Analysis – Argentina’s Miley must learn the political game so he can make the changes he seeks


Written by Nicholas Miskulin

Buenos Aires (Reuters) – Argentina Javier Miley In his first speech as president-elect, he promised that there would be “no room for half-measures” to revive the country from its worst economic crisis in two decades. But unless he can leverage political alliances, half measures may be all he can achieve.

This extreme liberal outsider heads a coalition with limited representation in Congress. As such, he will have to negotiate with his neoconservative allies and the skeptical Peronist opposition to push his agenda forward.

The economist and relative political novice claimed a historic victory in the South American country’s presidential runoff on Sunday, breaking for the first time in decades the dominance of the two main political coalitions amid inflation soaring to 150% and poverty soaring.

He has pledged a “chainsaw” plan for the economy, including eventually closing the central bank, ditching the local peso currency in favor of the dollar, downsizing the government and privatizing state-owned companies such as energy giant YPF.

However, these plans will face opposition, and Milley will have a weak position in Congress. His “Liberty Advances” bloc will have only seven seats in the Senate out of 72, and only 38 out of 257 in the House of Representatives.

Local political analyst Raul Timmerman said: “Miley will need to realign alliances to pass laws in Congress. If not, he will not be able to govern through the legislature.”

Although Miley may be able to use emergency executive orders in some cases, for most law changes he would need to have at least 50% majority support in Congress.

His coalition also does not include regional governors or mayors, which is important in a strong federal system where provinces have a lot of power. Senators work closely with their district governors, and sectors such as education and health are largely managed on a provincial rather than a federal basis.

“Miley’s government will certainly have to rely on its political allies at first,” said Federico Aurelio, who heads consultancy Aresco. “And then you will need to engage in dialogue with the entire political spectrum.”

Miley said Sunday night that he welcomed “all good Argentines” into his project, but his campaign has not commented on how it will work across the political aisle and has often criticized other parties before the vote.

“They are negotiating”

Miley is likely to face strong pushback from the defeated Peronist coalition, which will retain the largest minority in both chambers of Congress.

Peronists are unlikely to support the changes proposed by Miley, including reforms to the health, education and pensions systems.

However, Miley has formed an uneasy alliance with key members of the conservative Together for Change bloc (Juntos por el Cambio), including former conservative president Mauricio Macri and former candidate Patricia Bullrich. This will be the key to unlocking anything. Bargaining is already underway, which may affect the final composition of his government.

A source from the Together for Change bloc told Reuters about the chances of its officials joining the government that will take office on December 10, “They are negotiating.” Representatives and 21 in the Senate.

“Forming his government faces a big challenge,” said analyst Mariel Fornoni of consultancy Management & Veit, adding that it would be logistically difficult to negotiate with mayors and governors opposed at the grassroots level.

“The first thing I think is that he will need to understand the rules of the political game. This is something he is not used to.”

(Reporting by Nicola Miscullin; Editing by Adam Jordan and Rosalba O’Brien)

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