Anti-UK Argentine President suffers electoral catastrophe – Falklands power grab backfires
Alberto Fernández’s government suffered a heavy defeat in the midterm primaries at the weekend – a result that indicates the ruling Peronist party may lose control of the Senate in the crucial November election. The centre-right opposition coalition Juntos took 41 percent of the nationwide vote and left the government trailing on 30 percent after 96 percent of all votes were counted.
The ruling party suffered defeats in 18 of the 24 districts, including the capital Buenos Aires, as the government comes under fire for coronavirus policy and rising levels of poverty.
The shock result comes 12 months after President Fernandez claimed the Falkland Islands, known in Argentina as Islas Malvinas, were "illegally occupied" by the UK.
Speaking at the 75th United Nations General Assembly, the Peronist leader also claimed Britain had an “excessive and unjustified military presence on the islands”.
He said: "I want to reaffirm the legitimate and imprescriptible sovereign rights of the Argentine Republic over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and the surrounding maritime spaces, which are an integral part of the national territory of Argentina and which have been illegally occupied by the United Kingdom for more than 187 years."
Mr Fernandez added: "The UK also insists on the excessive and unjustified military presence on the islands that does nothing more than bringing tension to a region characterised by being a zone of peace and international cooperation."
The Falkland Islands is a British overseas territory in the south-west Atlantic Ocean and has been the subject of a dispute for decades.
Argentina claims it has the rights to the islands and says it was inherited from the Spanish crown in the early 1800s.
Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, prompting then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to deploy troops.
Almost 1,000 soldiers were killed during the resultant war, which resulted in Argentinian forces being expelled and the UK reclaiming the islands.
Argentina and the UK restored diplomatic relations in 1990 and the Falkland Islands remain self-governing, but foreign affairs and others defence matters are handled by the UK Government.
In 2013, residents of the sparsely-populated Falkland Islands voted for it to remain a British overseas territory.
The midterm primary vote is seen an as an acid test for the Argentine government ahead of the midterm vote on November 14.
In the November election, 127 seats in the Chamber of Deputies are up for grabs out of a total of 257, as well as 24 seats out of 72 in the Senate.
The government is under mounting pressure over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Argentina having one of the world’s highest death rates per capita.
President Fernandez also imposed one of the world’s longest lockdowns, which crippled the economy and sent inflation soaring.