Opposition sectors kicked off the campaign with the slogan: "We’re only seven deputies away from being Venezuela." The surprise result in last Sunday’s vote not only banishes that possibility, it also deprives Frente de Todos of any majority in the lower house should those results be repeated in the November 14 midterms. It would see the ruling coalition drop to 117 seats or just one ahead of Juntos por el Cambio (barring any realignments ahead of the new deputies being sworn in come December).
The government would thus lose three deputies from its current caucus, falling 12 short of the 129 necessary for quorum. With an extra factor making majority-building even more complex – it will lose important allies where it used to seek the votes needed for its most resisted bills.
Juntos por el Cambio would stay put on 116 deputies although it could end up adding La Rioja’s Felipe Álvarez, allied to a PRO sector which finished third. If Mauricio Macri’s camp does recruit him, this would leave the two main coalitions even-steven in the lower house.
Hanging onto seats
Facing an uphill election, Frente de Todos will spend the next two months working to try and improve their performance, in order to hang onto more seats. There are provinces where they can regain part of the lost ground: San Luis (where the Rodríguez Saá brothers have already illustrated their ability to turn around a PASO primary defeat) and La Pampa (where they are betting on the winning Juntos por el Cambio list not being able retain the voters of the other four). In Neuquén and Río Negro, Frente de Todos is also close to picking up a seat. And both in Buenos Aires City and Province a few more votes could translate into seats.
Yet within that scenario, they would still be a long way off any majority. The minority caucuses which it is still hoping to convince could add 11 more seats, including the four Córdoba Peronists loyal to Governor Juan Schiaretti (who never supported any of the more controversial bills), two deputies of the Neuquén Popular Movement, two from Juntos Somos Río Negro, two more from the Frente Renovador de Misiones and a Santa Cruz dissident Peronist.
The new Congress could have four Frente de Izquierda (FIT) deputies on the extreme left and four liberals on the far right although these gains are precarious. FIT stands to gain two seats in Buenos Aires Province, one in the City (where Myriam Bregman has a wafer-thin margin) and one in Jujuy.
In the case of the liberals, or rather the libertarian right, it is two each for Javier Milei and José Luis Espert, although the latter faces the challenge of not slipping as in previous elections with a threshold of three percent of the electorate in Buenos Aires Province in order to qualify for seats, a threshold which sees Florencio Randazzo (3.7 percent of the vote) falling 75,000 votes short.
Cristina loses quorum?
Turning to the Senate, a repetition of last Sunday’s results in the November 14 midterms would see Frente de Todos losing its majority, a historic development in a chamber always controlled by the Peronists.
The coalition’s current caucus of 41 senators would pass to 35, when 37 are needed for quorum in the upper house led by Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Out of the eight provinces electing senators, Frente de Todos suffered defeat in six.
The heaviest blow comes from Chubut, where Juntos por el Cambio won with almost 40 percent of the vote as against 27 percent for Frente de Todos and 13 percent for the party of Governor Mariano Arcioni. Kirchnerism would go from having all three senators (in two different parties) to only one representing the minority. Attention was already being paid to the Patagonian province in anticipation of a possible Juntos por el Cambio triumph, but the margin was unexpected.
In Santa Fe the opposition likewise overwhelmed Peronism by a double-digit margin, a move that would leave Frente de Todos renewing two seats with only one.
Ditto in Corrientes and La Pampa. The former was anticipated, given the landslide win of re-elected Radical Governor Gustavo Valdés only a fortnight previously and the 59-34 percent margin for Juntos por el Cambio in last Sunday’s primaries is seen as irreversible for the November midterms. But La Pampa was a complete surprise – there the locally ruling Peronists are defending two seats and lost by 49 to 38 percent. Juntos por el Cambio presented five lists, thus making the election more attractive, and specialists are anticipating a closer result in November when the opposition must retain the votes of all these lists to ratify its triumph and take another senator away from Kirchnerism.
Córdoba is another province where Frente de Todos is losing out after coming third and a long way from finishing second, which would permit them to conserve their current seat, which would go to the party of Peronist Governor Juan Schiaretti.
Where there should be no changes is in the provinces of Tucumán and Catamarca, where the Peronists are winning and will hold onto their two seats, and in Mendoza, where Juntos por el Cambio will again win, leaving Kirchnerism with the minority senator.