What are the primary elections in Argentina that are voted this Sunday?

Primary elections in Argentina 2023

Argentines will define their candidates for the presidency this Sunday in primary elections, in advance of the October elections that face the Peronist ruling party and the right-wing opposition, as well as an anti-system libertarian who goes against everyone.

These are three keys to understanding the PASO (Simultaneous and Compulsory Open Primaries) elections:

What is chosen?

The primaries have been held in Argentina since 2009. But for the first time this year, voters from the two most important coalitions, the pro-government Unión por la Patria (Peronists) and the opposition Juntos por el Cambio (center-right), must choose between two applicants since in previous elections they were with a single candidate.

In Unión por la Patria, it is taken for granted that the Minister of Economy, Sergio Massa, will obtain the nomination against the leader of the social movements, Juan Grabois.

But in Together for Change, the analysts do not dare to advance a prognosis between the mayor of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta , seen as a moderate; and the former Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich , who defends a strong-arm policy.

“The great unknown is who will be chosen between Rodríguez Larreta and Bullrich. It is an open-ended election and that result will define the new electoral scenario,” said political analyst Carlos Fara. “Massa is going to win his internal election. That’s important for him, but it doesn’t change anything,” he added.

As a third force, the libertarian and far-right candidate Javier Milei stands out, without challenge within his Libertad Avanza party, but for whom it will be vital to obtain a high vote that shows his weight.

The primaries will also serve to designate the candidates for the partial elections of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, as well as for the mayoralty of the capital and the governorship of the province of Buenos Aires.

How does it affect the economy?

Argentines go to vote in a climate of economic deterioration, with one of the highest inflation rates in the world (115% year-on-year) and poverty that reaches 40% of the population.

Inflation is unlivable, but I don’t trust anyone to resolve such an economic issue,” Santiago Matos, an 18-year-old university student, told AFP.

Political uncertainty translates into nervousness in the markets and is reflected in the price of the “blue dollar”, as the informal exchange rate is known, which this week passed the psychological barrier of 600 pesos per dollar, double the official one.

“We are all to blame. It cannot be that we are running to buy dollars. Brazilians, Paraguayans, none of them use another currency than their own, here even to price a masonry job they refer to the dollar,” said Carlos Reyes, a 66 year old electrician.

Argentina has an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 44,000 million dollars, signed in 2018 and renegotiated in 2021.

Two weeks ago, Massa reached an understanding with the IMF to make the international reserve accumulation goals more flexible, which must still be ratified by the board of directors of the organization.

And everyone wonders what will happen the day after the election.

“A high vote from the opposition, a sign of a possible change of government, could reassure the markets. But if it is Peronism that gets first place, there will be a strong shock,” said Juan Negri, professor of Political Science at the University Torcuato di Tella.

40 years in democracy 

This year’s primaries open the electoral process that marks 40 years since the return to democracy, the longest period Argentina has experienced.

And although citizens value democratic freedoms, they show some skepticism regarding the ability to deal with their daily problems, according to opinion studies.

“In Argentina there is a democratic recession or civic disaffection. For several years the lack of interest in the election itself has been accentuating,” said political scientist Paola Zubán, who predicts a lower electoral participation than four years ago (76%), despite to the obligation to vote.

There is a lack of enthusiasm. And in the primaries we expect a very visceral vote, from emotion,” said Zubán.

After years immersed in polarization, which Argentines baptized “crack”, this election will be the first without former presidents Cristina Kirchner or Mauricio Macri, tutelary figures of the Peronist alliance and its opponent Juntos por el Cambio.

“For me, the traditional leaderships are exhausted. This government was bad and the previous one too,” summarized José Consiglio, a 42-year-old lawyer.