In previous legislative elections, the public could often anticipate a winner. In the 2017 Elections, however, it is unlikely that one party will come out on top. It might be the president, who could consolidate his power in Congress, or it might an opposition leader, who would be the challenger in the presidential elections.
Because a mid-term legislative election is mostly provincial, it will yield district winners and losers. It is true that the Cambiemos can use presidential power to influence provincial candidates lists, especially where provincial governors make their elections simultaneous with national elections. But there are more incentives for parties to adjust their electoral strategy based on circumstances in the local political territories where they compete. There can be electoral alliances with similar combinations across provinces, but they have enough variation to make gaining votes on a national level implausible.
Second, it is very likely that the composition of National Congress won’t be modified substantially. The ruling party will maintain its majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate will remain dominated by Peronism. Neither a legislative weakening nor a strengthening of the President’s party will come to pass. Furthermore, the institutional configuration of the Argentine federalism could generate more incentives for parliamentary cooperation. If new legislators are politically similar to the legislators who are about to end their terms, provincial delegations may be more inclined to collaborate with the presidency to achieve mutually beneficial joint agreements.
In the third place, it is possible that candidates from both CABA and Buenos Aires province will try to nationalize their campaigns. This, however, is generally a porteño phenomenon, and less applicable to the rest of the districts, whose campaigns are limited to local issues. Additionally, fragmentation and denationalization of Argentine politics makes national leadership less likely to become entrenched in provinces like Buenos Aires, which has electoral and institutional weight. The tripartite division of the electorate of Buenos Aires makes it difficult to generate a winner clear enough to present himself as someone who could consolidate the opposition vote in 2019.
Lastly, mid-term legislative elections dilute the electoral weight of urban centers (CABA, Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba y Mendoza) that usually decide the presidential election, and limit its influence in each district.
In summary, there are a lot of reasons to say that electoral results will give opportunities to a lot of district candidates to consider themselves winners. It is probable that those triumphs will not substantially modify the current institutional configuration, which will remain distributed between the ruling party and the opposition. In this polarized context, the 2017 elections will hardly contribute to consolidating a national leadership.
The 2017 elections will thus be a fascinating laboratory of political analysis. The provincial elections scene is heterogeneous: they vote for different public offices, with different voting technologies and vote counting systems and on different days. Half of the House of Representatives (127 deputies) and a third of the Senate (24 senators) will be renewed. The 24 provinces will vote for deputies; 8 of them also for senators. There are provincial deputy elections in 13 provinces. Also senators elections in 6. Electors from Corrientes and Santiago del Estero, who modified their electoral calendars after federal interventions in 1999 and 2005, will elect governors.
The ‘Primarias Abiertas Simultáneas y Obligatorias’ (PASO) are set to happen for the fourth time on August 13th. We will observe if they can contain and reduce fragmentation, and whether they will encourage or block internal competition. A hypothesis suggests that PASO are more frequently used to build coalitions and add partisan leadership (positive-sum). They can also become troublesome for internal leadership disputes in a party (zero-sum). In that case, the leader that dominates the party faces a bigger risk than the challenger, because he may lose control of the electoral roll.
Moreover, in Argentine provinces, there are differences between electoral rules and voting systems. As we have argued at CIPPEC, the way of voting matters. Voting tools impact the voter’s behavior due to the presentation of voting options. In 2017 elections, we use the same voting tools for national representative offices (straight-ticket voting), but for provincial offices the instruments are varied. Santa Fe’s citizens use boleta única. Salta and Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires have implemented an electronic vote. La Rioja votes with partisan ballots. In Salta, citizens have to vote by straight-ticket voting for national offices and by electronic vote for provincial, all in the same day.