Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The mysterious politics of Argentina

This illuminating commentary is from my friend Brian Kantt, an instructor at B.A. Plus language school in Buenos Aires:
"I'd just like to point out two facts you may find useful to know, which are kind of funny and tragic at the same time.

"When Néstor Kirchner ran for president against Carlos Menem in 2003, he didn't actually beat him. There was a second election ("ballotage") because none of the candidates had got the minimum of 45 percent to win the first election (as required by the Argentine law). The ballotage was between Kirchner and Menem, since they were the two candidates who had got more votes on the first round. A few days before the election, Menem analyzed the polls and realized he had no chance to win – not because people actually liked Kirchner as much as because they hated Menem so much – so he withdrew from the election to "save his honor" and not have to face a defeat. This automatically made Kirchner president, with less than 20 percent of the country's population having voted for him. (I remember many people didn't even actually know who he was before this).

"The other thing is that in this past Sunday's elections, Kirchner didn't actually want to get a seat as a Representative. (This would of course be "too little" for someone with such a big ego). What he and Buenos Aires governor Daniel Scioli did, is what we call "candidatura testimonial." This means that they run for Representatives at the top of the list, only to get people to vote for them (making use of their image), but when they get elected, they resign and pass the seat to the next person on the list. They said they'd do that from the beginning, even before the election. So, without meaning to sound disrespectful, you can imagine what the people who vote for them's brains are like.

"Weird facts, right? Welcome to Argentinean politics."


Longhorn Dave said...

It is a bizarre mix at times. Just glad the Kirchners got what they deserved at the polls.

Nice little blog. Keep up the good work. Hope you castellano is coming along. Just remember to never say, "Donde puedo coger un taxi?" unless you are into that sort of thing.

Seth Putnam said...

Thanks for the comment, Dave.

Luckily I've avoided the "coger" faux pas, but of course there have been many others. Buenos Aires can be a bit of a challenge at times. But certainly a rewarding one.