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Kirchner's populist recipe to win elections in full motion

By Tony Pagliaro

23.04.06 | A modern populist politician knows well how to “buy” votes. One of the preferred alternatives is to give away public “employments”. Many “full time”, but most of them “part time”. It works like a “bonus” that supplements anyone’s income that nobody, once obtained, wants to loose or waive.

It thus generates “loyalty” to whomever granted it, the person receiving it -based on the hope that it will not subsequently be taken away-will continue voting for the grantor.

Néstor Kirchner has a PhD in populism and authoritarianism. When -prior to becoming President of Argentina- he was the obscure Governor of remote Santa Cruz, an Argentine southern Province with only 200.000 inhabitants, heavily subsidized by the Federal Government, he systematically controlled elections by giving away public “employment”.

His recipe has now become national.

In 2005 all Argentine provinces created public jobs at the astonishing rate of one every eight minutes. Public sector positions thus increased, at the Provincial level; at the rate of 3,5% per year. Argentine population, in turn, increased at only a rate of 0,7% per year. As they say in Spanish, this is “bread for today, hunger for tomorrow”.

Public employees enjoy the so called “stability”, i.e. a privilege through which they cannot be dismissed. Ever. Obtaining a public employment is therefore a gift for life, no matter how bad the personal performance in the respective position might be. A permanent public expenditure is therefore created every time a new public position is created.

Politicians do not care, “that is a problem for those that will come after us”, they say. In the meantime, let’s all party. Argentina will soon cry again. Particularly if people continue voting for the Kirchners, in exchange for their semi-hidden subsidies.

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