Since there are 6 candidates for Jefe de Gobierno this time around, TN divided the debate into two programs. Not sure I agree with that decision… the idea behind a debate is to listen to everyone, then compare & contrast. That’s more difficult to do with a week separating debates. During last week’s show, López Murphy didn’t show, Estenssoro rode the transparency bandwagon, Giudici couldn’t get from behind her party platform & Telerman thought the “you already know me” tactic would be good enough. It wasn’t. To his credit, Telerman was the only candidate to discuss saving the city’s architectural heritage.
[ See part of the first debate on TN.com ]
The big show was planned for last night when the top 3 candidates were supposed to go head-to-head. That didn’t happen because CFK-pick Daniel Filmus canceled at the last minute. So incumbent Mauricio Macri & challenger Pino Solanas ended up fielding questions from moderators Marcelo Bonelli & Edgardo Alfano. The evening turned out to be two interviews instead of a debate.
In spite of the last minute cancellation, TN did some quick work on Filmus. The program began about 20 minutes late which gave staff time to pull together enough footage to slam Filmus. Pretty hilarious. They emphasized the fact that this was the first time since 1996 (when elections for Jefe de Gobierno began) that a debate had not taken place on TN. All this was accompanied by video of many appearances by Filmus on TN. Not sure why they changed the format though… they could have easily held a debate between just Macri & Solanas.
Bonelli & Alfano interviewed Solanas first. His big points were the following: Buenos Aires is held hostage by the national government because there is no autonomy like in provincial governments. Safety is a problem that comes from national police force structure, & the best solution is to continue to develop the new, local police force. He promised no more paco & no more traffic of persons. Solanas claimed Macri heavily outsourced every project over the last four years, so costs were extremely high. Everyone gets a cut. For example, the H Line of the subway is already the most expensive in the world (U$S 180 million) & it’s far from finished. Solanas promised more transparency, the city budget available online, & citizens with some budget control via the comunas. He also wants to transform BsAs with technocrats.
Macri seemed content with the progress made in the past 4 years & thought he’d keep doing the same thing. I laughed when he said “Los porteños consume cultura”… Macri’s cultural offerings have been very poor compared to his predecessors. He claimed to have decreased north-south inequality & highlighted the works completed in the south. He even took credit for the CMD in Barracas. But like so many things, the government starting the project never gets credit. Macri said that his administration has built 8.2 km of subtes, more than De La Rua, Ibarra or Telerman. Wonder where he got that number from? He had a point when talking about the formation of a police force from nothing (de la nada) & denied corruption. Macri also insisted that 20% of the city’s budget is directed toward health services.
Unfortunately with a lack of civil society, there’s no political cost for canceling a debate. In other nations, if a candidate failed to show at the last minute after initially agreeing, their approval rating would plummet. But that probably won’t happen here. Bonelli & Alfano suggested that Filmus cancelled because of all the negative press & scandals which the CFK administration has been dealing with lately. Aníbal Fernández seemed to confirm that on Twitter today when he said that Macri & Solanas were waiting to ambush Filmus. Talk about paranoid. Even if that was the case, Filmus has to deal with it. That’s the way it goes.
What last night’s show clearly demonstrates is that Argentina has a long way to go before developing full democratic process. The notion of civil society is so poor here that I often wonder how Argie expats feel about it when returning. “Es lo que hay” may be a funny catchphrase, but the current situation is really no laughing matter. There certainly won’t be any presidential debates before October. With elections on July 10th & Macri taking the lead in polls, it seems like he will be around for four more years.
Update (11Jul 2011): For election results & a bit more commentary, see this post.