Argentina faces a major decision in this year’s presidential election: Stay on the current market-friendly path or reverse course.
Voters in South America’s second-largest nation will cast their ballots in a primary vote on Aug. 11. It’s a key gauge for the first round of voting on Oct. 27, and a potential runoff vote between the top two candidates on Nov. 24.
Argentines will be choosing mainly between President Mauricio Macri and his top opponent, Alberto Fernández, the front-runners of the election according to polls. Macri, 60, has restored credibility in Argentina and earned the support of the international community, including U.S. President Donald Trump and the International Monetary Fund. However, he failed to fulfill most of his economic promises, and Argentines are suffering under double-digit unemployment and annual inflation of more than 50 percent.
Key dates in the 2019 Argentine elections
- August 11: PrimaryAlso known as the PASO, the national primary is the first key event in the Argentine election. The primary is effectively a major nationwide poll: Political parties have already chosen their candidates for each office. Voter participation is mandatory, meaning the outcome will indicate potential support ahead of the October vote.
- October 27: ElectionsTo win Argentina’s election in the first round, the lead candidate must receive either 45% of the vote or 40% with more than 10 percentage points separating the candidate who received the next highest total. If no candidate reaches these thresholds, there is a runoff vote between the top two candidates.
Elections for the Congress and some key governor races—including the province of Buenos Aires—also take place on this date.
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- November 24: RunoffIf no candidate gets enough votes for a first round victory, the runoff will take place a month later and the winner will be decided by simple majority.
Argentina is slowly recovering from a crippling recession that caused inflation and unemployment to soar as the nation’s currency plunged. A mix of factors—a historic drought, policy mistakes and market selloffs, among others—dragged the country into its second downturn during Macri’s presidency.
Key economic indicators since the start of Macri’s administration
Fernández is reviving fears that populism could return to Argentina. His running mate, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, governed from 2007 to 2015 with protectionist policies. A currency crisis where the peso lost more than half its value greatly undermined Macri’s political standing, putting Fernández in position to beat him and overturn his pro-business ways.
The major candidates for president
Mauricio Macri and Miguel Pichetto
Mauricio Macri, a wealthy heir to a construction empire, stunned the nation with his surprise, come-from-behind election victory in 2015. Before that, he was mayor of the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires, from 2007 to 2015. His vice president pick, opposition senator Miguel Pichetto, a Peronist, could help Macri push much-needed economic reforms through Congress if they win.
Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Alberto Fernández, also 60, was the cabinet chief from 2003 to 2008 for all of the late Néstor Kirchner’s presidency and the beginning of Cristina’s tenure. Fernández has never won a national election.
Cristina, as she’s commonly known, remains one of Argentina’s most polarizing and popular figures despite running for vice president.
Roberto Lavagna and Juan Manuel Urtubey
Behind the front-runners, Roberto Lavagna, 77, a former economy minister of Néstor Kirchner, is trying to appeal as an alternative option for Argentines unconvinced by both Macri and Kirchner.
All eyes will be on voters in and around Buenos Aires during the primary and beyond. The province of Buenos Aires is the country’s most populous district, with 37% of the electorate, and it’s seen as a key battleground in the race.