Friday
April 28, 2017
Friday, April 7, 2017

Divided streets

This October the Argentine people will be going to the polls in midterm legislative elections but in the fortnight or so since the end of summer politics has found its clearest expression in the streets — the massive teachers’ federal march on the first day of autumn, the March 24 commemoration of the 41st anniversary of the 1976 military coup, the CTA-led labour protest six days later, last weekend’s pro-government demonstration “in defence of democracy” and yesterday’s CGT general strike (whose transport stoppage admittedly did more to empty than fill the streets). A variety of opinion reflecting a healthily pluralistic democracy even beyond the polarisation for and against the Mauricio Macri presidency — thus taking two events generally seen as anti-Macri in tone, the March 24 event was overwhelmingly middle-class while the CTA protest was solidly working-class, and even more the massive demonstration of their Peronist colleagues of the CGT on March 7.

Macri clearly exulted in the success of last weekend’s “1-A” marches as breaking a strong run of anti-government marches but this unexpected triumph showing him to be also competitive in terms of popular mobilisation contradicts one of his three main priorities, namely reuniting Argentines — on the contrary, the divisions have only been deepened. And this irrespective of whether the display of support was organised or spontaneous — given its apparently idiotic timing on a Saturday evening when the owners of gated community homes were likely to be out of town and when many others were interested in the Boca Juniors match, it is more than likely that the latter is true and the unsought success went to Macri’s head. But if the quantity of turnout more than met the low expectations, the quality should have given Macri pause before celebrating — president’s remarks on the choripán, exacerbating the harshest rhetoric expressed by some demonstrators, clashed head-on with the slogans of dialogue and consensus constantly cultivated by the government. Regardless of whether the march was induced or spontaneous, such is Macri’s core constituency but the government would have been wiser to stay silent and let the crowd numbers speak for themselves. Instead various erroneous interpretations have been made — that the march is a mandate to be more confrontational with pickets and protests and that it shows the success of public works, housing , social and other announcements — whose real consequences in the social camp are far from being evident.

These demonstrations can be overrated (even the most successful barely include one percent of the population) but this latest series seems to confirm opinion polls which have respectively shown 30 percent to resist the Macri government regardless of what it achieves and another 30 percent ready to back it even without economic results — the intermediate 40 percent thus becomes the electoral battleground, setting the stage for October’s verdict.

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