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Macri Closed the Political Year Unofficially Kicking Off the 2019 Presidential Race

By | [email protected] | December 16, 2018 12:03pm

14-12-2018_buenos_aires_el_presidente_mauricio(1)Photo via Telam

President Macri’s Cambiemos coalition wants to quickly forget 2018, a year in which it could not deliver practically any good news to the Argentine people. Perhaps that is why on Thursday, speaking before government officials from the City and Province of Buenos Aires, as well as the federal government, President Mauricio Macri said that next year – in which Macri is up for reelection – the Argentine people will “confirm” that his government is on the right path.

Macri, once again visibly emotional when the auditorium erupted in chants of “Argentina, Argentina,” – requested that all officials present that day “recharge their batteries” during the holidays because as 2019 approaches, Cambiemos prepares to enter the field in which it likes to play the most: the campaign field.

Argentines throughout the country’s 24 jurisdictions will likely head to the polls in for 10 months: the La Pampa Province will hold the first primaries of the year in February and, if the presidential elections end up with a runoff, the next president will be elected in November.

President Macri’s PRO party (a part of the Cambiemos coalition) has not lost a single election since 2005, and will try to use its well oiled-up campaigning machinery, led by Ecuadorian strategist Jaime Duran Barba, to win a second term in the Casa Rosada.

However, this campaign will likely be one of the most challenging of them all. A yearly inflation rate that is projected to clock in close to 50 percent, a devaluation that made the peso lose half of its value, and salaries that were not close to catching up with these variables – for those who did not lose their jobs, that is – are more than discouraging variables.

However, same as it happened in the 2017 midterms, Cambiemos officials expect that a mild economic recovery by the time of the elections will be enough to attract the undecided and contain the disillusioned voters. Treasury and Finance Minister Nicolás Dujovne assured this will be the case.

Optimistic analysts – although there are not many – indicate that, boosted by a good tourist season and a prolific harvest should help the economy return to a growing trend by the second quarter of 2019. Nonetheless, it will be a while before the numbers go back to being green. Most international organizations – such as the IMF and the OECD – expect for the economy to shrink by more than 1 percent in 2019.

Cambiemos won’t have much to work with, but throughout 10 months, and in each and every one of the elections, the coalition will try to convey the message that, even if the results are not there, the country is going down the right path. The provincial elections will serve as a preview of what’s to come.

The elections’ outcome will be largely conditioned by whether former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner runs, and whether all factions of the Peronist party organize an – unlikely – primary to choose a single candidate that could have better chances of beating Macri. But before focusing on this, Cambiemos will have to polish its speech as much as it can. After four years in office, it will not have much to show for, except for rhetoric and the promise of a better future.