There were a few surprises after last Sunday’s primaries in Argentina. But while the eyes of the country were all set on the unexpected surge of Esteban Bullrich in the Buenos Aires Province senatorial run which allowed him to, at least for now, beat former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, there was another result that was even more shocking and didn’t receive the coverage it deserved: the Rodríguez Saá family lost an election in the San Luis Province for the first time since 1985. And they lost it to the Cambiemos coalition.
But before we begin analyzing what went wrong for them, let’s take a quick look at the political career of the Rodríguez Saá brothers, Alberto and Adolfo: these two leaders of the Compromiso Federal Alliance — a part of the Justicialist, or Peronist, party — have ruled the province themselves or through allies ever since the return of democracy, in 1983. When one serves as acting governor, the other one is either a national senator or deputy. The only period during which neither occupied the province’s highest executive office was between 2011 and 2015, when the post was held by their then-protege and party member, Claudio Poggi.
The numbers of the Rodríguez Saá clan defeat make it all the more surprising: not only they lost with one of the two brothers — Adolfo — on the ticket, but they did so by almost 20 points, and against Poggi himself, who decided to run on his own.
Before being governor, Poggi led several ministries and held the Cabinet Chief post during the Rodríguez Saá tenures. However, after stepping down he decided to cut ties with them and join the Cambiemos coalition which he would end up representing on Sunday.
The Rodríguez Saá, on their end, made a controversial decision that may have contributed to their eventual fall from grace, at least after analyzing Sunday’s results: They joined forces with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, despite having been at odds with her during both of her administrations.
According to representatives from both camps, this unlikely alliance was a result of President Mauricio Macri’s rise to power: “Cambiemos is such a mess that it makes us Peronists cast our differences aside,” an aide of the Rodríguez Saá family told Clarín earlier this year as they tried to explain the logics behind their agreement with Cristina.
However, they both lost. And even though the brothers did so by a much wider margin than the former President, the defeats share an important similarity: should they repeat in October, they would much likely mean the end of their plans to run the San Luis province and the country in 2019, respectively.
After the elections, it was clear that the Rodríguez Saas had felt the blow: today, Alberto, the current governor, asked his cabinet cabinet to resign.
What’s now left to see is whether what happened in San Luis could happen again in other provinces with a similar history, districts in which parties that are run by Peronist families have managed their territories during the better part of the past decades. If you need an example, here you go:
- The Victory Front’s (FpV) defeat in Santa Cruz, stronghold of the Kirchner family since 1989.
- Cambiemos’ victory in La Pampa, a province that has been historically ruled by the Peronist party. 28-year-old Martín Maquieyra, who is running for a seat in the Lower House, was voted by almost 50 percent of the population, defeating the candidate supported by sitting governor Carlos Verna.
- The also unexpected win by Cambiemos in Neuquén, over the powerful Movimiento Popular Neuquino which, led by the Sapag Family, historically ruled the province and is currently doing so.
We still don’t know if the results from Sunday will be repeat in October’s midterms, but this would confirm a clear trend that began in the 2015’s elections with Mauricio Macri’s presidential victory in the country but especially with María Eugenia Vidal election in the Buenos Aires Province: a growing, nationwide discontent with Peronist parties that threaten to tumble the traditional establishment in several territories of the country, where as this didn’t really look possible only a couple years ago.
We’ll have to wait and see.