa Fe province, the country’s third largest, claimed an overwhelming victory with 43.8 percent of the vote. Binner, who stood against Fernández de Kirchner in 2011, has said he will run again for president in 2015.

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