President Alberto Fernández says no-one wants to break up the ruling coalition. On Wednesday, he will meet Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in public at Congress and – beyond the attention that will be paid to a presidential speech inaugurating a parliamentary year – all eyes will be on the moment that has become a rarity: the more than three hours that they will share together, obliged by protocol.
Those waiting for a definition from the president about his electoral future will not get one. Alberto Fernández will not use his landmark speech to talk about candidacies, nor will he give any concrete signals. "Don't rush me," he repeats to those who question him about his intentions. In private, when asked about what will happen on Wednesday, he describes it as “an institutional act.” Politically, it will involve nothing more than “respecting constitutional forms.”
This will be the president’s last state-of-the-nations speech and he will review his administration’s achievements. Secretary General to the Presidency, Julio Vitobello, has been put in charge of collecting management reports that will outline the words the president delivers in the Chamber of Deputies. He will also talk about everything that remains to be done, likely with a pointed mention of Congress, which has not made progress on many initiatives. There will be messages for his own coalition and for an opposition that this week blocked two bills such as the Ley Lucio and the Ley de Alcohol Cero.
President Fernández will also take aim at the justice system. There will be a moment dedicated to mentioning the innocence of his running mate. The head of state does not understand why the message of proscription has become so strong among the ruling coalition and why nobody talks about her innocence any more. Just as he will not talk about his own candidacy, neither will he talk about his vice-president’s intentions in the elections.
Invitations began to be sent out last Friday after a meeting a day before between the authorities of the Senate and the Casa Rosada to coordinate the event. Lawmakers will be inside the chamber, and there will be room for officials, governors and mayors. The members of the Supreme Court will also have seats reserved, as they have all been invited.
Fernández de Kirchner returned from the south on Sunday and, surprisingly, Máximo Kirchner will also be there on Wednesday. The La Cámpora leader has been absent for two of Alberto’s three previous state-of-the-nation speeches and his presence could be a new gesture towards dialogue.
The head of state will arrive at Congress a few days after five lawmakers broke from the ruling coalition’s caucus in the Senate. The president says that he spent a year trying to prevent the split from happening, but explains to his inner circle that his administration has nothing to do with the fact that the bloc has finally split. From the Casa Rosada, they say most broke because of relations with the Kirchnerite leadership in the upper house, who did not take their views into account.
This is the scenario facing the head of state ahead of his flagship address. He knows that it is his last speech of this period but he hopes to be able to return and deliver another as a re-elected president. But he continues to insist to his inner circle that he is “not prioritising my name, I'm prioritising the triumph." Over the weekend, as a prelude, he asked through social media "to leave aside the political hubbub and listen to the murmur of those who most need the state.”