The challenge for Frente de Todos is to reach the second round. Nobody is talking about a victory in October, least of all the Senate chief.
"One thing is whoever says they want to be, anyone who raises their hand and says they want to be president. Who doesn't want to be president? Another is to see who is left when everything is sorted out."
Argentina’s vice-president does not believe in the strategy of going to an extended PASO primary. In this election, the important thing is for the ruling coalition’s presidential candidate to capture as many of her votes as possible so that they make it into the run-off, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner assures.
The vice-president recalls the 2017 midterm elections, explaining that the Peronist candidate cannot fall behind three other candidates.
"Imagine what the media will be like," she tells those in her inner circle, speculating if Javier Milei, Patricia Bullrich and Horacio Rodríguez Larreta will net more votes than the most voted-for name from the ruling party.
"They put on a show so it would play out on prime-time television. Like it were a campaign rally or a bus ride, to add up to something. What they did is an offence to the citizens who deserved to know the result in Buenos Aires Province." said the vice-president hours after the 2017 PASO in which she competed as a senator. At the time, Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos government manipulated the uploading of the official data to project themselves as winners, they celebrated in front of all the media and the voters went to sleep with them celebrating on stage. The next day, the result was different, but nobody cared. This time,
Juntos por el Cambio will not be able to manipulate the data but they still have the media.
For this reason, CFK dismisses the possibility of an extended primary. She does not rule out the PASO explicitly, as Sergio Massa does, but if there are internal elections, they will only be between two presidential candidates.
What Fernández de Kirchner has no doubt about is that the candidate she has not yet endorsed must manage to retain the largest number of votes.
"Yes, obviously," she responds immediately, when asked about the need for one of the conditions: that the ruling party’s candidate must be able to win her votes. She repeats a theory that in this ‘three-pronged election,’ the important thing is the floor and not the ceiling.
In this sense, the votes she retains will be decisive. Two names stand out here: Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro and Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof.
"Axel is the one to whom she transfers the most votes. But there is a problem which is not minor and that is that he is the governor of Buenos Aires Province and he must be re-elected," details a well-informed Kirchnerite.
The provincial chief wants to run for a second term. Kicillof has not yet discussed this with his political leader but he knows that if she asks him, he will have no choice. His chief advisor and most trusted aide Carlos Bianco anticipated a definition when he posted on his social media accounts a campaign poster bearing the phrase "Axel 2023 governor."
What seems to have been ruled out is an electoral split in Buenos Aires Province. This will be finalised once the candidacies have been made official. In any case, they will wait to see what the opposition line-up is and, above all, who Javier Milei's gubernatorial candidate will be. Fernández de Kirchner is not sure about the electoral result in the nation’s key battleground and the election there also involves the senators and deputies who, in the event of defeat, are resisting in Congress.
When the vice-president is asked about the possibility of Economy Minister Sergio Massa becoming a presidential candidate, she remains silent and opens her arms. She does not want to put down any candidate, it is time to broaden the sector. Nor does he want to aggravate the economic crisis. The aim is to get things in order, without the former president having to be the one to decide. Massa does not understand what CFK thinks about his proposal to become the sole candidate and the blessing does not come. He is not a leader who will ensure an automatic transfer of her votes. On the contrary, he is one of the least popular figures among Kirchnerite militants.
"This week it was demonstrated that she is going to do everything she has to do to get as many votes as possible," they say on the first floor of the Senate, where her office is located. Fernández de Kirchner’s recent letter, in which she announced that she will not be a "pet of power," was the first move, followed by an interview with Pablo Duggan on the C5N news channel. It will continue with a massive rally in Plaza de Mayo. The vice-president went out to rearrange the space, with the aim of winning as many votes as possible.
When will there be more definitions? CFK mentions a key date: June 11 is the new date for the election in Tucumán and after another Peronist triumph inland, the movement’s governors will attend an event at the Consejo Federal de Inversiones (“Federal Investment Council"). Attention will have to be paid to that meeting. They could be the first to speak out on the electoral strategy. Of course, in agreement with the head of the Senate.
Argentina’s vice-president is convinced of Milei's growth. But the libertarian lawmaker’s surge will not happen at the same time as an increase in votes for opposition hopeful Patricia Bullrich. She assesses that these two leaders are competing for the same space, the most irrational electorate, and there are not so many votes to be won there. It is one or the other. If Milei makes it to the run-off, it will be because City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta won the opposition PASO against the former PRO chair, she believes.
The challenge for the Frente de Todos is to reach the second round. Nobody is talking about a victory in October, least of all the Senate chief. Unlike the previous elections in which Juntos por el Cambio managed to pick up votes between the primaries and the general election, this time there could be a different logic. In the ruling coalition, they explain that after the PASOs, the votes of the PRO leader who is left behind may not be automatically transferred to the winning candidate.
That is to say: Bullrich's votes do not go directly to Rodríguez Larreta, nor do Rodríguez Larreta's votes go automatically to Bullrich. The great beneficiary in this case is Milei, who could grow his share of the vote between August and October.
"This means that none of the three spaces is assured of a place” in the run-off, they admit within Frente de Todos.
The vice-president usually anticipates election results. In 2021, she knew that the election was lost and told Alberto Fernández as much. The president said in response that the Frente de Todos would win. CFK recalls that at that time President Fernández assured her that if he did not win by more than 10 points, he would retire from politics. There was almost a 10-point difference – but it was in favour of Juntos por el Cambio.
"Another promise Alberto didn't keep," the vice-president quips ironically in private, recalling those conversations that she no longer has with the head of state.