LatinNews Daily - 23 April 2021

ARGENTINA: Elections postponed as pandemic takes hold

On 22 April Argentina’s main opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) agreed to push back the simultaneous and mandatory open primaries (Paso) and the federal legislative elections due later this year.

Analysis:

The decision to postpone the elections comes as Argentina is struggling to contain a second wave of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The political accord reached between the ruling Frente de Todos (FdT) coalition, led by the Partido Justicialista (PJ), and the JxC comes amid heightened political tensions over the measures taken by the administration led by President Alberto Fernández to slow the spread of Covid-19.

  • The interior minister, Eduardo de Pedro, proposed postponing the Paso from 9 August to 12 September, and the legislative elections from 24 October to 14 November.
  • The JxC, which comprises the centrist Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), the centre-right Propuesta Republicana (PRO) of former president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019), and the centre-left Coalición Cívica (CC), issued a statement agreeing to the postponement of the elections, while pointedly expressing the coalition’s willingness to “contribute to the best management of the pandemic”.
  • The JxC has been fiercely critical of President Fernández’s use of an urgent and necessary decree (DNU) on 15 April to impose a circuit-breaker lockdown for two weeks to contain the spread of the virus in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (Amba), where public schools have been closed and the federal police and military deployed to enforce an extended curfew. The JxC has accused Fernández of exceeding his remit and targeting the Amba because its main constituent part, the city of Buenos Aires (Caba), is run by the PRO politician Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
  • These tensions delayed talks over the postponement of the elections, with the FdT threatening to cancel the Paso altogether. Juan López, the head of the CC bench in the lower chamber, was particularly critical of the suggestion to cancel the Paso, which are enshrined in law, “in one fell swoop in an electoral year”.

Looking Ahead: With the JxC’s support, the requisite legislation will easily be approved in the lower chamber and the senate before a deadline of 10 May.