It carried the strong aroma of potential change, one that’s only made sweeter after 12 years of die-hard Kirchnerism.
With over 97 percent of the votes counted, the candidate backed by President Cristina Kirchner, Daniel Scioli, emerged in first place with 36.86 percent of the vote. A Pyrrhic victory, considering the 34.33 percent secured by his conservative rival, Mauricio Macri, of the opposition Let’s Change coalition. Macri even led in the polls for a good part of the night.
It was a huge surprise. No pollster could have imagined that Macri would only lose by two points. Only days ago, most polls showed Macri trailing by six points behind Scioli. Now the two candidates will square off in a runoff set for November 22, and Marci is in a strong position to pull ahead.
That’s the reason why, during the first few minutes of Monday, October 26, when election authorities first released preliminary results that showed Marci in the lead, euphoria overwhelmed the people of Buenos Aires.
Macri, the current mayor of the Argentinean capital, won a clear victory in the town he has governed for eight years with 50.55 percent, doubling Scioli’s 24.09 percent.
The first indications of Macri’s strong performance exhilarated the residents of various neighborhoods throughout the city, where people began making loud noises, honking their car horns, and shouting “Vamos Argentina!” (Let’s go Argentina) and “Viva la patria!” (Long live Argentina).
But why did porteños react so viscerally, as if they were experiencing great relief? Why did Macri garner such intense support?
Let’s be clear: Macri is not a liberal; never has been, and never will be. He’s a statist, just like every other Argentinean politician. As mayor of Buenos Aires, he raised taxes, created a Ministry for Modernization in order to “modernize” bureaucracy, and increased the budget for “official advertising,” which could easily be confused for political propaganda.
Beyond that, he promised to keep the state-run Aerolíneas Argentinas under government control, and pledged to not only not reduce subsidies for the airline, but expand them.
However, unlike the Kirchneristas, he is at least open to debate. He promised, if elected president, to offer press conferences and not just national broadcasts like Kirchner, and has talked about promoting entrepreneurship.
He has said that he will combat inflation, unlike the current government that denies the problem even exists and doctors the official numbers. He has vowed to bring in investment by establishing clear rules and legal security.
Without much philosophical rhetoric or ethical arguments, like the pragmatist that he is, he believes socialism doesn’t work.
Should he win the runoff, his administration will likely focus on public works, like he’s done in Buenos Aires. However, Marci’s utilitarianism will never be enough to answer the hard ethical questions.
Nevertheless, this is an excellent opportunity for liberalism to come out of its shell after so many years of being crushed by socialist propaganda in the region. It’s a key moment to provide moral arguments to clarify confusing political discourse. The public should feel encouraged to help in this intellectual fight to defend capitalism and human rights.
A ray of light has emerged amid the hurricane. Just as we were starting down at another trying four years of Kirchnerism, a large part of the public stepped on the brakes and potentially changed the course of our country.
All the ingredients are there. On November 22, it’s time to turn up the heat.