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ARGENTINA | 16-03-2019 11:18

Córdoba, once Macri’s shining light, becomes a complication for Cambiemos

Coalition fractures in province amid tension over primaries; Governor Omar Gutiérrez wins re-election in Neuquén.

Córdoba – the province which clinched the presidency for Mauricio Macri in 2015 by handing him a majority of almost a million votes (more than his nationwide margin) – is fast developing into the biggest headache for the president’s ruling Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition, after a third key figure jumped into the ongoing r if t bet ween the province’s two main Radical leaders.

On Monday, Civic Front leader Luis Juez broke from the Cambiemos coalition he had previously integrated by presenting his separate mayoral candidacy for the provincial capital.

The current mayor, Ramón Mestre, has long been on a collision course with national Lower House caucus leader Mario Negri over the Cambiemos gubernatorial candidacy. While Mestre has greater control over the Radical party machine at provincial level, Negri claims to enjoy better opinion polls as well as Macri’s favour, as stated publicly by Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña.

Mestre offered to define the issue in this Sunday’s PASO primaries but Negri refused. according to reports, announcing that he would be presenting his own list with the support of Héctor Baldassi (who heads the provincial branch of Macri’s PRO party) and Juez.

The breakaway candidacies of Negri and Juez all but end the Cambiemos coalition in its former Córdoba stronghold, virtually ensuring the re-election of Peronist Governor Juan Schiaretti in the May 12 provincial elections.

While backing Negri against Mestre, Juez was not uncritical of his own team. He accused PRO of dictating candidacies in Córdoba, in favour of the Radicals.

“We wanted an independent and transparent electoral process,” Juez told FM La Patriada last week.

Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires the same day, at a key strategic huddle in Parque Norte, the PRO National Council tried to present a more upbeat picture of the situation while sending out a clear message: Mauricio Macri will run for president, unchallenged from within his own coalition.

“The main objective is Macri’s re-election. The tension close to the finish line is logical because everyone wants to be a protagonist for change, but there is not space for everyone and we also have commitments to other members of the coalition,” Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio told Noticias Argentinas news agency. “The priority is the reelection of [President] Macri.”

On Monday evening, firebrand lawmaker Elisa Carrió, the outspoken leader of the third Cambiemos party, Civic Coalition, played down the tensions in Córdoba. She also confirmed she would throw her weight behind Negri for the governorship.

“I’m convinced we’re going to have a successful election with Negri. He’s the one with the best poll numbers,” she told Todo Noticias news channel.

NEWS FROM NEUQUÉN

Last Sunday, the first provincial elections of the year in the province of Neuquén were held, with the results delivering bittersweet news for Macri and the coalition.

On the one hand, their candidate – Horacio ‘Pechi’ Quiroga, the Radical mayor of the provincial capital – finished a dismal third with 15 percent. But, on the other, there was no momentum gained for the presidential drive of Macri’s archrival, Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, with a mediocre 26 percent for Cutral-Có Peronist Mayor and ex-picket Ramón Rioseco.

Each side was so busy trying to identify the other as the loser that hardly anybody mentioned who actually won: Governor Omar Gutiérrez of the Neuquén Popular Movement (MPN in its Spanish acronym) was re-elected with almost 40 percent of the vote, despite the rival candidacy of former threeterm MPN governor Jorge Sobisch with almost 10 percent.

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