How Macri would rule

Julio Burdman

Let’s imagine a scenario whose probability has increased as from the first round: that Mauricio Macri could be the next president. If he wins the runoff, Macri will enjoy an undeniable momentum: he will be seen as the one who defeated supposedly invincible Peronism. Also, he would have simultaneous control of the three main elective governments of Argentina: the Pink House, the province of Buenos Aires, and the national capital. That is something nobody before could ever achieve and that might lead him to dream of a strong unitarian governability, despite not having any real political influence in the smaller provinces.

Therefore Macri could try to govern alone, making the most of his three metropolitan governments, those which manage the economic levers of the country. But this would result in a very troubled and unstable political situation. In Congress, the Victory Front will control the Senate and 43 percent of the Lower House, and Let’s Change (with all its parties together) will have only a third of the representatives. This is neither a bad number, nor enough to pass any bill into law.

At best, if Macri reaches the Pink House, he will need to enhance his government coalition. Let’s Change, in its current form, is too small for that. And here along comes Sergio Massa, with José Manuel De la Sota and their Renewal Front. After their successful election (21 percent of the vote), they will govern one or two provinces (including influential Córdoba) and hold 11 percent of the Lower House. Let’s Change and the Renewal Front altogether might have a numerous, broad legislative caucus which would be able to name the House Speaker. Moreover, Massa and De la Sota might become the doormen to invite more Peronists to the governmental coalition, in order to create a new majority.

Of course, that sort of pact won’t come free of charge for Macri. The leader of the Renewal Front knows his value now and would have to be offered a real partnership, with one or two top ministries, maybe including Cabinet chief, plus preferential treatment for Córdoba, Tigre and other territories, and maybe more. And yet, both Massa and De la Sota will probably remain politically independent from Macri. This would be a new type of coalition government in Argentina. One which we could imagine to be parliamentarian, although it would be actually made to strengthen the power of an otherwise weak president. PRO is an executive-minded party which wouldn’t confuse pacts with real power-sharing.

Another ball game will take place in the Senate. Things will be more dependent on many bargains to come with the provincial governors. Macri will handle those negotiations personally.

If all this happens, Macri will create a real base of support, and it would also equip him to make the economic policy shift he is considering. A monetary policy anchored in the markets, cuts in energy subsidies and farm export duties, a fast return to international capital markets (after reaching an agreement with the holdouts), and inflation targeting (including a slowdown in public spending and aggregate demand), all of which will be a real shock after 12 years of Kirchnerism.

On the street, trade unions, social movements, the losers from austerity, the middle class and Cristina Kirchner would be raising their voices against some policy changes. But at first, protesters and incumbents won’t know each other, because Macri would bring a lot of new people to public office, as he has already done in the City. Young graduates from different universities, NGO activists, private-sector managers and other “newcomers” to bureaucratic buildings in La Plata and Plaza de Mayo would be rapidly promoted to senior positions, undergoing an “on-the-job” learning process.

There would be an initial slowdown in the pace of public policy, until this new managerial culture finds itself in those inscrutable corridors. In some cases, new PRO and Radical officials will suffer a cultural clash, and the yellow crew members would always try to win. While they blame the preceding Kirchnerite administrations for “the inheritance,” the new administration will realize that the nation and the city are very different arenas.

Publicado en Buenos Aires Herald el 3 de noviembre de 2015. Versión publicada aquí.