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Argentine general election, 1916

The Argentine general election of 1916 was held on 2 April. Voters elected the President, legislators, and local officials. The first free presidential elections in the nation's history, they had a turnout of 62.7% and produced the following official results:


  • President 1
  • Argentine Chamber of Deputies 2
  • Background 3
  • Candidates 4
  • References 5


Party/Electoral Alliance Votes Percentage Electoral
Radical Civic Union (UCR) 336,980 46.8% 152
Conservative Party 96,103 13.4% 104
Democratic Progressive Party 63,098 8.8% 20
Socialist Party 52,215 7.3% 14
Autonomist Party of Corrientes 30,968 4.3%
Dissident UCR
(Santa Fe Province)
28,116 3.9%
Others 112,089 15.5% 8
Positive votes 719,569 96.5% 298
blank or nullified votes 26,256 3.5% 2 a
Total votes 745,825 100.0% 300


Argentine Chamber of Deputies

Party/Electoral Alliance Seats Change % of votes
UCR 44 Increase16 46.8%
Conservative 28 Increase3 13.4%
Socialist 9 = 7.3%
Democratic Progressive 8 Increase8 8.8%
Liberal and Autonomist
6 Increase3 3.0%
Dissident UCR
(Santa Fe)
4 Increase4 3.9%
Provincial Union
4 Increase2 0.7%
Conservative Coalition
(Tucumán Province)
4 = ~
Democratic Union
(Santiago del Estero)
3 Decrease2 1.9%
Others 7 14.2%
Invalid votes 3a 3.5%
Total 120 100.0%

Notes: a) seats left vacant.


UCR leader Hipólito Yrigoyen greets supporters following his 1916 victory. His advocacy for free elections for over a generation resulted in Argentina's first pluralist government.

President Roque Sáenz Peña kept his word to the exiled leader of the Radical Civic Union (UCR), Hipólito Yrigoyen, who in turn abandoned his party twenty-year old boycott of elections. The president overcame nearly two years of conservative opposition in Congress (and pressure from his own social class) to pass in 1912 what was later known as the Sáenz Peña Law, which mandated universal male suffrage and the secret ballot. His health deteriorating quickly, the President lived to see the fruition of his reforms: the 1914 mid-term elections, which gave the UCR 19 out of the 60 Lower House seats in play (the ruling party obtained 10) and the governorship of Santa Fe Province (then the second-most important). Another beneficiary of the Sáenz Peña Law was the Socialist Party, led by Congressman Juan B. Justo. The formerly dominant PAN remained divided between the Conservative Party, led by the Governor of Buenos Aires Province, Marcelino Ugarte, and the Democratic Progressive Party, led by a reformist publisher and Congressman, Lisandro de la Torre.[2]

Strengthened by both popular appeal and the fractiousness of its opposition, the UCR experienced dissent within from its Santa Fe Province chapter, whose endorsement Yrigoyen was unable to obtain. The Socialists lost one of its best-known lawmakers, Alfredo Palacios, who would run on a splinter Socialist ticket for several future elections. The Conservative Party's presumptive nominee, Governor Ugarte, stepped aside in favor of a lesser-known party figure, San Juan Province Governor Ángel Rojas, in a bid to attract votes from the hinterland and from moderates. President Victorino de la Plaza, refused to interfere on behalf of the Conservatives (despite an assassination attempt that would have provided him with ample pretext). Refusing to back them, he fielded his own Provincial Party, which was limited mainly to his native Santiago del Estero Province. Faced with only token opposition from the remnants of the once-paramount PAN, Yrigoyen pledged to donate his salary to charity, if elected, and encouraged the rich country's impoverished majority to know him as "the father of the poor." [3]

Election day, April 2, handed an unexpectedly large victory to Yrigoyen, who still had to await the results from the electoral college (which met in July). The dissident, Santa Fe UCR had drained a significant number of electors from the official ticket, and Yrigoyen obtained but 133 of the body's 300 electors. Numerous Democratic Progressives, moreover, became faithless electors - pledging their support to the Conservative Party. Santa Fe's UCR, however, resorted to the same tactic, allowing Yrigoyen its 19 electors and making the patient activist for voter rights the first, democratically-elected President of Argentina.[4]



  1. ^ a b Nohlen, Dieter. Elections in the Americas. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  2. ^ Todo Argentina: Roque Sáenz Peña (Spanish)
  3. ^ Nouzeilles, Gabriella and Motaldo, Graciela. The Argentina Reader. Duke University Press, 2002.
  4. ^ Todo Argentina: 1916 (Spanish)
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