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  • Writer's pictureClarissa Sung

The Economy: A Major Player in Argentina’s 2023 Presidential Elections

Argentina President Alberto Fernandez announces he will not run for re-election amidst severe criticism for his handling of the economy (Nicolás Aboaf, Wikimedia Commons).

Just four months before the October presidential elections, Argentina faces high-stakes political tensions amid an inflation rate of over 100 percent and an exceptionally unpopular administration. The economic crisis, which has left four of every ten citizens in poverty, is the chief issue in what is already shaping up to be a historic and unconventional election.

The Economic Crisis

Precipitated in early 2002 by a variety of economic factors, such as the abandonment of the fixed exchange rate and a default on public debt, the Argentine financial crisis has generated mass public outcry. For many, perpetually changing prices and exchange rates make day-to-day survival an arduous task. In Buenos Aires, many storekeepers use chalkboard signs rather than paper menus to keep up with daily price fluctuations. It is common practice for Argentines to convert their pesos to safer U.S. dollars on paycheck day, sometimes on the black market where the conversion rate is over double that of the official fixed rate.

From a demographics standpoint, surging inflation rates and economic stagnation have taken a heavy toll on Argentine consumers, businesses, and even its highest levels of government. Soaring consumer prices, in particular, have pushed many to the brink of everyday survival. “It's a juggling act to survive here,” resident Ana Vasquez reported to NPR. Indeed, skyrocketing poverty rates accompanying rising inflation demonstrate the severity of high costs of living and the inefficacy of government solutions. Amid a 75 percent disapproval rating, incumbent center-left President Alberto Fernandez announced in late April that he would not seek reelection in this year’s presidential elections.

The Election

With President Fernandez out of contention for 2023, his coalition—the Peronists—have put forward economy minister Sergio Massa as its 2023 candidate in what Reuters reporter Carolina Pulice describes as “a major political twist.” As economy minister, Massa has managed an economy that, statistically, has only worsened under his leadership. This fact is a sticking point among many of Massa’s opponents, such as conservative Patricia Bullrich, who posted on Twitter, “The arsonist applies to be the firefighter.”

The Opposition

Massa’s most prominent opposition stems from the conservative Propuesta Republicana (PRO) party, led by former security minister Patricia Bullrich and mayor of Buenos Aires Horacio Larreta. A center-right, pro-business candidate, as well as one of the founders of the PRO, Laretta has campaigned on the promise of a free-floating exchange rate to aid the economy’s ills. Bullrich is known to be more right-leaning than Laretta and has gained popularity for her strict security policies and presented herself as somewhat of a contrast from the traditional establishment.

Also in serious contention is far-right libertarian candidate Javier Milei from La Libertad Avanza (LLA). A self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” Milei has found popularity in championing politically radical policies such as eliminating the central bank, switching Argentina’s currency from the peso to the U.S. dollar, privatizing state-owned industries, and reducing government expenditures by 10 percent of Argentina’s GDP. A firmly anti-establishment candidate known for railing against the “political caste,” Milei draws support from voters disillusioned with the failures of both the center-right previous administration and center-left Fernandez administration to effectively deal with the economic crisis. Fuelled by increasing desperation from a suffering population, Milei stands a real chance of winning the presidency, with a recent Electoral Observatory poll showing him at 15 percent (behind the leading candidate Bullrich at 26 percent but ahead of Laretta at 14 percent).

Looking Ahead

Argentines have an eventful and important election season ahead of them. While many analysts are predicting a general shift to the right in response to the economic shortcomings of the current leftist administration, a sufficiently center candidate may also stand a chance. The unconventional popularity of radical candidates such as Milei also demonstrates many Argentines’ desires for a dynamic change in their government that should not be taken lightly. In any case, Argentina’s elections come during a pivotal period as runaway inflation and rising poverty continue to plague the nation. Its next leader must be prepared to embark on a critical race against the clock to stabilize the Argentine currency and economy as millions of livelihoods, as well as Argentina’s global economic standing, hang in the balance.



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