Monday, May 19, 2003

Hi Rod,

Sorry to mess your blog up with some thoughts about Argentina's current political situation, but I wanted to share with you a letter I sent to the Financial Times -which I don't know whether it will be published or not, of course.

As you may know, there was a Presidential election three weeks ago in Argentina and no candidate got over 25% of the votes. Therefore, a run-off was due for this Sunday. The guy who came up first (with about 24% of the votes) was the former president, Menem, and the runner-up was Kirchner, just 2% below. But opinion polls showed Kirchner was about to get a landslide victory on Sunday, notching up something like 75% of the votes. Menem pulled out. The FT is echoing some analysts in Buenos Aires who claim Menem's decision has weakened Kirchner's legitimacy -as, in the end of the day, Kirchner will have only obtained 23% of the votes.

Here's my opinion, as I sent it to FT.



FT's leader on Argentina's new president (Argentina's choice, p. 18. May 16, 2003) claims that Mr Kirchner will have the 'weakest mandate of any president in Argentine history' as a result of Mr Menem's withdrawal from the run-off that was due for this Sunday 18.

The leader also states that opinion poll results do not confer the legitimacy of real electoral vote. However, this statement should be qualified as all opinion polls suggested Mr Kirchner would have won the election with over 70% of the votes this Sunday -the highest percentage ever in Argentine history- hadn't Mr Menem backed out.

Therefore, we are dealing with an interesting case in political theory of democracy and legitimacy which I think the leader failed to notice: Mr Kirchner will become president with, on the one hand, the weakest electoral support in Argentine history according to real electoral results and, on the other, the highest electoral would-be support according to all opinion polls, which couldn't be crystallised because his only contender pulled out of the run-off owing to precisely the future President's overwhelming support according to those polls.

Does it really make any difference that the run-off will not take place as there will be no run-off because one of the two candidates ran away ... and, as you know, it takes two to tango?


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