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Explainer: Argentina midterm vote is a power struggle for Congress

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By Reuters
Explainer: Argentina midterm vote is a power struggle for Congress
Explainer: Argentina midterm vote is a power struggle for Congress   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Agustin Geist

BUENOSAIRES – Argentines will head to the polls on Sunday with the balance of power in Congress up for grabs and the ruling Peronist coalition fighting to avoid a bruising defeat that could erase its Senate majority and leading position in the lower house.

WHY IS THEVOTEIMPORTANT?

The election is critical for center-left President Alberto Fernandez and his government. A heavy defeat could leave him a lame duck and spark a reckoning within the Peronist party, already bruised by a primary election defeat in September.

Voters in the grains-producing South American nation have been hit hard by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and rampant inflation that the government has struggled to get under control, which saps savings and earning power.

“The vote is a referendum on the two years of Alberto Fernández and (unrelated Vice President) Cristina Fernández,” said political consultant Carlos Fara, adding that it marked the start of the race for president in two years’ time.

“It sets the stage for the political campaign in 2023.”

WHAT‘S AT STAKE?

Legislative elections are staggered, so not all seats in Congress are up for grabs this time around.

In the Senate, there are eight regions and 24 Senate positions being contested out of a total 72 seats. The ruling Everyone’s Front alliance risks losing its quorum in the upper house, which could weaken its ability to push through legislation.

In the lower house, where the ruling party currently has the largest single bloc but not a majority, there are 127 seats being fought over out of a total 257, including in the key Buenos Aires capital region and the province of the same name.

The Peronist coalition is expected to lose in its traditional, important stronghold of Buenos Aires province, though overall seats in the lower house held by the two main parties will likely remain largely unchanged.

Argentina: Senate battle https://graphics.reuters.com/ARGENTINA-ELECTION/myvmnkgebpr/chart.png

WHAT DO POLLSTERSEXPECT?

Argentina’s Peronists were badly defeated in a primary vote in September, a result which most pollsters and analysts expect to be repeated. The government could lose up to six seats in the Senate, which would take away its quorum in the chamber.

In the lower Chamber of Deputies, the primary election showed the right-wing opposition slightly closing an already narrow gap with the ruling party in terms of seat numbers.

WHATHAPPENS ON THEDAY?

Voting, compulsory for those between 18 and 70 years old, begins at 8 a.m. (1100 GMT) on Sunday and ends at 6 p.m. that evening. Results are not expected until around 9 p.m.

In the Senate, two seats in each region go to the winning party, with one seat for the runner-up. In the lower Chamber of Deputies, seats are distributed proportionally.