Everything You Need to Know About Argentina’s Primary Elections This Sunday

What are the primaries for and what is at stake as Argentines head to the polls on August 13th. Find out who the main candidates are and what markets are anticipating

Everything You Need to Know About Argentina’s Primary Elections This Sunday
By Bloomberg Línea
August 07, 2023 | 12:00 AM

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Buenos Aires — Argentines will take to the polls on August 13th for the Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory Primary Elections (known as the PASO in Spanish), which will narrow down the final candidates for the general elections that will take place on October 22. Votes will be cast this Sunday for the categories of president and vice-president, national senators (in eight provinces), lower house representatives and Mercosur parliamentarians.

Fifteen political groups will take part in the elections this week. The raison d’etre of the PASO is for voters to choose which candidate they prefer within the same political party or coalition. This year, however, only seven out of the 15 contending political forces have put forward more than one presidential candidate.

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How do the primary elections work in Argentina?

The PASO system was established in 2009, during Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s first term in office, when a bill on Democratization, Political Representation, Transparency and Electoral Fairness was signed as law. They were implemented for the first time in the 2011 presidential elections.

The purpose of the primaries is to “regulate” which parties are qualified to run in the general elections: those that muster at least 1.5% of valid votes cast in the August primaries are ultimately able to contend for election in October. The law states that the PASO intend to encourage “the formation of alliances and coalitions, and help to outline the possible relationship of forces among electoral competitors”.

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The PASO also define the configuration of each party’s list of legislative candidates.

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What will be decided on August 13th?

The elections on this Sunday, August 13, will actually not result in the election of any officials in Argentina, but rather the candidates who will compete for those positions on October 22.

Parties and coalitions that sur 1.5% will participate in these elections and, in those cases where there is an internal election, the list that obtains the most votes will be presented.

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In the case of the lists for national lawmakers, each party agrees on how to merge ballots after the primaries, usually following the D’Hondt system of higher average to allocate seats.

Some of the ballots ƒor this Sunday's elections.dfd

These are the main candidates

            • Unión por Patria: Sergio Massa - Agustín Rossi
            • Unión por Patria: Juan Grabois - Paula Abal Medina
            • Juntos por el Cambio: Horacio Rodriguez Larreta - Gerardo Morales
            • Juntos por el Cambio: Patricia Bullrich - Luis Petri
            • La Libertad Avanza: Javier Milei - Victoria Villarruel
            • Hacemos por Nuestro País: Juan Schiaretti - Florencio Randazzo
            • Frente de Izquierda: Myriam Bregman - Nicolás del Caño
            • Frente de Izquierda: Gabriel Solano - Vilma Ripoll
            • Movimiento al Socialismo: Manuela Castañeira - Lucas Ruiz
            • Principios y Valores: Guillermo Moreno - Leonardo Fabre

How does the renewal of Congress work?

In addition to president and vice-president, national legislators are also elected in this election to renew the two chambers of Congress: the Senate and the Lower House.

Half of the Lower House is renewed every two years, with 130 seats are at stake in the general elections in October. Unión por la Patria, the government party that currently has 118 seats, has 68 lawmakers’ seats at stake, while Juntos por el Cambio risks 49 of its 116 seats.

The rest of the seats at play are in the hands of minority forces. A total of 129 seats are needed to guarantee a quorum and a simple majority.

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This election also renews one third of the Senate, which is composed of 72 senators. Senators will be elected in eight provinces in 2023, with three seats distributed per district, two of which go to the most voted party and the third for the second place party.

Este recinto jugará un rol clave en los próximos añosdfd

Juntos por el Cambio currently has 33 senators, of which eleven are at stake in this year’s elections. In October, Juntos must secure 15 seats to reach the 37 that guarantee a quorum and a simple majority in the Upper House. For this to happen, it must -at least- win the election in seven provinces and come second in an eighth.

For Unión por la Patria the challenge is steeper. It currently has 31 seats, after five of its senators broke away from the coaltion this year. Ten of its seats are at stake. That is to say, Unión por la Patria will have to win in eight provinces to reach the 37 seats that guarantee the quorum and the simple majority.

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Expectations of a market friendly government

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s decision to support Sergio Massa’s candidacy has cemented an expectations in markets that the next president will have a moderate profile and, in general terms, will be inclined to market friendly policies.

The first market reaction after candidacies were formally presented was a rally, which subsequently dissipated, as the doubts regarding the fragility of the Argentine economy came back to the fore. However, the signals given by Juntos por el Cambio’s candidates, together with Massa’s recent agreement with the IMF, are signs that a market friendly government will be likely as of 2024.