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On the eve of the Simultaneous and Compulsory Open Primary Elections (PASO), Argentine candidates are deploying all their communication strategies to win the hearts and minds of their own and others, preoccupied by two situations: the growing number of undecided voters who are not attracted by either of the two major coalitions, and the aporophobic discourse of the right wing.
Sunday’s primary elections will define the candidates who will compete in the 22 October elections, but they will also set the tone for the electoral campaign, which began with nerves, strident accusations and a certain apathy among citizens.
The ruling Unión por la Patria, the right-wing coalition Juntos por el Cambio, the far-right La Libertad Avanza, the Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores-Unidad, and the other political forces are preparing for the primary elections on Sunday 13 August. The parties will present themselves in 27 formulas and will settle their internal issues to define the names that will compete for office in the general elections on 22 October.
Far from the extreme polarisation that has prevailed in Argentine politics for several years, there are between 5 and 15% of undecided voters, according to different surveys. Since its implementation in 2011, and despite having a mandatory regime, the PASO elections have always registered a lower turnout than the national elections. In the last elections, turnout in 15 out of 17 provinces did not exceed 70 per cent, a drop that has not been registered since the early 2000s.
In most cases, this percentage of absentees is directly proportional to the dissatisfaction caused by the last eight years of government: those who decide not to vote are not apolitical, but are disappointed with the administrations of Mauricio Macri and Alberto Fernández and do not find in the electoral offer a candidate who will rally them and will be able to propose solutions that respond to their needs and demands.
Never since the end of the dictatorship has it been felt so strongly that “nothing is happening on the streets” in the face of a presidential election process: there are no big events, no signs of tireless work on the part of the (disappeared?) militancy, no calls to deploy in the territories. And, to make matters worse, polls have been discarded as a faithful thermometer: they are not reliable.
Everything is reduced to the media and the networks, avoiding any physical contact, which is a sign of the profound distance between “the people” and “politics”. Perhaps because none of the candidates escapes the icy electoral climate, the lack of ideas and/or intention to transcend leads them to make statements, contradictions, outbursts and theatrical gestures, sometimes directed at their own partners.
For the right wing, the constants of the market no longer have priority, but its goal is an assault on power, absolutely dominated by the political hatred that arises from not having won a war that began in 1955 and reached its peak in the genocidal dictatorship of 1976. The economic problems to be solved are now postponed
The psychoanalyst and writer Jorge Alemán points out that it is indeed necessary for the country to go up in flames, but Argentina is now preparing – taking advantage of the global wave of neo-fascism – a war machine that will finally destroy a possible resurgence of the national and popular.
That is why it has privileged the ideological-political aspect over any other matter. The plan is to do away with Peronism once and for all, especially after its cursed version: Kirchnerism, he adds.
Aporophobia, hatred of the poor
Hatred of poor people has a name, it’s called aporophobia. In a world with a logic based on give and take, those who lack something to give back are rejected and excluded. It is a daily, almost invisible attack on the dignity and wellbeing of the individual people to whom it is addressed.
In modern democracies, aporophobia makes a certain population invisible without the need to eliminate the physical body, because what it eliminates is the identity body, through hate speech.Argentina, once the breadbasket of the world, has become a nation rich… in poor people.
Hatred of the poor (aporophobia) does not only come from the upper classes, but the sad reality is that it is also immersed in a sector of the middle class, which, even if it is not explicitly manifested or the subjects do not recognise that they are aporophobic. It is made visible with some insults and aggressions such as “blacks of m…”, “lazy of m…”, “we have to kill them all”, etcetera.
Aporophobia is a new term and only in 2017 it became part of the Dictionary of the Spanish Language: it was the word of the “year” beating Bitcoin among others. The poor are rejected by not removing it from their poverty, by not giving them the necessary means to obtain a decent job instead of the state handout.
In Argentina, this phenomenon is reflected in the campaign proposals for the 2023 elections: the ultra-right Javier Milei burst in with a discourse characterised by exaltation and violence rather than content, gaining the attention of young people and those dissatisfied with the political and economic status quo in the country. But the right-wing alliance followed suit, especially its presidential pre-candidate Patricia Bullrich.
In 1885 the country was among the world’s leading powers, and the metamorphosis it has undergone is demonstrated in the degradation of electoral promises: “Aporophobia is evident in these kinds of situations that turn us into a marginal, dystopian nation with little regard for the rule of law. We are what we are because we vote the way we vote, that’s why we go from failure to failure,” says Jorge Grispo.
Hatred of the poor, understood as their lack of inclusion in a decent standard of living, is also hidden behind a supposed “nationalism” that rejects Bolivians, Paraguayans and Peruvians, and is not just xenophobia (hatred of foreigners) because people do not hate the American, the English or the German (and neither do they hate transnationals). It is the “little black head” of the Argentine interior, the Bolivian, the Paraguayan and the Peruvian, that is, the poor foreigners, who are hated. It is class hatred.
The Argentine middle class hates the poor because they are not submissive, they rebel against the system, they do not submit to the exploitative and undignified mechanisms that they want to impose on them, says Ernesto Bertoglio. It is not only about money, because money and capitalism have no meaning if it does not give power-control over others. And if these others gain access to money, they lose their desperation, and if they lose it, you can no longer play with that desperation in order to control-discipline them; they become insubordinate, he adds.
The poor are hated because of state subsidies to survive, such as the Asignación Universal por Hijo (Universal Child Allowance), but in the media it is more forceful to hate progressivism and Cristina Fernández as “corrupt”, with the help of lawfare. The media gave the aporophobes a morally correct discourse behind which they hide their hatred of the poor.
Baglini’s Theorem states that the proposals of a party or leader are directly proportional to his or her chances of gaining power. The further away from this, the harsher the discourse. The difficult, responsible thing would be to find a middle ground between resignation and pamphleteering.
The ruling Unión por la Patria (UP), formerly Frente de Todos, is at a disadvantage, despite the fact that it has distanced itself from the “courteous” President Alberto Fernández, who has a very poor administration, although its main candidate is the minister Sergio Massa, the one with the agreements with the International Monetary Fund and an inflation rate of more than 100% for the year.
She is obliged to take to the streets, with tables, door-to-door door knocking, with talks in the neighbourhoods, because she has to convince sceptics and angry people, of whom there are many and they are the ones who can make her win. The traction of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – the ultimate politician, according to Rubén Armendáriz – has disappeared.
The right-wing coalition seems to be in a position to win and does not have that problem, but it suffers from clashes of egos, personal resentments and – why not – business struggles. But it never has ideological clashes. The clashes between Rodríguez Larreta, head of the capital’s government, and the barbarities of Patricia Bullrich serve as media entertainers.
The right-wing, beyond their quarrels, warns that they will try to liquidate wage negotiations, severance pay, additional wages, but they say nothing about how they will proceed with the monstrous indebtedness that they left in 2019 with the IMF.
The ruling party’s pre-candidates have the problem of how to project the future if they have been governing for more than three years and the mass perception, as a result, is that they had the chance to fix things.
Meanwhile, the different spaces of the left, fragmented in various alliances, will need to get 1.5% of the vote to enter the general elections.
In the Left and Workers’ Front – Unity (FIT-U) there will be an internal unity: two presidential formulas that will seek to keep only one place available in October: Myriam Bregman and Nicolás del Caño will represent the alliance of the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS) and Izquierda Socialista (IS), while Gabriel Solano and Vilma Ripoll will go for the Partido Obrero (PO) and the Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores (MST).
For their part, the candidates of the New MAS and Política Obrera will run on the outside. Libres del Sur, with Jesús Escobar as its presidential candidate, will also seek to surpass the 500,000 votes that will enable it to participate in the elections of 22 October, while Proyecto Joven, of which Mempo Giardinelli is a member, will have an internal election with three pre-candidates.
The media frenzy of an electoral campaign lacking in hopeful messages and exciting offers contrasts with the aporophobia and the structural demands of the indigenous communities, which have always been silenced, and which are now making the pilgrimage from Jujuy to the capital to make themselves seen and heard. But politicians are too busy looking in the mirror to preoccupy themselves with Indians, perhaps poorer than many millions of other Argentines.
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