The June 9 Provincial Election In Chubut, Argentina's No.2 Petro-Province
Chubut is Argentina's second most important Petro-Province (after Neuquén), producing 30% of the country's petroleum and 7% of its natural gas. No Argentine province produces more petroleum than Chubut, with the province’s most populous city, Comodoro Rivadavia (located within the San Jorge basin), considered Argentina’s historic oil capital, and home of the National Petroleum Museum and the annual National Petroleum Queen pageant.
Chubut’s governor is selected in a single-round, with whoever wins the most votes elected governor. In the election to fill the 27-seat unicameral provincial legislature, whichever alliance/party wins the most votes receives 16 seats (i.e., a guaranteed majority), with the remaining 11 seats allocated among the other alliances/parties using proportional representation.
While there are seven gubernatorial candidates, only two have a realistic prospect of victory: Governor Mariano Arcioni of the Chubut Forward alliance and Carlos Linares, mayor of Comodoro Rivadavia, of the Chubut Patriotic Front alliance.
On April 7 Chubut held mandatory party primaries in which all candidates and alliances/parties competed together. Linares was victorious in a three-way Chubut Patriotic Front primary, garnering 18% of the province-wide vote to 14% for Gustavo Mac Karthy and 4% for Omar Burgoa, with the three candidates combined winning 36% of all votes cast by Chubut voters (effectively the same proportion won by Arcioni on his own).
Arcioni is a strong favorite to be re-elected. He won 36% of the vote in the April 7 primary running unopposed within his alliance, and since that time has consolidated his core support as well as extended his support among two key groups.
The first are voters and politicians who supported the more centrist Gustavo Mac Karthy in the Chubut Patriotic Front primary and are either not enamored with Linares and/or (among the political elites) receptive to overtures from the sitting governor who controls a considerable amount of resources.
The second are voters who cast a ballot in the April 7 primary for the candidate of President Mauricio Macri’s Let’s Change alliance, national deputy Gustavo Menna, who won only 16% of the vote and as a result is no longer seen as a viable candidate. Since Linares has stronger ties to Cristina Fernández than Arcioni, some Menna primary voters are likely to switch their support to Arcioni to prevent the election of Linares (a lesser of two evils choice for most).
Three of the remaining candidates are members of small far left parties while a fourth is the standard bearer of a small Peronist splinter group. Combined, their vote total in the gubernatorial election is unlikely to surpass 10% to 12%, and their parties/alliances are not expected to win any seats in the provincial legislature.
In the event Cristina Fernández returns to power (as the vice presidential candidate of Alberto Fernández as is presently the case, or otherwise), both Arcioni and Linares would be on good personal terms with the administration, with Linares though more in sync ideologically with Cristina Fernández.
In the event Macri is re-elected as president, Arcioni would be much better positioned to maintain a productive and positive dialogue on energy-related matters with the Macri administration than Linares.
For energy companies, the re-election of Arcioni (the most likely scenario) would result in a continuation of the positive status quo in the province. A Linares victory would probably also lead to a continuation of the positive status quo for energy policy in Chubut, but though with a greater degree of uncertainty and a greater possibility for actions by the provincial government that are not fully aligned with the interests of most energy companies, especially international oil companies (IOCs), in the areas of investment, operations, and production.