Buenos Aires (AFP), November 14 – Argentina’s center-left President Alberto Fernandez has called for dialogue with the opposition following Sunday’s midterm legislative elections, with projections showing his ruling coalition has lost control of Congress.
Prior to the election, there was widespread discontent over the state of the economy, which has been in recession since 2018 and has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Already in the minority in the Chamber of Deputies – the lower house – Fernandez’s Frente de Todos (Front de tous) coalition should go from 41 to 35 seats in the 72-member Senate, based on projections with more than 90% of the vote. counted.
“If the numbers are confirmed, we have effectively lost the quorum in the Senate,” a government source told AFP.
It would be the first time since Argentina’s return to democracy in 1983 that Peronism – a left-wing movement based on former President Juan Peron that now covers a wide range of political leanings – would not have a majority in the Senate.
Fernandez will now likely be forced to make concessions to the opposition in the last two years of his tenure in order to pass laws or make key appointments, including within the judiciary.
“We have to prioritize national agreements if we are to resolve the challenges we face,” Fernandez said, adding that he would approach opposition groups to try to find common ground.
“A responsible opposition open to dialogue is a patriotic opposition.
Almost half of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies were up for grabs, along with a third of the seats in the Senate, in Sunday’s vote.
Interior Minister Wado de Pedro said turnout in compulsory elections ranged from 71 to 72 percent.
– “Difficulty coming” –
Fernandez has been on the defensive since the Frente suffered a stinging defeat in the September primaries, garnering just 33% of the vote against 37% for the main opposition group Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change), led by the Fernandez’s predecessor, Mauricio Macri. .
“The next two years are going to be difficult,” Macri said on Sunday, while assuring voters that his coalition “will act with great responsibility.”
Fernandez “will have to negotiate law by law,” said Raul Aragon, a political scientist at the National University of La Matanza.
He predicted that the opposition would be open to talks.
“It will not help them not to dialogue and appear undemocratic” before the presidential elections of 2023, said Aragon.
Since the primaries, the government has been in damage-containment mode, last month announcing an agreement with the private sector to freeze the prices of more than 1,500 basic commodities following street protests demanding larger food subsidies.
It has also increased the minimum wage and family allowances.
Government supporters have been forced to keep a low profile during the long pandemic lockdowns.
But pro-government unions and social organizations recently announced that they will demonstrate on Wednesday in support of Fernandez, regardless of the election results.
– IMF debt looming –
Argentina’s GDP fell 9.9% last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The country has one of the highest inflation rates in the world, at 40 percent so far this year, and a poverty rate of 42 percent for a population of 45 million.
“I fear for the economy,” pastry chef Oscar Navarro told AFP on Sunday, without revealing his vote.
“Wages are not enough. Whoever wins, it will take a long time for the country to recover. ”
The government is also in the midst of a delicate renegotiation with the International Monetary Fund over the repayment of a $ 44 billion debt, initially guaranteed by the Macri government in 2018.
“In this new phase, we will intensify our efforts to reach a lasting agreement with the IMF,” Fernandez said.
He said the country needed to overcome “uncertainties over unsustainable debt,” while creating jobs and reducing inflation.
If Fernandez fails to meet a new repayment schedule, Argentina will have to repay $ 19 billion in 2022 and the same in 2023.