Regional election polls have opened in the Patagonian provinces of Río Negro and Neuquén, marking the start of Argentina’s electoral cycle. Both provinces will elect governors, provincial deputies, mayors and members of the council, as well as other local authorities.
In oil-rich Neuquén, local centrist Neuquén Popular Movement party will face off against right-wing Republican Proposal (PRO) and the peronist Justicialist Party (PJ), while in neighboring Río Negro, a horticultural stronghold, local transversal Together We Are Río Negro (JSRN) party will face off against three separate Peronist tickets.
An oil and gas-producing area of over 26,000 square kilometers make Neuquén one of the country’s most important energy-producing regions. Its population represents around 1.5% of Argentina’s electoral roll.
Since the return of the democracy, Neuquén has been governed by the centrist Neuquén Popular Movement (MPN). Since current governor Omar Gutierrez cannot run for reelection, the party will field current Vice Governor Marcos Koopman, with former Vice Governor Ana Pechén as running-mate.
PRO, the largest party within national opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), will field Rolando Figueroa, who counts with Mauricio Macri’s personal backing. Other parties within JxC coalition, such as the Civic Coalition and the Radical Party, decided to field their own candidate – Pablo Cervi, currently a national deputy for Neuquén.
The peronist Justicialist Party (PJ), a major party in the ruling Frente de Todos (FdT) coalition, is putting forward former Cutral Co city mayor Ramón Rioseco with former Neuquén national deputy Ayelén Gutiérrez, who also has an activist background in kirchnerist movement La Cámpora.
Via electronic ballot, voters will choose governor, vice governor and 35 provincial deputies (and 18 substitutes), as well as mayors, council representatives for 14 districts, community authorities and municipal commissions.
Home to 1.6% of Argentina’s voters, Río Negro is the country’s main producer of apples and pears, and also has an active hydrocarbon sector.
Although governor Arabela Carreras of Together we are Rio Negro (JSRN) is elegible for reelection, her party’s gubernatorial candidate is current senator Alberto Weretilneck.
He governed the province between 2012 and 2019, but wasn’t eligible for a third mandate, prompting him to run for Congress.
His coalition is supported by the Radical Party (UCR) and part of the FdT. Although the UCR is a part of JxC nationally, local branches of each party sometimes ally with their rivals at a provincial level. He is running with Pedro Pesatti, current mayor of the provincial capital, Viedma.
He represents a convergence of several ideologies – he’s not a peronist, but has peronist allies; he has the support of moderate Economy Minister Sergio Massa’s party, Frente Renovador, as well as the support of a sector of La Cámpora.
However, a sector of Peronism – All Together (Vamos con Todos) – will field their own candidates, Silvia Horne (a former provincial deputy) and Leandro Costa Bruten.
A third peronist ticket, a kirchnerist movement called Victory Unity (Unidad para la Victoria) will field Gustavo Casas and Luisa Villarroel.
Río Negro voters will chose a new governor and vice governor, 46 provincial deputies, and mayors and local council members in 22 districts.
These two provinces will be the first to hold provincial elections, and will be followed by Jujuy, Misiones, La Rioja and Tierra del Fuego on May 7.
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.
These two provinces do not hold primaries: whoever wins gains office. That makes the vote the first in the country’s general elections, a little under four months ahead of the presidential primaries.