WASHINGTON – American politics is beginning to look like a Hollywood farce. The Marx Brothers are in charge. They decided, just for the fun of it, to pick Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as leading characters. Whereas, in perennially chaotic Argentina things may get better. Argentina is actually sobering up.
Argentina has been led by a delusional political couple who dished out populist recipes that practically ruined the country. It all started with Nestor Kirchner and, after his death, it continued with his wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Their version of Peronism is all about price and currency controls. On top of that, Cristina Fernandez’s dogged determination not to settle with foreign creditors who still have claims after Argentina’s 2001 default made Argentina into a semi-pariah state, incapable of raising funds in international financial markets.
Enter Daniel Scioli
Worst of all, it seemed that, in a perverse way the Argentines liked this populist regime. While Fernandez could not run again, it appeared almost a done deal that Daniel Scioli, the Governor of the large Buenos Aires Province, and her hand-picked successor, would be elected president. This would almost guarantee that her disastrous policies, with high inflation and the misery that it entails, would also continue.
Mauricio Macri as a credible alternative
Well, all prognostications turned out to be wrong. Daniel Scioli has not been elected in the first round. On November 22 he will have to go to a run-off with Mauricio Macri, the center-right Mayor of Buenos Aires who surprisingly came in a close second. Scioli is ahead after the vote. But only by a small margin, (36.9% to 34.3%). And it is very likely that Sergio Massa, a dissident Peronist, who came third (with 21%) after this vote, may decide to support Macri instead of Scioli.
Just the prospect of an end to the 12 years old Kirchner-Fernandez regime generated waves of optimism in financial markets. Investors cheered.
Macri promises to go back to sound macro-economic policies. He promises to confront inflation, while liberalizing currency trades, and more. He also promised to negotiate a solution with foreign creditors, in order to allow Argentina to be once again a normal player in all international matters that affect its economy and finance.
This is not a done deal. Macri may indeed win on November 22; but Scioli is still a strong opponent who can count on the backing of the state apparatus. Be that as it may, the very fact that a large chunk of the electorate voted for sensible change is positive.
Argentina has had enough. Time to sober up with a common sense, market-friendly new President Macri.
What about America?
I wish I could say the same about the United States. Many Americans are fed up with left-wing liberal policies. But if they pick unelectable Donald Trump or Ben Carson as their champion, we are practically certain that Hillary Clinton will be the next US President, and this means more of the same.
At least in Argentina the opposition has a real candidate who represents a credible alternative.