Macri’s Re-Election Chances Hinge on Economic Recovery, Poll Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s poll ratings rebounded at the end of 2018, according to the latest survey by Buenos Aires-based consulting firm Isonomia.

Macri’s approval rating in December was almost back to the level it started the year, the poll shows, after a 2018 marked by recession, soaring inflation and a currency crisis. Macri’s positive image bounced back to 51 percent at year-end after bottoming out at 37 percent in June.

"Macri’s re-election chances grew, and can grow further if he gets through 2019 without economic bumps," said Juan Germano, director of the polling company, in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg News.

The poll of 2,000 interviewees, carried out between December 15 and December 28, shows Macri ahead of his likely opponent, former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Only 34 percent said Kirchner had a positive image while 63 percent said she had a negative one. Macri has a lower negative image, at 46 percent.

Macri’s Re-Election Chances Hinge on Economic Recovery, Poll Shows

Isonomia’s polls also show voters intentions. Voter preference for Macri stands at 37 percent if the August primary elections were held today, against 29 percent for Kirchner. These early figures mean that they would have to face each other in a run-off, as a first-round victory requires the winning candidate to pick up over 45 percent of the votes, or 40 percent with a lead greater than 10 points over the second-placed candidate. The presidential election takes place in October.

High Prices

A polarizing campaign against Kirchner won’t be enough for Macri to win re-election, according to Germano. Economic recovery -- or at least the absence of shocks -- will be key after consumer prices rose 47.6 percent last year.

“It’s possible to win an election with high inflation in Argentina, but if Macri wants to win, the only way is for prices to come down," he said.

Keeping unemployment in check is also one of the government’s top priorities. According to Germano, if unemployment remains steady at its current 9 percent rate that’ll be good enough for Macri to win the election. The president’s security agenda is also popular with voters, according to Isonomia.

Macri’s Re-Election Chances Hinge on Economic Recovery, Poll Shows

Third Place

A smaller number of undecided voters makes it harder for a third candidate to be competitive, Germano said. Other candidates include the Peronist Sergio Massa, with 12 percent of voter intentions, ahead of the governor of Salta, Juan Manuel Urtubey, with 7 percent.

Former Economy and Production Minister Roberto Lavagna wasn’t analyzed in this poll, as he has only just began to flirt with the possibility of a campaign.

“Lavagna could be a potential candidate, but all the third options aren’t changing the scenario much," Germano said. "There is no Messi waiting on the bench."

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