Argentines faced long queues this Sunday (13) to choose the candidates who will participate in the presidential elections in October. The country’s primaries were marked by a higher-than-expected turnout according to figures released so far, and also by criticism of the structure of polling stations.
The most hard-line candidate of the right-wing coalition Juntos por el Cambio, Patricia Bullrich —who is running for an internal vacancy with the moderate Horácio Larreta—, had problems voting and had to have her ballot box changed. “I couldn’t vote seven times,” she said after taking 12 minutes to mark her choice, in an embarrassing scene broadcast on TV stations. “Electoral systems have to have a level of maturity,” she complained.
In addition to the candidates for the Presidency, Argentines this Sunday define the candidates of the different political forces for a third of the Senate, half of the Chamber of Deputies and for important governments, such as the province and the city of Buenos Aires. In the capital, there was an above-average delay because local elections were held separately, through an electronic system.
Porteño voters therefore voted on paper lists for national offices and then on electronic ballot boxes for local offices. Doubts about how to use the machine and equipment failures in some places made the queues lengthen, despite the fact that part of the electoral colleges had officials who explained how to use it. Many waited over an hour and a half.
“I even want to vote, but if there’s a long queue, I won’t go, they’re saying the machines don’t work,” commented application driver Oscar Andres, 52, in front of a school in Belgrano, a wealthy neighborhood in Buenos Aires. He intended to vote for Bullrich: “Dialogue isn’t bad, but in this country it’s not good for much. Bullrich has a tough hand, he won’t let himself be bent like [o ex-presidente Mauricio] Macri,” he opined.
At the same time, there were many who voted calmly, such as the administrative employee Graciela Vildoza, 77, who left a polling station in the region smiling. “I’ve been an inspector since democracy was installed in this country, so for me there’s nothing new”, she said, who also opted for Bullrich “because it’s necessary to put order in this country, both in the economy and in security”.
Violence and inflation have been the two main themes of the electoral race so far. Currency devaluation is cited by 55% of the population as their biggest concern, and insecurity by 38% in a survey by the University of San Andrés — even though Argentina is considered one of the safest countries in Latin America.
By 5 pm, 62% of voters had voted, according to the National Electoral Chamber, two percentage points more than registered in the 2019 primaries. The body feared a high abstention rate, as occurred in other provincial elections this year. For this reason, and in an unprecedented way, it issued a statement encouraging participation last week.
In the morning, the federal electoral judge in charge of the city of Buenos Aires, María Servini, sent a statement to the electoral institution saying that it was “worrying the degree of improvisation” observed in the polling centers, “evidencing a lack of skill never before seen in the organization and execution of an electoral process”. The body responded, in a note, that the conditions for the implementation of the technology were not met by the city’s electoral authorities.
The ultraliberal deputy Javier Milei, who is also running for the Presidency, was another who said that the Buenos Aires election seemed to have been organized “on the fly”, questioning, without evidence, the fairness of the vote: “When they want to do this kind of trick, these things happen “, he told the press after voting.
The candidate was the choice of customs official Hector Guantay, 39: “I voted for Milei because I like his projects, the ideas he has for youth. Those who have been there for 40 years have not been able to resolve”, he said, reporting that there was confusion at his polling place in the city of Merlo, in the metropolitan area, because the pollster took a long time to arrive.
Another place where the queues were long was the La Boca neighborhood, a tourist spot close to Caminito and La Bombonera stadium. Nearby, Julio Cesar Nuñez, 52, told why he voted for Minister of Economy Sergio Massa, the Peronist candidate. “Do you see that truck over there? I work with it, I’m poor. There’s no way I can vote for the other side, which will take away my rights”.
Sections were open from 8 am to 6 pm. After that time, the doors of the polling centers were closed and the presiding officers waited until all the people in the queues cast their votes to start the counting process. According to the head of the National Electoral Board (Dine), Marcos Schiavi, the expectation is that the results will be made public as of 9 pm.