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May 3, 2023

Argentine Senators Cornejo and Schiavoni Discuss the Country’s 2023 Elections

On May 3, the Georgetown Americas Institute (GAI) hosted a conversation with Argentine senators Alfredo Cornejo, president of the Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) alliance in the Senate, and Humberto Schiavoni, president of Propuesta Republicana’s (Republican Proposal’s) Senate block, also part of Juntos por el Cambio, to talk about the state of Argentina’s elections and the challenges facing the next administration.

Humberto Schiavoni and Alfredo Cornejo speak at Georgetown University.
Humberto Schiavoni and Alfredo Cornejo speak at Georgetown University.

Fast-approaching nationwide primary federal elections in August 2023 are adding fuel to Argentina’s mounting economic challenges. Galloping inflation, depleted foreign currency reserves, and rising poverty rates have also weakened trust in the government and in the country’s bi-coalitional system. The electorate's frustrations with the Frente de Todos administration and its main opposition, the Juntos por el Cambio coalition, has also empowered previously marginalized far right and far left movements. Cornejo and Schiavoni, who play central roles in Juntos por el Cambio’s leadership, visited Georgetown University to share their thoughts in the runup to the August primaries.

A Challenging Electoral Year 

Argentina desperately needs deep structural reforms to end over a decade of economic stagnation and decline. In order to maintain electoral support during this key election, the government has failed to carry out painful but necessary decisions, which has worsened the crisis. The most notable example is the irresponsible depletion of the central bank’s reserves to prevent or at least forestall an unpopular devaluation until after the elections. 

At the same time, the ruling coalition, Frente de Todos, has become deeply divided, leaving the government paralyzed. Cornejo, who is running for governor of Mendoza, explained that inflation and the collapse of people’s purchasing power are some of the electorate’s top concerns. 

Juntos por el Cambio is also facing internal divisions as its main leaders compete for the coalition’s nomination to the presidency. This has generated concerns that the opposition coalition might fracture, a prospect that Cornejo and Schiavoni vehemently opposed. The unity of the coalition, the senators insisted, is a key asset in transforming Argentina. 

Another main challenge comes from people’s dissatisfaction with the political establishment. Javier Milei and his personalistic La Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances) party are the main disruptive force this election cycle. Polls estimate that his libertarian movement could receive almost one-fourth of the vote, a novelty in a country that has traditionally been rooted in the center to center-left of the political spectrum. His fiery rhetoric against political elites has upset the electoral equation, although the senators argued that his recent success is more a consequence of people’s deep frustrations with the country’s economic downfall than a widespread ideological migration to the right.

Humberto Schiavoni and Alfredo Cornejo answer students’ questions.
Humberto Schiavoni and Alfredo Cornejo answer students’ questions.

The Road to December and Beyond

Independent of the victor in the October 2023 general elections, the next administration will have great challenges to surmount upon coming into office in December. The senators explained that although citizens will have an understandable degree of patience, the new government will soon have to produce results. That is why the new economic plan will have to be sensible and concrete. Another big question is what state the country’s economy will be in by the end of the year as the election pressures the government to spend more in order to attract continued electoral support.

Clear contrasts were also drawn between the 2015 and 2023 transitions. Argentina’s economy has been in crisis for more than a decade, oscillating between stagnation and recession, but while in 2015 the crisis was mostly asymptomatic, in 2023 the consequences have become very clear. That is why the next administration will have to quickly deal with unbalanced public spending, a heavily constrained foreign exchange rate, and frozen utility bills, to name a few key issues. Other structural problems include boosting the productivity of investments and spurring private sector job creation to help bring people out of poverty and the informal economy. 

Ultimately, Cornejo and Schiavoni conveyed both hope and moderation. The current administration still has to steer the economy past the October elections, and their decisions could weaken the country and precipitate a further electoral spillover toward the extremes. Nevertheless, both senators remain firmly committed to maintaining the unity of Juntos por el Cambio, and they believe that the next president will be a member of their alliance.

“It was a great honor to meet Senators Cornejo and Schiavoni and to hear their perspectives as legislators on the ongoing dynamics in Argentina. I am always impressed with the caliber of speakers that come to Georgetown from Latin America.” -Ignacio Albe from Argentina (G’24)

The event was moderated by GAI Founding Director Alejandro Werner and was held in Spanish.