Argentina election: Voters dream of breaking cycle of crisis

Argentina election: Voters dream of breaking cycle of crisis

Image copyright
Gi Fly Bike

Image caption

Lucas Toledo got the idea for the quick-folding Gi Fly electric bike during a transport strike in 2015

“It’s like trying to run an ice-cream parlour in the desert.” That is how entrepreneur Lucas Toledo describes the uphill struggle of having a business in Argentina. With a hugely polarising presidential election only days away, the country is in the middle of another economic crisis. This comes 18 years after Argentina’s debt default in 2001, when the South American country went through five presidents within a fortnight after a run on the banks. It may not have come to that in 2019, but the inflation rate has surged beyond 50% and the currency has plummeted. Who is to blame for this return to bad form? It depends who you ask. Some say the villain is the current right-wing president, Mauricio Macri, while others point the finger at his predecessor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is running for vice-president in Sunday’s election.

Argentina’s election in shortIncumbent President Mauricio Macri, a right-wing businessman, is facing centre-left challenger Alberto Fernández
Mr Fernández’s running mate is former populist President Cristina Fernández (no relation)
To avoid a run-off, the candidate needs to secure 45% of votes (or 40% and a 10-point lead)

She and her centre-left running mate – presidential candidate Alberto Fernández (no relation) – belong to the populist Peronist movement. Mr Toledo is firmly in the pro-Macri camp. He has been campaigning for the president’s re-election while running his state-of-the-art electric bike company, Gi Fly, from Córdoba, Argentina’s second biggest city.He says that Mr Macri, the ex-president of Boca Juniors football team, is the more business-friendly candidate. The president has shown specific support for the Gi Fly bike, having once been pictured riding one to promote home-grown innovation.

The bike is a clever contraption. It folds down in a second and can be locked automatically from a smartphone. But at US$2,729 (£2,160), it is also very expensive. The small company exports mostly to the US, but benefits from using affordable local engineers in its home city for development and then outsourcing production to China. Could the company operate solely in Argentina? Mr Toledo laughs: “That would be 100% impossible.” He says the biggest problems for entrepreneurs are Argentina’s inflation rate and high taxes. The government, which is in a minority in Congress, has tried to reduce taxes, “but when they bring in new regulation, it gets blocked”.While Mr Toledo acknowledges that the Macri administration – in power since 2015 – has made plenty of mistakes, including failing to bring down inflation and poverty, he is convinced it is better than the alternative. An election battlegroundIndustrious and relatively wealthy, Córdoba province was the only voting region – aside from central Buenos Aires – that backed President Macri in August’s primary election. In Argentina, the primaries feature numerous cross-party candidates, and function as a culling process but also a dry-run for the main event. In Córdoba, this sparked a parody Twitter account, calling for a separatist movement – a Brexit for Córdoba, or a “Cordobexit” – and both leaders have made repeated trips to the area to try to drum up support. Nationwide, Alberto Fernández won 47.7% of the votes, as opposed to Mr Macri’s 32.1%, and analysts say the president’s chances of staying in power now look very slim.”Macri came along with his Cambiemos (Let’s Change) slogan, but nothing really changed,” says Guillermo
Read More