All quiet on the political front

Argentina settles into (political) silence before election day

Voting in Argentina. Credit: Mariano Fuchila

Argentina has a curious (and admirable) tradition. In the 48 hours before an election, the country comes largely to a halt. All campaign activity is strictly forbidden. The government is barred from announcing new policy measures. Clubs are closed, sports clubs cannot host matches, and theaters cannot stage productions. From Saturday evening through Sunday evening, supermarkets, bars and restaurants are banned from selling alcohol.

For some, like myself, the concept of the veda electoral (electoral ban) is a foreign one. The country takes a collective pause, a moment to deliberate and reflect — free from the noise of political messaging or the mental toll of a long night out — before it goes to the polls to fulfill its civic duty. 

Due to the veda, this article will be slightly different from past columns. I have no polling numbers to report; even if I did, I wouldn’t be allowed to. There have been few major political developments this last week (save the debate) to cover. 

On top of that, whatever I would’ve written, which could not have included any form of speculation about the election’s outcome, likely would’ve been obsolete by Monday morning anyway. 

So, with all of that in mind, let’s talk about Sunday and beyond. 

The incoming government will need to contend with myriad considerations. Let’s group them into two main buckets: social challenges and economic challenges.

Starting with the former: Argentina is at its most polarized point in decades. The two candidates under consideration offer vastly different visions for Argentina’s society — while one maintains the status quo, the other proposes a marked departure from it. 

Javier Milei has brought a number of fringe social ideas into the mainstream. Whoever wins will have to reconcile the depth of Argentina’s division on those sensitive issues with the need to preserve peaceful, democratic coexistence. 

That could be further complicated by increasingly vocal (and unsubstantiated) suggestions of electoral fraud from the Milei camp. 

On the economic front, the story is largely the same. Whoever enters the Casa Rosada on December 10 will face a mountain of economic challenges, from triple-digit inflation to negative net foreign currency reserves. 

Uncertainty abounds. Currency fluctuations are likely in the coming weeks as markets interpret and digest the election’s results and look to the coming change of government. 

The nature of the imminent policy transition is similarly murky. Either it will be more gradual and feature less disruptive fiscal policies, or, if Milei wins, it’ll likely be more uncertain given the heterodox nature of some of his key economic proposals, namely dollarization. 

In the latter case, resistance from both the business community and popular sectors could complicate a smooth economic policy transition. 

Adding to the unpredictability is the fact that neither candidate has announced who will run their economies. Milei has named only his central bank chief, Emilio Ocampo, who, if we’re to believe the libertarian’s campaign promises, will see to his own sacking.
My personal recommendation heading into Sunday: take advantage of the veda. These past few months have been turbulent to say the least, and, no matter the outcome, the coming months are likely to be bumpy. Enjoy the political silence while you can.

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