What Argentina's elections teach us

What Argentina's elections teach us

"Power is not an end, but a means to good governance."


As the presidential elections in Argentina came to a close last Sunday, Javier Milei's victory over Sergio Massa ratifies a pattern that has been consolidating in presidential elections in democratic countries: the evils of the present have outweighed the promises of the future, and the government machine has been losing importance in the elections.

If we look at the presidential elections in the Americas over the last few years, we can see a decline in the long-term hold on power. Once the greatest political asset, the government machine is no longer enough to win elections. The phenomenon of social networks, combined with the feeling of social and economic dissatisfaction at the time of the elections, is outweighing the political benefits of the government machine.

Milei, who defines himself as a libertarian, overcame two forces that have governed the country for the last two decades: Macrism and the Peronist-Kichnerist coalition. He ran a campaign that was unthinkable by traditional standards. Looking like an unbalanced bully dressed as a superhero, he ran a campaign that could be said to be aimed at children. With outlandish ideas such as dynamiting the Central Bank, adopting the US dollar as the standard currency, legalizing the sale of human organs and reviewing compensation for the military dictatorship in a country where there is a social, academic and judicial consensus on what state terrorism and crimes against humanity were, it seemed impossible for him to win.

However, Milei's victory highlights the growing demand for change and for non-traditional political figures, which points to voters' desire for leaders who are closer to the concerns and needs of the population and for profound transformations. They use anger, people's feeling that their lives are getting worse and worse, to establish the discourse of change. In the case of Argentina, the perception that there is a political caste that is getting richer and richer, while the people are getting poorer and poorer, catapulted Milei to victory.

If we compare this to Bolsonaro's victory in 2018, there are some interesting parallels. Both were elected as outsider candidates who presented themselves as agents of change, promising to break with the current political system. They attracted dissatisfied voters, using nationalist speeches and proposals for deep and radical changes, and with extensive use of social media. Picturesque characters who work for a less politicized and less engaged voter, and who has not been detected by the polls and the political universe.

Both Milei and Bolsonaro were weak candidates in terms of content and professionalism, incapable of running a bakery. This weakness, however, was used to their advantage. Bolsonaro in the episode of the stabbing that almost led to his death, and Milei for her shameful role in the electoral clash. Both won the sympathy of voters.

South America is divided between right and left, with a slight predominance of the left, with Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname as representatives. The right has been growing with victories in Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. What is striking is the constant alternation of power.

If we analyze the electoral period from 2019 to 2023, we will find a vast change of political positions in the region. In Argentina, the change from Alberto Fernandez (left) to Javier Milei (ultra-right); in Brazil, from Jair Bolsonaro (radical right) to Lula (left); in Chile, from Sebastian Piñera (right) to Gabriel Boric (left); in Colombia, from Ivan Duque (right) to Gustavo Petro (left); in Ecuador, Lenín Moreno (left) for Daniel Noboa (right); in Bolivia, Jeanine Añez (right) for Luis Acre (left); in Peru, Martin Vizcarra (right) for Dina Boluarte (left); in Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez (left) for Lacale Pou (right). The exceptions were Paraguay, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela, which maintained their political ideologies.

In the United States, Donald Trump pulled off a surprise in 2016 and won the presidential election. He was succeeded by Joel Biden in the 2020 elections and is now tipped as the favorite for the 2024 elections.

Political scientists attribute this alternation of power to the phenomenon of social networks.

In fact, social networks have become an important vehicle for electoral communication. Memes are the spearhead for reaching a younger and less politicized electorate. The battle for space on social media is fought out with cards, posts, entertainment and humor. These are ways of engaging those uninterested in reading long texts or content. However, the main factor driving a presidential election continues to be people's perception of their quality of life.

Therefore, the winner of an election needs to properly identify popular appeals. A good government shapes society, but only a government that is seen and perceived as generating an effective improvement in people's living conditions will be able to stay in power. In spite of the president-elect's showboating, there is no reason for Argentina to cry. The campaign rhetoric is mere illusion. Besides, Argentina has Messi.

About Author

Maurício Ferro

What do soccer, wine, law, politics, and economics have in common? Much more than you can imagine. And contrary to what the popular saying says, they can and should be debated and analyzed, yes. Welcome to Maurício Ferro's site, a channel to create and exchange thoughts and opinions. Maurício Ferro is a lawyer, graduated from PUC university in Rio de Janeiro, with a Master's degree and specializations from universities such as the London School and the University of London. He studied OPM at Harvard Business School. Author of published works in the commercial and capital markets areas, and acting in the Board of Directors of large companies, he based his legal and executive career with a focus on Business Law. But his passion goes beyond the corporate world. A passionate Flamenguista, Mauricio knows the ins and outs of the professional world of soccer and other sports. He is a partner in innovative companies such as 2Blive, a global startup focused on technological solutions to fill the education gap, especially in areas of great need such as Africa. He also invests in the Flow Kana company, based in California, and focused on the scientific production of cannabis for various purposes, such as medicinal, clothing production, or recreational use. To all these ingredients, add a deep knowledge of wine and the delicious ways of winemaking. That is the recipe for what you will find here.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *