The ratings for Argentine President Mauricio Macri have fallen some 20 percentage points since last December, particularly among the middle class, prompting his administration to backtrack on its retroactive gas pay.
Last Thursday the minister of interior announced to the Senate that the government and natural gas distributors will split the bill to pay for gas consumed between April and September of this year.
Days prior the administration had announced that users would pay millions in dollars for gas they had used during those months because its price had been set by the government when the peso was at 20 to one dollar last March but tanked to around 40 by September.
Not only did Macri back down on the gas measure, but also initiated a housing plan, to up Internet communication and would start road reparations in the province of Rosario, remodeling and the Mar del Plata airport, among other transportation upgrades across the country.
"Macri’s idea is to try to change the social climate around with these measures, especially in the middle class, from now to end of the year," a minister explained to La Nacion newspaper. He's also gearing up to run as the incumbent in the 2019 elections.
According to Pablo Knopoff, director of the polling company, Isonomia Consultor, Macri’s ratings among the middle class, who were his biggest electoral supporters, fell from 60 to 40 points in the last 10 months.
Anti-austerity demonstrators, mainly from social organizations and unions, have been out en masse over the past year to protest the government’s slew of transportation and energy subsidy slashes, state worker layoffs in the tens of thousands, the devalued peso and the now US$57 billion International Monetary Fund loan.
"The erosion (of Macri’s popularity) has been taking place since December. This decline, which occurred in all (class) segments, is higher amongst the middle" Knopoff, told La Nacion.
The pollster said that the middle class feels the effects of inflation, which has increased by some 14 percentage points since December, the hardest because they receive little to no social benefits, adds Knopoff.
Federico Aurelio, director of the consulting firm, Aresco, says: "The major decline [of Macri's image in general] began at the end of December 2017, after the pension reform." At that time, national security forces cracked down on protesters who tried to stop the government from approving a US$4 million cut to Argentina’s retirement fund. The measure was eventually approved and over 140 demonstrators were injured.
Interestingly, the political analyst Marcos Novaro says Macri is feeling the drop in rating less because there were fewer expectations of him and his party which was founded in 2015. Macri and his right-wing Cambiemos political party had no established ideology or longtime supporters as is the case with Peronists.
"The issue of disillusionment is important, but illusions were not very intense either. There was no falling in love with and (later) frustration (with Macri),” said Novaro. "There are few people who believe in Macri,” he added, but that might not hurt him as much because he came to power with no prior political experience and no expectations of him.