In contrast to the disputed result in Bolivia, and to the massive anti-government protests of the last week in Chile, last weekend’s two South American elections (both previewed here) seem to have proceeded smoothly.
In Argentina, as in Bolivia, it’s possible to win on the first round without having a majority of the vote, and someone did: Alberto Fernández, of the left-Peronist Everyone’s Front (Frente de Todos), has claimed victory with 48.1% of the vote (on 97.1% counted), 7.7% ahead of centre-right incumbent Mauricio Macri.
Although that’s a narrower margin than Evo Morales has been credited with in Bolivia, it’s much less of a concern. Firstly because Fernández is closer to an absolute majority (Morales had 47.1%); secondly because the votes of the third placegetter, right-Peronist Roberto Lavagna (6.2%), would be less likely to flow tightly.
But most obviously, because a narrow opposition victory simply doesn’t ring the same alarm bells as a narrow government victory. In fact, Macri has made history as apparently the first Argentine president ever to be defeated in a bid for re-election.
Fernández will take office with former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (no relation) as his vice-president. Fernández de Kirchner and her husband before her had held office for 12 years, from 2003 to 2015, a period that many voters evidently look back on favorably.
Neighboring Uruguay also produced the expected result. Daniel Martínez, of the ruling Broad Front (centre-left), had a clear lead with 40.7% of the vote, against Luis Lacalle Pou of the opposition National Party (centre-right) on 29.7%. They will now contest a runoff on 24 November.
That’s rather less of a lead than the Broad Front had last time, when its candidate, Tabaré Vázquez, almost avoided the runoff, winning 49.4% to Lacalle Pou’s 31.9%. On the second round, that gap narrowed to 13.3%; if the same narrowing were to happen again, Martínez would win with a bit over 53%.
But his position may be more precarious than that. In 2014, most of the remaining votes were with the (roughly centrist) Colorado Party. This time, however, the Colorado candidate, Ernesto Talvi, on 12.8% is only just ahead of Guido Manini Ríos, of the far right Open Cabildo, with 11.3%.
If Lacalle Pou wins the backing of the far right plus a reasonable share of the Colorado Party’s voters, he will be in a strong position. Just when there seems to be something of a shift back to the left elsewhere in Latin America, Uruguay is again defying the trend.
Uruguayans also voted on a citizen-initiated referendum to introduce a set of populist law-and-order measures, including life sentences for certain offences and the creation of a national guard. It was defeated, but nonetheless attracted 46.1% of the vote despite the opposition of the political establishment.