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Players to Watch in Argentina

Mauricio Macri: The popular two-term mayor ofBuenos Aires and leader of the center-right PRO won a closely contested run-off presidential election in November 2015, narrowly defeating Daniel Scioli, the candidate of the incumbent leftist FPV. Macri ran a disciplined campaign, emphasizing his market-oriented economic vision and his flexibility on social issues. He also skillfully exploited widespread frustration with some of the less attractive products of the FPV’s populist policies, most notably the persistent high inflation that has contributed to a fall in living standards for both lower- and middle-income households in Argentina. Although he took office in December lacking a reliable majority in the Congress, Macri has already moved aggressively to dismantle the state controls put in place by his predecessor, relying on the use of executive decrees. Among economic analysts, the general consensus is that the moves were necessary and ultimately will have a positive impact on economic performance. However, the immediate result of the moves will be increased hardship for a large portion of the population. Consequently, Macri’s hopes of sustaining his current high level of popular support, which will be essential to obtaining the legislative support required to implement his broader reform program, will likely depend on the quick appearance of evidence that the shock he has delivered to the economy is having a positive effect.
Republican Proposal: The new governing party originated as an electoral alliance between Macri’s Buenos Aires-based Commitment to Change and Recrear, the political vehicle of former Finance Minister Ricardo Lopez Murphy, a partnership that was formalized in 2010. PRO’s liberal policy agenda was formulated as an explicit contrast to the heterodox economic program of the leftist FPV, which positioned Macri to benefit politically from disenchantment with the Kirchnerist model. At the October 2015 congressional elections, PRO increased its seat total in the 257-member lower chamber to 41 seats, but together with its partners in the Let’s Change alliance won a total of just 92 seats, compared to 106 for the FPV. PRO’s position is even weaker in the 72-member Senate, where it holds just five seats. Macri will have the freedom to cut deals with the other parties whose cooperation will be needed to pass legislation without undermining the unity of his own party, but even that might not be enough to ensure success.
Alfonso Prat-Gay: The new finance minister is an economist and a member of Civic Coalition-ARI, one of the small parties in the Let’s Change alliance led by PRO and the UCR. He earned the respect of the international community during a two-year stint as head of the central bank in the immediate aftermath of the economic crisis that triggered the country’s record debt default, but his subsequent activities as chairman of the Tilton Capital asset-management firm have been marked by controversy, including allegations of facilitating tax evasion. As the minister of finance, Prat-Gay is the new government’s point man in the effort to roll back the previous government’s state controls, and he has wasted no time, announcing the lifting of the capital restrictions imposed under the previous FPV government just four days after taking up his post. The early indications are that Macri and Prat-Gay are of one mind about moving aggressively on the reform front, but it remains to be seen whether the finance minister possesses the political skills to ensure majority support for unpopular measures that cannot be implemented without congressional approval.
Front for Victory: The FPV emerged as the dominant faction of the fragmented Perónist political movement under the leadership of former President Nestor Kirchner, and although troubled by bouts of factional strife after control of the FPV passed to Cristina Fernández, it managed to remain in power continuously for 12 years. Although the FPV retained its status as the dominant party in both chambers of Congress at the October 2015 elections, it fell short of a majority in the lower house, and it is an open question whether the unity required to maintain its Senate majority can be sustained now that it has been pushed out of power. Fernández has made clear her intention to do what she can to thwart Macri’s efforts to dismantle the underpinnings of the Kirchnerist model, and the FPV could become a dangerous political enemy if the new administration runs into political difficulties that undermine its ability to secure majority backing for its agenda in the Congress.
Radical Civic Union: The UCR is the country’s oldest party, and despite the erosion of its support and factional troubles, it retained its status as the largest opposition party in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate following the 2013 mid-term elections, positioning itself as a crucial party in a non-FPV government. The UCR contested the 2015 elections as part of the multiparty Let’s Change alliance, whose members won a combined 92 seats in the lower house of Congress. Although historically a social democratic party, the UCR has moved toward the center, and in general can be expected to support the Macri administration’s liberal reform agenda.
Sergio Massa: A former top aide to Fernández who parted ways with the FPV less than two months before the August 2013 presidential primaries, Massa played a key role in the defeat of the FPV’s Scioli in the November 2015 run-off election. After finishing third in the first round of voting, Massa quickly endorsed Macri, which undoubtedly was a factor in the PRO leader’s narrow victory. Massa’s Renewal Front and its allies control more than 50 seats in the lower house of the Congress, potentially making the bloc an essential partner in a majority coalition. Massa appears to be prepared to support Macri’s agenda as long as there is no political cost for doing so, but it is likely that he will seek to distance his party from the administration if public opinion about the liberal reforms turns sharply negative.


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