For most of his first three years in office, Argentine President Mauricio Macri had every reason to believe he would easily coast to re-election in late 2019. But with less than a year to go before the vote, President Trump’s “old friend” and close ally in the region increasingly looks like he might end up a one-termer.
Argentina’s economy, which the center-right Mr. Macri, a wealthy businessman before his 2016 election, had promised to jump-start, stubbornly idles amid meager foreign investments and an inflation rate that tops 40 percent. A brutal drought has cut into agricultural production, and a Trump tax-cut-fueled boom in the U.S. and a rising dollar have sucked up investment money that once went to Argentina and other hot emerging markets.
By the count of Clarin — the country’s largest daily, and generally favorable to Mr. Macri — 18 of the president’s 20 main promises from his campaign remain unfulfilled.
With his approval numbers hovering in the 30 percent to 40 percent range, the president nevertheless strode with confidence this month as he gathered his followers at a rally widely billed as the unofficial kickoff of his re-election bid. Doubling down on his pro-business “path of change,” Mr. Macri insisted that Argentina had no realistic alternative.
“Nothing can be built without tenacity, without persisting,” he told some 1,200 officials of his Cambiemos coalition. “Like never before in my life, I’m am more and more sure — convinced — that this is it, that there is no other path.”
But Argentines’ patience with the 59-year-old president is running low, and that trend plays into the hands of Cristina Fernandez, Mr. Macri’s populist predecessor and political archrival, who is widely seen as readying for a comeback next year.