The World Today for November 11, 2021


Voting With Feet


Argentine President Alberto Fernández unveiled big spending plans on social welfare programs and other benefits in order to convince voters that they should reelect his Peronist allies in the Justicialist Party during legislative elections on Nov. 14, wrote El Pais, a Spanish newspaper. His moves were clearly motivated by his party’s poor showing in primaries in September when voters had a chance to express their feelings about candidates.

But the president’s actions don’t seem to have made much of an effect. Polls show that his party is likely to lose its majority in the Argentine Senate and reduce its lead in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, Reuters reported. Anger over the economy and quarantines due to the coronavirus pandemic was at the core of voter unease, the polls found.

Inflation is more than 50 percent on annual basis, while 42 percent of citizens in the South American country live in poverty, noted the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. President Fernández froze prices on more than 1,400 household items, Bloomberg wrote. He also attempted an unsuccessful nationalization of a soybean exporter, temporary export prohibitions and a ban on firing employees. Similarly, his requests to reduce the payment to the International Monetary Fund also fell on deaf ears.

Investors have responded by dumping Argentine pesos and looking for US dollars as a replacement.

The conservatives, usually the Peronists’ rivals, are not necessarily doing much better. As Al Jazeera wrote, Fernández’s predecessor, former President Mauricio Macri, was recently in court facing allegations that he spied on the relatives of Argentine submariners who died when their vessel sunk four years ago, killing everyone aboard.

The inadequacy of Fernández’s efforts to fix the economy and dissatisfaction over politics in general help explain the rise of Javier Milei, an economist and self-described libertarian who wants to bring more free-market principles to Argentina and “kick Keynesians and collectivists in the ass,” the Economist reported.

Meanwhile, the other symptom of the failure of politics in the South American country is the ongoing brain drain that is afflicting its labor force. “I think one of the most striking things is the number of people, particularly younger people, who are now leaving the country to find work abroad, who’ve just given up on the prospects of Argentina in the near-term,” said Financial Times correspondent Marc Filippino in a podcast transcript.

Voters use their feet when the ballot just won’t send a strong enough message.

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