Argentina will now see if newly elected President Mauricio Macri can follow through on his promises to revitalize the country’s slumping economy with free-market reforms and improve strained relations with Washington. Macri’s victory was historic as it ended a roller coaster 12 years of rule by President Cristina Fernandez and her deceased husband.
However, when the business-friendly President-elect takes office on December 10, he will inherit a country with about 30% inflation, negligible economic growth and policies of government social spending that are unsustainable. More troubling is the fact that he lacks majorities in either chamber of Congress to pass his reforms.
Daniel Kerner from the political consulting Eurasia Group stated that, “Macri will begin his mandate in a difficult political position. He will have to make difficult economic adjustments and face serious political constraints.”
With almost all of the ballots counted, Macri won 51.5% of the votes compared to 48.5% for ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli - who Fernandez personally hand chose to run.
“Today is a historic day,” Macri happily exclaimed to his supporters. “It’s the changing of an era.”
The era he hopes to end is that of Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner who turned the government’s social spending on its head and controlled the country’s political scene with patronage, charisma and attacks on perceived opponents. Fernandez fiercely battled international creditors, who she called “vultures,” had strained relations with the United States and became allies with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro.
Felisa Sanchez, an Argentinian citizen and Macri supporter rejoiced, “I feel so happy because today we put an end to the mafia. They claimed to be Robin Hood helping the poor with social welfare plans when the poor are really helped with jobs and education.”
Macri has promised to lift unpopular controls on the ability to purchase of U.S. dollars thereby eliminating a huge black market for currency exchange.
He has also promised to provide an immediate boost to the economy by lowering taxes, lifting many tariffs and attracting foreign investment.
Yet, many of these moves will likely face resistance in a hostile Congress that, for over a decade, has been part of a left-leaning government.
Macri’s win signals a clear end to the socialist era of Fernandez and her husband. During their years in office, they became popular by heavily spending on programs designed to help the poor, raising tariffs in order to protect local economies and passing several socially progressive laws, including the legalization of gay marriage in 2010.