The Philippine Star - Lessons offered by Argentine polls

4 December 2019

By Federico D. Pascual Jr. | The Philippine Star

A FILIPINO would be amazed by the display of magnanimity in victory and graciousness in defeat in the recent Argentine presidential elections that was a study in class and decency, something seldom seen in Philippine politics.

When the trend became clear hours after the polls closed showing the slightest of margins, conservative Mauricio Macri, the incumbent, immediately conceded to his center-left challenger Alberto Fernandez, who then accepted the concession big-heartedly.

Macri even invited Fernandez for a breakfast chat at the Pink Presidential Palace, vowing an orderly transition that shifts Latin America’s No. 3 economy back toward the left after it was battered by economic crisis.

Fernandez promised that he would collaborate, saying he would focus on “stopping the suffering of all Argentinians.”

The post-election congeniality and show of statesmanship were a departure from the great amount of muck raked, a lot of names called, and not a few skeletons dragged out of closets during the campaign.

Their election system may have helped ensure an early orderly turnover. The lightning-fast speed with which results were transmitted and published gave the elections credibility and helped create a climate where even mortal rivals can accept the results.

The Argentine election commission showed itself to be dead-serious in modernizing the country’s polls. Its technology provider is the same Smartmatic that has helped our Commission on Elections since 2010.

The Comelec used 92,509 vote counting machines in 2016 leased from Smartmatic. In 2019, around 97,000 VCMs were bought for P2.1 billion; over a quarter of the Comelec’s P8 billion budget for that time.

The vote counting in Argentina was way faster than that in the Philippines because its system is not a hodge-podge of suppliers. Points of failure/delay were minimized.

The Argentinian experience makes a sick joke the observation that in the Philippines, no politico loses an election but is only cheated.