The debate of the second round of the candidates for the presidency of Argentina was held on Sunday, one week before the elections. Public television offered the signal to all interested television stations. Just to begin, the two moderators, Pablo Vigna and Luciana Geuna, reminded that the electoral debates are a right of the citizens and, therefore, it is mandatory for the candidates to participate. They also told the audience attending the Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires that clapping, shouting, whistling or moving was prohibited.
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The debate lasted two hours with commercial breaks included. One minute of initial presentation and another of closing for each of the two candidates and six thematic blocks of twelve minutes. The moderators only intervened if the candidate spoke for more than two minutes straight. Javier Milei and Sergio Massa appeared triumphantly on stage and placed themselves behind their lecterns. In the opening and closing speeches, Massa preferred to speak from a more advanced position on the stage, without the papers and the lectern.
The strategy in all blocks by Massa, the official candidate, set the tone of the debate. “Javier, yes or no, I’m going to ask you”, he warned him just start. And that was the general dynamic of the whole program to bring down his rival. The Peronist candidate pressed Milei with many dichotomous questions that forced him to specify his political project and, above all, that some of its contradictions became apparent:You are going to eliminate subsidies, yes or no? You are going to privatize Vaca Muerta, yes or no? For a yes or a no, are you going to dollarize the economy? For a yes or a no, are you going to privatize rivers and seas? Yes or no? For a yes or a no, are you going to eliminate the central bank?” Each thematic block was filled with questions directed at Milei. He even pressured him to agree to take a psychotechnical test in the face of the confidence of the electorate. In the middle of the debate, Argentine television changed the moderators. Media balances that make form end up being prioritized over function.
Massa continued to ask Milei questions: “Do you know what the GDE is?”, and faced with the ignorance of the administrative system that the anarcho-capitalist demonstrated, the Peronist scolded him: “This is much more serious, because on December 10 you have to preside over Argentina!” And he continued with the questions: “Is Thatcher your idol?”, “Do Kelpers have the right to self-determination?”, “Brazil and China. Are you going to maintain relationships with both of them? Yes or no?” There were so many questions piled up that when Massa stopped, Milei didn’t know what to say. “And what do you want to ask?”, asked the ultra a little bewildered. And Massa answered him:Nothing. I gave you the word“. And Milei, who no longer even knew what the subject was, gave him back the hot potato: “Ah! Well! I’ll give it to you!”
At the end of the debate, part of the audience chanted “The caste is afraid”, and the atmosphere of a football match was created. The spectators probably too, because the show was not at all hopeful for the next legislature.
Mònica Planas Callol is a journalist and television critic