Opinion & analysis
By Gabriela Hadid and Fernanda Zistecatl Espinosa

What you need to know about the 2023 Argentine elections

In the same year that democracy in Argentina celebrates its 40th anniversary, elections will be held this Sunday to elect representatives to fill the roles of President and Vice-President, 130 deputies, 24 senators in eight provinces, as well as 19 Mercosur parliamentary representatives at the national level and 24 at the regional level. These elected leaders will play an essential role in building a more inclusive society in Argentina.

In the last decade, Latin America has witnessed the emergence of extreme right-wing movements that question not only the traditional structures of democracy but also the advances in rights and freedoms that have been guaranteed.

Argentina is no exception to this disturbing trend. As evidenced by our research on youth and democracy in Latin America, these movements have found support among young people who express a high level of dissatisfaction with the traditional institutions of democracy and their performance. Young people are in favor of voting, but they do not see it as a powerful tool to achieve change. They have other ways of engaging with politics, mediated by technology and specific causes, challenging those who are focused on thinking about the future of democracy.  

In this context, Luminate remains committed to ensuring that everyone – especially those underrepresented historically – has the information, rights, and power to influence the decisions that shape society. In Argentina, we work hand in hand with diverse women and people from the LGBT+ community to ensure that they can fully participate in civic and political life. We also collaborate with organizations that seek to prevent divisions and build a less divisive and hostile public sphere.

In this election year, we are concerned with two main issues:      

Gender agenda: representation and possible setbacks with respect to guaranteed rights 

In the last few decades, Argentina has been a pioneer in promoting actions to ensure greater participation of women in politics. Since 2017, when Act 27412 on Gender Parity in Areas of Popular Representation was enacted, political parties are required to present lists that include the same number of women and men candidates. Despite this great progress, women’s access to political positions is still not equal.

Firstly, this act has not been ratified in all provinces, including in Tierra del Fuego and Tucumán. On the other hand, when implemented, the first candidate on the lists is generally a man. This translates into a gender imbalance in the variety of candidates to choose from. Besides, in elections for single-member offices, men are frequently elected, as evidenced by the research of our partner organization ELA.

Finally, as Chequeado points out, Act 27412 does not apply to presidential candidates, and this has been translated into the fact that there were only two women pre-candidates for president and two for vice-president out of the eight lists of presidential pre-candidates of the most important alliances. 

Despite the existence of the legislation, greater participation of women has not necessarily translated into greater adherence by political leaders to the gender equality agenda. ELA's monitoring of the main presidential candidates shows a general absence of concrete proposals on gender policies, plus a stance that some of the most popular political forces adopt both in their speeches and in their electoral platform, questioning the institutionalization of the agenda in the government, as well as social policies and programs in favor of this population.

In regards to the political participation of the LGBT+ community in Argentina, research in each province shows an absence of transgender candidates. Addressing the underrepresentation of LGBT+ people in politics is necessary to ensure a more diverse democracy.

According to our research on perceptions of LGBT+ politlcal representation in Latin America, 55% of the Argentines surveyed support the increase of LGBT+ representatives in politics. In that sense, it is essential to encourage the Argentine authorities, public institutions and political parties to implement more and better measures to encourage greater participation of LGBT+ people in politics, ensuring at all times that they can exercise their leadership in a safe manner.

Social networks, disinformation, and divisions

As in other countries in Latin America and the world, social networks have become a central space for public debate in Argentina. These platforms play a crucial role in the way people become informed and engage with politics. During the electoral process in Argentina, Contextual and Chequeado compiled evidence of disinformation, most of which has been focused on the presidential candidates.

While disinformation alone poses a challenge for public debate on social networks, in the Argentine context, this issue has given way to the amplification of anti-establishment narratives and the questioning of social rights that have been achieved. This has had an even more significant impact, according to Contextual, one of Luminate’s partners.

The strength of these narratives is due, largely, to a decentralized network of digital amplifiers of the discourse, mainly made up of young people. Denialist ideas, as well as those that question the existence of gender-based violence, the importance of sexual and reproductive health, or even the existence of a Ministry of Women and Diversities, have a profound impact on historically underrepresented groups, such as women and people from the LGBT+ community.  

The circulation of these narratives during the Argentine elections, reaching high levels of violence in some political campaign publications, highlights the urgent challenge of creating an environment where freedom of expression is preserved and, at the same time, a less divisive and hostile public debate is guaranteed. Political parties are essential institutions of the democratic system. It is essential that they refrain from promoting disinformation campaigns and polarizing speeches themselves or through third parties, and that they reject such practices.

Within the framework of 40 years of democracy in Argentina, this electoral process represents an opportunity to reaffirm the commitment to fairer and more inclusive societies, in which all people can fully exercise their rights. At Luminate, we will continue to support initiatives aligned with this commitment, and to monitor the outcome of this electoral process, which will undoubtedly have broad repercussions in the rest of the region.