What Are Argentines Voting For this Sunday and How do the Primaries Work?

In Argentina, primary elections are not restricted to party members; rather, all citizens are mandated to take part, and are able to vote for any candidate they desire

Fuente: Dirección Nacional Electoral
August 13, 2023 | 03:00 AM

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Buenos Aires — As occurs in several countries around the world, presidential candidates in Argentina are chosen in primary elections. The “Primarias, Abiertas, Simultáneas y Obligatorias” (Open, Simultaneous, and Mandatory Primaries), abbreviated as PASO, are mandatory, and allow for citizens to vote for any candidate across the political spectrum. That is, unlike the United States primaries, Argentines above the age of 16 are free to vote for anyone they should desire, regardless of their party membership.

Political forces that muster at least 1.5% of the votes cast this Sunday, August 13, will be qualify for the general elections, scheduled for October 22. Within each party or coalition, the presidential and vice presidential candidates that get the most votes in the PASO will ultimately compete for office in October. In that sense, the primaries allow Argentines to choose which candidates they want to lead their party or coalition of preference.

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Whereas in previous elections almost all electoral alliances presented only one presidential ticket, in 2023 there are several political forces that will be resolving internal competition. In the primary of “Juntos por el Cambio” (Together for Change, or JxC), for instance, citizens will choose between two tickets: Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales; and former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and former lawmaker Luis Petri. The most voted ballot this Sunday will move on to represent JxC, the main opposition party, in the October elections.

A similar situation will unfold for the ruling coalition, “Unión por la Patria” (Union for the Homeland). The ticket led by Sergio Massa, the current Minister of Economy (alongside Agustín Rossi, currently Alberto Fernández’s Chief of Staff). They will face off on Sunday against social leader Juan Grabois and Paula Abal Medina.


Apart from determining which candidates will compete in the general elections in October, the PASO also serve as a nationwide poll, the same electorate and conditions are involved. The primaries not only reflect candidates’ competitiveness going forward, they can be decisive in signalling the end of a government.

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In 2019, for instance, the current President Alberto Fernández secured 47.79% of the votes in that year’s PASO (he had no internal competitors and was the sole candidate for his party). Former President Mauricio Macri claimed second place with 31.8% of the votes (he also had no internal competitors).

Given the significant margin of victory, analysts and the Argentine population did not hesitate to consider Alberto Fernández’s victory in the general elections as a given. Here it is important to note that if any candidate musters 45% of the vote in October, there is no run-off, and he is instantly declared the winner. This is why it is commonly said in Argentina that the PASO provide far more accurate insight of what’s ahead than any poll.

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PASO elections are considered open because all citizens, whether affiliated to a political party or not, participate in the candidate selection process. In the United States, on the other hand, only members of the Democratic or Republican parties vote in their party’s primaries. This isn’t the case in Argentina. Citizens must go to their designated polling stations and choose a political force (unless they prefer to cast a blank or null vote).


All candidates from different positions compete for their nomination in the general election simultaneously, on the same date and in the same electoral event. When citizens enter the voting booth, they encounter ballots from all parties and must choose one of them (unless they prefer to cast a blank or null vote).


All Argentine citizens between 18 and 70 years old are required to vote. Failure to vote can result in a cash penalty, and additionally, those who don’t vote cannot be appointed to public positions for three years. Individuals aged 16 to 18 and those over 70 can vote but aren’t obligated to do so.

There’s also an obligation for candidates. All parties wishing to participate in the general elections in October must take part in the PASO and surpass the 1.5% vote threshold.

Legislative Elections

During the August 13 PASO, candidates for the presidency are not the only ones being decided upon. Also, senators, deputies, and parliamentarians for Mercosur are selected. Moreover, certain provinces choose their governors, provincial legislators, municipal mayors, and council members.