Neuquén Popular Movement loses governorship for first time in 60 years

Senator Alberto Weretilneck to hold third mandate in Río Negro

Patagonian provinces Río Negro and Neuquén voted yesterday for their governors in the first election of the year. In Río Negro, Senator Alberto Weretilneck won with 38.8% of the vote and Rolando Figueroa, of the right-wing Republican Proposal (PRO) party, beat the Neuquén Popular Movement with 35.6% of the votes. 


For the first time in 60 years, the Neuquén Popular Movement (MPN in Spanish) party lost its governorship in the province. Marcos Koopman, its current Vice Governor, gained 34.4% of the vote, staying behind from his PRO rival, Rolando Figueroa, by 1.2 percentage points. 

Figueroa, the elected governor, counts with ex-president Mauricio Macri’s personal backing, who tweeted last night to congratulate the new governor for his win.

Born in Neuquén and former mayor of its cities Huinganco and Chos Malala, Figueroa was the Vice Governor of the province between 2015 and 2019. He has also sat in Congress representing his province.

As a national deputy for MPN in 2021, he stepped away from the coalition and created an alternative with other dissidents, including members of the peronist movement and politicians from PRO.

Río Negro

Río Negro elected Alberto Weretilneck as governor for the third time after four years as a national senator — he led the provincial government between 2012 and 2019, but wasn’t eligible for a third consecutive mandate. He ran with the We Are Río Negro (JSRN) party, which won after facing off against three separate Peronist tickets. 

His coalition is supported by the Radical Party (UCR) and part of the Frente de Todos (FdT) coalition. Although the UCR is a part of Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) nationally, local branches of each party sometimes ally with their rivals at a provincial level.  He ran with Pedro Pesatti, the current mayor of the provincial capital, Viedma. 

The second-placed candidate, PRO’s Aníbal Tortoriello, was 22 points behind him. 

The electoral calendar 

All provinces except Corrientes and Santiago del Estero will hold local elections this year. Provincial governors lead the local government, representing their provinces in national and international politics, although they do not have the power to disregard national laws.

Río Negro and Neuquen do not have primary elections, meaning that Koopman and Weretilneck are the first politicians to be voted into power in the 2023 elections, just under four months ahead of the presidential primaries.

Voters also chose provincial deputies, mayors and members of their municipal council, as well as other local authorities. The next elections will be in Jujuy, Misiones, La Rioja, and Tierra del Fuego on May 7.


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