Since 1983, the political conversation in Argentina has been dominated by populist reform and social welfare under the Peronists (the Justicialist Party). The recent midterm elections have shown that the power of this ideology is waning - a surface level effect of major tectonic shifts in public opinion.

The Justicialist Party cannot simply be defined by a traditional left-right spectrum - there are major splits in party rhetoric that can be seen in disagreements between Current President Alberto Fernandez and deputy president Christian Fernandez de Kirschner - disagreements that weaken the party’s image.

The center-right opposition is a neoliberal, anti-populist response to Peronism’s populist ideology, and it’s gaining traction, but there are also more extreme parties on the right and left gaining influence. But who are the Peronists, and why is their long-held grip on the country slipping?

The History of The Peronism and the Justicialist Party

Argentina has a history of tumultuous politics, checkered by Military coups and unstable democracy. Col. Juan Peron was a military leader who became the minister of labor in 1943. He began to implement a number of policies to benefit Argentina’s growing urban workers. He granted workers medical care, paid leave and implemented a minimum wage. Together with his wife, radio star Eva Peron, he fought to build class solidarity that crossed socio-political divides. His celebrity soon taunted the other military leaders and in yet another coup, he was banished for almost 18 years.

His popularity was demonstrated after his reelection in 1973 when elections were once more permitted by the country’s military leadership. However, the broad-based support he’d gained through his economic politics led to deep divides in his party, and after his death the country once again relapsed into a period of political violence and instability. Since the 1983 democratic elections, Peronism has been at the forefront of Argentine Politics.

There have been major reforms within the Justicialist Party since Peron’s death from policy changes that have brought in support from the middle class, to fractions within the party that have resulted in more than one electoral candidate per party, and these changes have always led to unease amongst voters - could the current climate be enough to swing voters toward the opposition?

The Current Climate

Since 2018, Argentina has been in recession, building up debt with the IMF and struggling with inflation prices. The Covid-19 pandemic brought a major blow to the tourism industry which accounted for 10% of the nation’s GDP in 2019.

There is also the question of the stability of the current coalition between two factions of the Peronist movement with a president and vice president who oppose on various fronts. While some of the public welcome this factional dissent as a symptom of healthy democracy, others are worried about extreme parties gaining a foothold.

Moving Forward

Although it’s difficult to predict just like the outcomes of the tragamonedas Peru offers, it seems that once again Peronism’s broad ideology could be its undoing - how large or long-lasting the ramifications of this would be are a mystery, but what is clear is that a major turning point is approaching in Argentina’s political narrative.