Latin America

Kirchnerite candidates triumph in one of Argentina’s poorest provinces

Gubernatorial primaries in Chaco seen as a bellwether for October presidential race

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in April.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in April.A. Z. / AP

A party aligned with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government was the big winner after residents of the Argentinean province of Chaco went to the polls on Sunday in a mandatory vote for gubernatorial primary candidates.

The results from Chaco – one of Argentina’s poorest provinces – were seen as a test of support for Fernández de Kirchner’s ruling Front for Victory alliance, which hopes to retain the presidency in general elections scheduled for October 25.

Fernández de Kirchner chalked up a second victory following last week’s primaries in Salta

Nearly 61% of the vote went to four candidates from parties affiliated with the Kirchnerite-Peronist faction, while an opposition coalition garnered 36.9% of the counted ballots.

Chaco voters will go back to the polls on September 20 to elect their governor – one month after the nation casts its ballots in presidential primaries in which all Argentineans eligible to vote are obliged to participate.

Supporters of Fernández de Kirchner chalked up a second victory following last week’s primaries in northwestern Salta province, where the majority of voters also cast ballots in favor of the current Kirchnerite-Peronist governor.

The real battle will be in Buenos Aires province, where 37 percent of the voting population lives

The two election wins in Chaco and Salta – another poor province – show that President Fernández de Kirchner has broad support among many less wealthy Argentineans even though both regions together only account for five percent of the entire country’s electorate.

The real presidential election battle will be in Buenos Aires province, where 37 percent of the voting population lives. Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, who is aligned with the Kirchnerite-Peronists, will be running in August’s presidential primaries there.

Fernández de Kirchner is banned under the Constitution from running for a third consecutive term. She has denied that she may run again in 2019.

Next month and in July, voters in Argentina’s four richest and central districts – the city of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza and Santa Fe – will go to the polls to elect their respective heads of local government.

Analysts predict that the Kirchnerite-Peronist candidates will suffer crushing defeats in those areas. Nevertheless, in 2011, the divided opposition won in the regional races but Fernández de Kirchner went on to triumph in the presidential elections, giving her a second term in office.

Analysts predict that the Kirchnerite-Peronist candidates will suffer crushing defeats next month

In Chaco, the gubernatorial candidate that received the most votes on Sunday was Domingo Peppo of the Chaco Merece Más (Chaco deserves more) grouping with Daniel Capitanich – whose brother Jorge is the current governor and a former presidential Cabinet chief – on the ticket for vice governor.

Aída Ayala, of the Vamos Chaco front, won 36.9% of the vote despite receiving the support of opposition officials such as the conservative Buenos Aires mayor, Mauricio Macri, who is also scheduled to run in the presidential primaries.

Chaco Governor Jorge Capitanich was also predicted to enter in the presidential primaries on a Kirchnerite-Peronist ticket, but instead settled for a run for the mayor’s office in the provincial capital of Resistencia, earning a resounding victory in the primaries for that post on Sunday.

“I want to dedicate the people’s support to the president,” he said.

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Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo, who is running against Scioli in the primaries, traveled to Chaco to celebrate the local victories with Capitanich.

“The people of Chaco have voted in favor of the [Kirchnerite] project and we hope they will continue to support us in the general elections,” Randazzo said.

With no official statistics concerning poverty in the country, it is difficult to measure the socio-economic status of Chaco’s residents. Different figures have come from different analysts.

The government-backed Center for Economic and Social Studies has reported that poverty in Argentina’s northeastern region – where Chaco is located – dropped from 62.4% in 2003 to 24.6% 10 years later. But the center also claimed that it rose to 26.3% last year following a devaluation of the Argentinean peso.

Yet the Institute for Social, Economic and Citizens’ Policy Research – a body that is affiliated with the opposition – has stated that the province’s poverty rate has recently climbed to 49.6%.