The Argentine primaries this Sunday (13), called PASO (Primary, Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory) were marked by problems in the electronic voting machines, mainly those used in the capital Buenos Aires.
By the time the polls closed, around 68% of voters eligible to vote had registered their votes, according to the National Electoral Chamber. This is the lowest number of voters since the resumption of democracy in Argentina.
In all, 35 million people were eligible to vote. Of this total, more than 13 million vote in the Argentine capital, where at least 240 electronic voting machines, operated by the company MSA (Magic Software Argentina) have serious problems.
::Argentina holds primary elections amid crisis and rapprochement with Brazil::
In Argentine elections, electronic ballot boxes work concurrently with paper ballot boxes. The first, intended for state government candidates and the second for presidential candidates.
Federal judge María Servini stated that “about a third of the electronic voting machines in Buenos Aires are malfunctioning”. Servini pointed out that “some machines only arrived at night, were not tested and others did not work directly or had technical problems that put voters at risk”.
The person responsible for signing the contract with MSA was the government of Buenos Aires, still in June 2022. MSA had no competition and closed a millionaire deal with the management of the Peronist Axel Kicillof, which cost the coffers around US$ 21 million from the local government.
The problems, however, were not restricted to the capital. Across Argentina, voters faced lengthy queues, with more than an hour of waiting time. Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who voted in the city of Santa Cruz, complained about the time in line: “I was in line for an hour and twenty-five minutes,” she said.
Patricia Bullrich, candidate for the Together for Change party, said she faced difficulties registering her option at the ballot box in Buenos Aires. “I couldn’t vote seven times. Electoral systems have to have a level of maturity,” she said.
Who are the candidates?
Candidates for state governments, the legislature and the presidency participate in the PASO. Among the presidential candidates are: Sergio Massa and Juan Grabois, who are disputing the nomination for the Peronist front União Pela Pátria; Horácio Rodríguez Larreta and Patricia Bullrich for the opposition group Together for Change; Javier Milei for Freedom Advances; and Myriam Bregman and Gabriel Solano, from the Left Front.
Massa, who is Minister of Economy in Alberto Fernández’s government, has become the Peronists’ main name for the presidential succession.
::Brazil and Argentina want a common currency for foreign trade, without giving up the real and the peso::
Despite being a candidate more connected to the market and the center right and living in the eye of the hurricane of the Argentine economic crisis, Massa gained prominence due to the increase in job vacancies and negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.
Horácio Larreta and Patricia Bullrich are vying for a seat in the coalition of former president Mauricio Macri.
If at some point the opposition seemed to gain momentum, largely because of the crisis that has gripped the Argentine economy, internal disputes weakened Together for Change. Larreta, however, is one of the favorites to advance.
Despite the low numbers in the electoral polls, Javier Milei is one of the main candidates to advance to the second round. A representative of the Argentine extreme right, Milei maintains contact with the Bolsonaro family and with other conservative leaders around the world.
What are PASOs?
The PASOs were created in 2009, still in the first term of the Peronist Cristina Kirchner, but only started to function in the 2011 elections. The main objective was to reduce the number of candidacies.
The PASO, however, do not work like the US primaries, for example, where there is a definition of the main candidates of the general elections. In the Argentine primaries only the candidates who received less than 1.5% of the votes are prevented from running in the October elections.
They serve, in fact, as a great thermometer of what will be taken to the polls in the first round of elections, scheduled for October 22nd. If necessary, the second round will be held on November 19.
Editing: Jose Eduardo Bernardes