The recently elected members of Argentina’s new congress will be taking the oath on 3 December, and numbers show that the current coalition of president Cristina Fernandez, Victory Front, will retain the first minority in the Lower House, while it will enjoy a comfortable majority in the Senate.
In other words the next Argentine president, to be elected in the 22 November runoff, be it incumbent Daniel Scioli or opposition candidate Mauricio Macri will have a rough time getting bills through congress given the Lady’s legislative power.
At this stage, and given a raft of events and incidents, it’s not clear whether Cristina Fernandez effectively wants her candidate Scioli to win, or if she is preparing for a strong populist comeback following a four year ‘sabbatical’.
Argentine analysts do not discard this option, (admitted by some low ranking Kirchnerite followers), given her future stand in Congress, the legislative clamp imposed on negotiations with holdout speculative funds and last minute incorporations to the National Auditing office (taking advantage of her current majority) as well as attempts to fill all possible vacancies with ‘friendly’ judges and prosecutors.
However in Congress, and under Argentine electoral rules, the Lower House with 257 members is 50% renewed every two years, while the 72 Senators, whose mandate lasts six years, a third at a time. The new congress begins deliberations on 10 December when the elected president takes the oath before the two houses, acting as a national assembly.
The Lower House will be receiving 130 new lawmakers (including those who repeat), which means the new legislature will have 98 Victory Front members, the Radical party 43, Mauricio Macri’s PRO 41, and the Renewal Front of Sergio Massa (who managed 22% of votes as presidential candidate in the first round) 27.
Summing up this means that if Macri if finally elected to replace Cristina Fernandez he will have a fragile “Let’s change” block of 90 seats in the Lower House.
The remaining seats belong to small parties, among which some radical groups, but also mainly provincial, which lobby for handouts from the central government for their districts, and so far most of them have aligned behind the ruling coalition from the moment that Cristina Fernandez signs the checks. In other words a volatile, accommodating group of lawmakers which are needed to muster the quorum number of 129 in the Lower House.
Nevertheless it should be an interesting ceremony since among the newcomers to take the oath as lawmakers are the president’s son: Maximo Kirchner; the current Economy minister and one of Cristina Fernandez closest aides, Axel Kicillof; the same with Julio De Vido, a faithful Kirchner family minister; outgoing governors Jose Luis Gioia from San Juan, Mauricio Closs, Misiones and Luis Beder Herrera, La Rioja, and last but not least Andres Larroque, chairman of La Campora, the youth organization under total command of Maximo Kirchner (and mother Cristina), which has been rewarded with strategic posts in the administration and government companies.
On the same 3 December the newly elected and reelected Senators will be joining the Upper House, and here the Kirchnerite grouping will have an even greater representation, 41 out of 72 members.
Macri’s ‘Let’s change’ alliance will have 15 Senators, of which 8 from the Radical party, four from PRO and the others from the provinces of Cordoba, Corrientes and Catamarca.
A group of Peronists which does not respond to the Kirchners, ended up with five benches, while the other seats were distributed among small parties. In total out of the 24 seats renewed, the Victory Front gained 11.
Macri was asked, if elected president, how he would rule with an apparent insufficient block of lawmakers in Congress and he replied ‘looking for coincidences’. He supported his argument recalling that in his eight years as head of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (two consecutive four-year mandates) from 2007 to 2015 he never had a majority in the Legislative council.