Monday, October 26, 2015

Sunday Leftover: Argentinian Election

Good a time as any to run it off to you:

"Election will end president’s term, but not her hold on Argentina" by Simon Romero and Jonathan Gilbert New York Times  October 24, 2015

BUENOS AIRES — Her party’s candidate is widely seen as the front-runner. One of her closest aides is his running mate. Her son and her economy minister are running for Congress, too. A new law prevents whoever replaces her from undoing one of her signature economic policies.

Argentines go to the polls Sunday to pick their next president, officially marking the end of an era. For the past 12 years, the presidency has been shared by one couple — Cristina Fernández and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner — whose influence on the country has been so sweeping that they have their own political movement: Kirchnerismo.

But while Fernández, 62, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term, she is not going quietly. After emerging as one of Argentina’s strongest leaders in decades, she has sought to assert her lasting sway with a range of calculated moves in recent months.

Daniel Scioli, the candidate endorsed by Fernández, speaks about a continuity with her policies, while suggesting a few important tweaks, like improving strained ties with the United States and Argentina’s creditors.

Adding to the message that her course will be maintained, Carlos Zannini, her legal secretary, who is believed to be one of her closest advisers, was picked to be Scioli’s vice presidential running mate.

Kirchner also pushed through a new law that would require congressional approval to sell state-owned stakes in companies, chiefly a portfolio acquired when she nationalized pension funds in 2008.

Axel Kicillof, her economy minister, said the measure would ensure that any effort to privatize such holdings in the future would not be a “unilateral decision by the executive branch,” making it much harder to undo some of her most contentious decisions. Fernández herself proudly said that “nobody’s pen will now be enough” to dilute the role of the state.

Fernández, who has often been underestimated by her opponents, has also moved to place supporters in important positions in the central bank and across the judiciary. Beyond that, her son, Máximo Kirchner, and Kicillof, a rising star in her administration, are also running for Congress.

People in her government contend that her influence is here to stay.

With his three-day beard, abhorrence for neckties, and an office stacked high with books on political philosophy, Ricardo Forster fits right into the high echelons of Fernández’s leftist government. He even has the lofty job title to prove it: secretary for strategic coordination of national thought.

“Conflict is the energy of democracy,” Forster, a 58-year-old professor of philosophy, said in an interview. He defended Fernández’s combative governing style while listing the highlights of the Fernández and Kirchner presidencies, including the broad expansion of antipoverty programs, and the nationalization of pension funds and the country’s largest oil company.

Some might brush off Fernández’s recent maneuvering as a last grasp for clout, but her popularity at the end of her second contentious term is relatively strong. With Argentina’s economy posting modest growth this year, avoiding catastrophic predictions, her approval ratings are around 42 percent, well above those of Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, and Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, both of whom are battling corruption scandals and economic slowdowns.

That is considered strong? 

Anybody hear a boom?

But not everything is lined up for the continued influence of Fernández. While her own leftist movement, Kirchnerismo, has emerged as the dominant faction within Peronism, political analysts question whether that will remain the case after she leaves office.

Is that why they killed him and gave her cancer? 

How strange it is to see leftism contained in right-wing fascist Peronism. 

Can those labels possibly mean anything anymore?

End print copy.

Fernández herself seems to be welcoming talk about a possible return. She recently met with the author of a line of graffiti, “Embrace me until Cristina returns,” images of which have been widely shared on social networks.

In a well-polished video on her Facebook page, Fernández is shown defiantly celebrating her policies. Scioli makes an appearance, too, as if reminding him and the electorate of who paved the way for his candidacy.

“If Scioli wins,” Fraga said, “this will be the most important political conflict of the next period, something that is already being insinuated.”

Looking forward to the end of a long stretch in which Fernández relished clashing with opponents in the news media and the business establishment, some Argentines cannot wait for the president and her polarizing style of governing to leave office. 

I like her!

“It’s the best thing that could happen to us,” said Juan Addesi, 52, a watch repairman. Addesi, who plans to vote for Nicolás del Caño, a socialist, said he was angry that his business had been hindered by import restrictions that make it difficult to obtain spare parts. “I could be 10 times better off,” he said. 

He must be a $ociali$t.

Others question how Kirchner, whose personal wealth has grown over the past decade, according to her sworn declarations, will handle claims of corruption once she leaves office. 

I'm sure she is part of that cla$$, as are all rulers.

She is under investigation over accusations that a family hotel business in Patagonia was used to launder money. A businessman with close ties to the Kirchners has been accused of paying for block reservations through his companies, but the rooms appeared to have never been occupied. Kirchner’s chief of staff said the investigation had become a defamation campaign against her.


Related: Sunday Globe Special: Argentine Election

Yeah, I've been doing this way too long.

"Argentine presidential election goes to runoff; Macri, Scioli cast themselves as safe options" by Simon Romero and Jonathan Gilbert New York Times  October 26, 2015

BUENOS AIRES — Voters across Argentina headed to the polls in a national election Sunday, choosing among candidates vowing to seek consensus as the polarizing presidency of Cristina Fernandez nears an end.

But her popularity is strong. 

What is with you guys at the NYT?

With 72 percent of polling places reporting, opposition candidate Mauricio Macri had 36 percent of the vote compared with 35 percent for ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli, election officials said. Sergio Massa, a former Fernandez loyalist who broke away to form his own political movement, had 21 percent. 

An upset!

The tight race means that a Nov. 22 runoff between Macri and Scioli is certain. To win, a candidate needed 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent and a 10-point advantage over the nearest competitor.

Scioli, the chosen successor of Fernandez, had gone into the election with numerous polls predicting he would win by more than 10 points.

OMG, we have a RIGGED ELECTION in Argentina! 

What were they doing, using Diebold machines?

His top rivals were Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires and a former president of one of Argentina’s most popular soccer clubs, and Massa, a former ally of Fernandez’s who moved into the opposition.

With Fernandez, 62, constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term, the leading candidates ran carefully orchestrated campaigns that seemed to reflect a longing in the electorate for a break with her divisive governing style.

It's a show fooley everywhere, 'eh?

Fernandez intensified attacks on opponents in the news media and business establishment after succeeding her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, as president in 2007.

“More moderation is expected as the Kirchner era comes to a close,” said Mariel Fornoni, director of Management and Fit, a leading polling company. “There’s an enormous desire in society for less polarization.”

Scioli, 58, a former speedboat racer, sought to appeal to Fernandez’s supporters by contending that he did not plan any abrupt policy shifts. Lacking her combative rhetorical spirit, he came across as a safe option for many voters who want continuity for programs that have increased social welfare spending over the past 12 years.

“Scioli is with the poor people,” said María Rosa González, 66, a maid who voted for him.

And yet he finished in second!

She explained that her late father, a corn harvester, had been able to claim a state pension under a 2005 law supported by Fernandez and Kirchner in which workers who had not paid contributions could collect retirement benefits. “This government helped the people,’’ she said. “It’s on display.”

Economists here argue over the costs of such policies, with some saying that Fernandez’s successor will have to grapple with galloping inflation and a yawning budget deficit. But her supporters say that antipoverty spending was badly needed in the country after a chaotic economic collapse and political turmoil in 2001 and 2002.

That was when they told creditors to f*** off and stopped making debt interest payments.

Fernandez still holds considerable sway, emerging as one of Argentina’s strongest leaders in recent decades. She has recently moved to enhance her power through a calculated series of moves, potentially casting her shadow over the management of the economy and foreign policy well after she is scheduled to leave office in December.

It's called leaving a legacy, and the pre$$ seems to have a no problem when it comes to AmeriKan war-criminals, 'er, presidents.

Voting unfolded peacefully around the country Sunday.

Why wouldn't it?

Many voters and analysts here were struck as much by the similarities among the leading candidates as their differences, reflecting strategies of offering a nonthreatening alternative to Fernandez’s commanding presence. Even Macri, who ran to the right of his rivals, sought to appeal to supporters of Peronism, the ideologically diverse political grouping that dominates Argentine politics.

Kirchnerismo, the leftist movement named for Fernandez and Kirchner, came to overshadow other factions aligned with Peronism, which originated decades ago during the rule of Juan Domingo Perón.

Mindful of the hazards of opposing Peronist power brokers, the three men adopted reserved campaign styles, leading some to suggest that a composite candidate could easily be made of Scioli, Macri, and Massa.

Elections have been so corrupted as to be useless.

Such a composite “is an amiable, middle-of-the road, middle-class, middle-aged, and fairly athletic bloke of Italian extraction who, with a winning smile, tells us that the country can easily overcome all its many economic and social problems,” James Neilson wrote in a Buenos Aires Herald column.

Fernandez nears the end of her second term with approval ratings around 50 percent.

She and her late husband are widely credited with lifting the nation after the collapse. Fernandez sharply increased spending on social welfare programs, which range from work training to stipends for single mothers. Her government was the first in Latin America to legalize gay marriage, and it nationalized airline Aerolineas Argentinas and the YPF oil company while strengthening ties with Russia and China and often accusing the United States of meddling in the country’s affairs. 

Now the subtly-slanted pre$$ coverage makes sense.

The nation of 41 million people still has a stagnant economy with an inflation rate of about 30 percent. A prolonged court fight with a group of creditors in the United States has scared off investors and kept Argentina on the margins of international credit markets.

All the better for Argentinians.


And then there are certain spheres that disappear down the memory hole.

"Comic wins Guatemalan presidential vote; Balloting follows anti graft protests" by Sonia Perez D. Associated Press  October 26, 2015

GUATEMALA CITY — TV comic and self-styled outsider Jimmy Morales was elected as Guatemala’s next president Sunday, riding a wave of popular anger against the political class after huge anticorruption protests helped oust the last government.

This is no longer a laughing matter to elites.

At least my question has been answered.

Morales claimed victory and his opponent, former first lady Sandra Torres, conceded defeat after official results showed him winning around 69 percent of the votes, with 94 percent of polling stations tallied.

‘‘We recognize Jimmy Morales’s triumph and we wish him success,’’ Torres said. ‘‘Guatemala has serious problems, but the people made their choice and we respect it.’’

The runoff was held a month and a half after President Otto Perez Molina resigned and was jailed in connection with a sprawling customs scandal. His former vice president has also been jailed in the multimillion-dollar graft and fraud scheme.

Though the protests have quieted since Perez Molina’s resignation, many Guatemalans remain fed up with corruption and politics as usual, and Morales will face pressure to deliver quickly on widespread demands for reform.

As are we all.

‘‘The important thing is that the next government avoids corruption,’’ said Alexander Pereira, an insurance salesman who was the first to vote at one polling place. ‘‘I hope that the next government really makes a change.’’ 

I wouldn't hold my breath.

Elections were being held in several other countries around the world Sunday, including:

■ Tanzania: Residents turned out in large numbers to vote in general elections in which the ruling party, in power for decades, faced a strong challenge from a united opposition. The ruling party candidate, John Magufuli, battled a former prime minister, Edward Lowassa, who defected to the opposition earlier this year, in a presidential race that was too close to predict. Results are expected within four days.

■ Ukraine: Elections for local councils and mayors were seen as a test of strength for President Petro Poroshenko’s government and the oligarchs accustomed to running regions of the country. Voting did not take place in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed rebels. Results were expected Monday.

Then it is a meaningless vote. I bet it reinforces the U.S.-allied oligarchs!

■ Haiti: Haitians faced lengthy ballots with 54 presidential hopefuls and a slew of legislative and municipal candidates as they selected leaders they hope can lift the nation out of chronic poverty and turbulence. The presidential field was so crowded that it was unclear who might be leading.

Hey, Haiti!

■ Democratic Republic of Congo: A constitutional referendum was held to decide if the country’s longtime president is eligible for a new term. Under current laws, 71-year-old President Denis Sassou N’Guesso is barred from seeking reelection when his second term expires next year.


NDUs: I see nothing regarding any of them!