Argentina heads for presidential primaries in the wake of tragedies

Days ahead of the presidential primaries, Argentina was shaken by the murders of 11-year-old Morena Domínguez during a robbery and photojournalist Facundo Morales by the Buenos Aires police

August 11, 2023 by Tanya Wadhwa
Protest demanding justice for Facundo Morales, hours after his death. Photo: @kalofotograma

This Sunday, on August 13, over 35 million Argentines will partake in the presidential primaries, known as the Primary, Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory elections (PASO), to elect the candidates who will stand in the main presidential elections on October 22.

In the primary elections, the voters cast a vote in favor of any one candidate they please, regardless of their party affiliation. The political coalitions with more than one presidential ticket use these elections as internal elections to define which ticket will represent them in the general elections. The PASO also matters for coalitions with one presidential ticket, since according to a law approved in 2009, a presidential ticket should obtain at least 1.5% of the votes in the primaries to run in the general elections.

The PASO elections serve as the most accurate national survey to predict the voter’s preference for a coalition in the general elections, and help political parties orient their campaign strategies for the elections.

In total, 13 presidential tickets from 10 coalitions are contesting in Sunday’s vote to qualify for the main ballot in October. Three political coalitions have presented two presidential tickets, including the ruling center-left Union for the Homeland coalition (UxP), the right-wing opposition Together for Change coalition (JxC), and the left-wing Left and Workers’ Front – Unity coalition.

According to various opinion polls, the candidates from the UxP, the JxC, and the far-right Liberty Advances coalition are most likely to compete against each other in the October elections to become the next president.

For the UxP, the primaries will see a contest between the current Economy Minister Sergio Massa (president) and Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers Agustín Rossi (vice-president), and social leader Juan Grabois (president) and sociologist Paula Abal Medina (vice-president). According to opinion polls, Massa and Rossi are expected to win by a significant margin.

For the JxC, the PASO will settle the race between Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta (president) and Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales (vice), and former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich (president) and former deputy Luis Petri (vice). The opinion polls predict that they are neck and neck.

Following the two major traditional coalitions is the Liberty Advances coalition with libertarian economist and deputy Javier Milei (president) and deputy Victoria Villarruel (vice) as the only ticket.

August 10 was the last day of campaigning. However, many candidates decided to suspend their campaign closing events following the murder of 11-year-old Morena Domínguez, who was attacked near her school in the Villa Diamante neighborhood, Lanús district, Buenos Aires, on August 9.

According to videos captured by security cameras in the area, the minor was approached by two men on a motorcycle to steal her cell phone and other belongings. The videos showed the robbers beating and dragging her on the road. She collapsed and was taken to a nearby hospital where she died of a cardiorespiratory arrest.

Hours following her death, the Union for the Homeland coalition announced the suspension of the campaign closing ceremony and expressed solidarity with Morena’s family, demanding justice for the young girl.

Following the example of the UxP, the JxC also announced the suspension of their campaign rallies.

Pre-presidential candidates for president Patricia Bullrich and Javier Milei took to social media and blamed the ruling center-left government, despite the fact that the crime took place in a municipality governed by the right-wing opposition PRO party.

For his part, pre-candidate Juan Grabois lamented Morena’s preventable death, condemning the violence that reigns in humble neighborhoods and the systematic neglect of the state.

While the country was still recovering from Morena’s murder at the hands of criminals, on August 10, the Buenos Aires police killed photojournalist, political activist and human rights activist Facundo Morales.

According to reports from local media, the police abruptly repressed a peaceful protest at the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, violently arresting protesters. Morales was among those arrested and died shortly after. According to eyewitnesses, he was suffocated to death while being pressed into the ground by the police.

Various human rights organizations such as the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, among others, expressed their condemnation of Morales’s assassination at the hands of the police, demanded justice for him and end to violent repression in the country. The organizations called for protest on Friday August 11 to raise these demands and honor Morales.

Tens of thousands gathered on the morning on August 11 to protest the murder of Facundo Morales by the Buenos Aires Police.