For over a year now, the governor of Entre Ríos Province has been pushing for the president to seek re-election in 2023.
Gustavo Bordet, 59, agrees with Alberto Fernández that Peronism’s abandoning of the middle ground is the explanation for its defeat in the midterm elections, while outlining the logic of a province where no captive vote exists.
The two-term governor, who took office in 2015, further reveals the thinking of many governors about the roles of La Cámpora and Kirchnerism within the ruling Frente de Todos coalition.
In 2020 we had a long interview in which you said that Alberto Fernández had to be the next Frente de Todos presidential candidate. The president also said in this series of interviews that he was ready to run again in 2023. What did you see 18 months ago which has now been ratified?
Whoever holds an executive post, with the presidency being the most important, must logically have aspirations to re-election. Alberto Fernández can guarantee the consolidation of a Justicialist model, which would tie in directly with his re-election in 2023. Then it will be the people who will decide with their vote. But within our movement the president has every legitimacy to aspire to re-election.
What you surely saw was that Kirchnerism had a ceiling and that the more traditional Peronism of the governors had to resurge. In the aforementioned interview, Alberto Fernández says that the elections were lost because of a shift towards the Kirchnerite sector.
I share that outlook. It is important to consolidate a front whose central axle revolves around a moderation which brings us closer to other sectors. These days you have to think out of the box. In order to be able to attract other sectors electorally, you need to open up and that needs an open-minded strategic vision.
Alberto Fernández represents the possibility of the confluence of different internal sectors. That’s what he works towards every day from the government. Our task, in my case as in that of other governors, consists precisely in bolstering that construction of a model so that, at least in provinces with very particular characteristics like Entre Ríos or other productive zones, it has the political strength and volume to dispute elections. So that, as happened in 2015 and 2019, we can count on the support of a citizenry which trusts in a model guaranteeing reasonable and open-minded dialogue and, fundamentally, coming together without divisions.
In your province did the proximity of Kirchnerism make you lose votes?
When positions become radical, votes run away from you – votes that we have when local executive posts like governor or mayors are up. When the election is for Congress, those votes are not there.
Entre Ríos has a very fluctuating vote. It’s a province with a very good demographic distribution.The capital (Paraná) concentrates only 25 percent of the population. There is no captive vote – it changes. When that vote becomes nationalised, we local Peronists lose identity. When the proposals are local, the citizenry trusts in our responsibility when holding public office. When the proposals are nationalised, as in the midterm elections, or when more extreme positions predominate, we lose that vote.
So provinces like yours have a very different electoral behaviour to Greater Buenos Aires.
Some mayors do have Kirchnerite tendencies and the citizenry trusts them. Executive posts are elected more for the trust in the person resolving their daily problems. That is the job of a mayor. But in the macro-economic context, in a very moderate province with very centrist positions and democratic alternation, the variable separating one political position from another becomes a very fine line. Moving towards one radical position or another signifies a loss of votes.
We mention your case along with [Santa Fe’s] Omar Perotti, as well as [San Juan’s] Sergio Uñac, who early in 2019 said that Roberto Lavagna was the ideal president. Are there centrist governors very distant from Kirchnerism, who could at the same time join with northern governors also very close to Alberto Fernández such as (Cabinet Chief and Tucumán governor on leave) Juan Manzur?
That is what I converse about in particular with many governors. There is a proximity with the president. We see our federal interests represented by the president. The future of Justicialism passes through consolidating the presidential plan of government and accompanying him from the provinces. We understand that to be the way.
Politics is all about cycles and opportunities. Today the president is Alberto Fernández. From Peronism and our provinces,we have to consolidate the construction of that power which in 2023 will have to carry forward a proposal which will necessarily have to transcend today’s. It must be much more appealing and open-minded to break through the grieta chasms.
Does being open-minded and appealing imply a lot less Kirchnerism?
With the presence of sectors which are not accompanying us nowadays because they do not see their interests being represented, whether because of Kirchnerism or other sectors. The key is a more appealing attitude to bring closer to us the votes we used to have and lack today.
So could the therapy for Frente de Todos returning to victory in 2023 be summed up as making it less Kirchnerite?
I wouldn’t say that. There are established and represented sectors within Frente de Todos. In 2019 we won the confidence of many moderate sectors, who do not necessarily adhere to Peronism. People who feel sympathy for and trust in a project of growth, of moderation but also of social inclusion. We do not have that trust of 2019 today, we’ve lost it. We must go out and look for that trust by leapfrogging non-existent grietas. That friend and foe relation is very marked in society today and also in Congress. Our task is to heal it. You do not build a country with antagonisms and permanent confrontation.
Does that culture also have to do with a productive matrix? To the extent that a province is self-sufficient and runs a surplus, does that change the political culture?
What changes is the daily form whereby the citizenry links up to politics. They do so via their work or production in this case.
Provinces like Entre Ríos have multiple regional economies. Agriculture is very important. Half of the country’s poultry products and exports come from Entre Ríos. But citric fruits, cranberries, blueberries, rice, other crops like maize, wheat and soy and cattle-breeding are also important while Entre Ríos is Argentina’s second honey producer. There is a huge problem with that logic which once imposed a confrontation with that complex abstractly known as “el campo.” What does exist are farmers who work their land and who want those who represent them to defend their interests, no matter what political party they are in. That is why their votes sometimes go in one direction and sometimes in others. Such autonomy in decision-making adds value to our provinces.
Do those provinces doing well incline towards more moderate and centrist political positions while those with insufficient resources normally seek more polarisation?
I believe that the provinces which are developed on the basis of regional economies and with productive systems enjoying dynamic growth tend towards the centre.
You cannot run for governor in your province because you have already had two terms. In your province a two-term governor can never become governor again, not even after skipping a term.
That’s right. The Constitution of Entre Ríos was reformed in 2008. It permitted a single re-election for a further term which may be continuous or discontinuous, in my case continuous, but afterwards never again. It’s a restrictive clause.
Do you agree with that?
Eight years is a more than sufficient cycle to develop a plan of government and carry it out administratively. Four years are too short a period. If the citizenry is in agreement and entrusts a further term via the popular vote, eight years are more than enough. We must break with the logic of the caudillo strongmen and create new opportunities so that my successor can do things better while predictable public policies offering continuity are installed.
The possibility of perpetuation in power boosts the caudillos. The Peronist Renewal of Antonio Cafiero in his time postulated a more institutional Justicialism. Third way governors like [Córdoba’s] Juan Schiaretti, Perotti, Uñac and yourself could inherit that quest. Kirchnerism might have been seen as a regression in that process. Could it become a minority in 2023 with Peronism as an institutional party, over and above its all-embracing figures?
After the death of Juan Perón and the end of the dictatorship in 1983, Peronism went down a long road tending to modernise itself and constitute a political party. It was not a simple process.
The passage from a movement to a political party.
It remains a movement. Peronism is an expression with the adhesion of many sectors. It has been said that everybody in Argentina ends up being Peronist with the Pope given as a humorous example. That characteristic of a movement is channelled via a political party but for that a very important process in the 1980s was needed, passing through Carlos Menem, with his pluses and minuses, and Kirchnerism. That was at a very delicate time institutionally. It put back together a system which had collapsed entirely after the 2001-2002 crisis. It is a process in evolution. Today Peronism is institutionalised.
The vice-president decided the presidential candidate and there were no primaries. That does not seem very institutional.
It generated the necessary consensus. Cristina’s decision was that Alberto Fernández become president. That was a point of consensus.
Basically she would not have picked him but that was her only alternative.
She picked a person who could generate consensus and confidence.
So was she then free not to pick whom she wanted but whom she could?
I don’t know. The decision had to do with the candidacy going to somebody who inspired confidence in the moderate sectors. In our province we called for their participation. Alberto Fernández generated that and was accompanied by a very important number of non-Peronist social sectors.
Could the 2023 presidential candidate emerge from the PASO primaries?
The PASO primary system is good. It often goes unused when a consensus is imposed. On other occasions such consensus arises naturally, as when Alberto Fernández was elected. Our opponents used the system and did very well out of it. Democratic internal competition makes a greater mobility of ideas possible, guaranteeing the integration of minorities with a confluence into a more potent proposal.
Would the president be the natural candidate for the governors and traditional Peronists?
And who would compete against him?
Nobody has expressed any such intention as yet. The president did say yes to competition in your interview with him. It would be fine if somebody did compete. I see different positions within the front but I don’t know if those positions will produce somebody to compete in the PASO primaries.
Would it serve the evolution of Peronism if Kirchnerism presented a hopeful for the 2023 PASO primaries?
As I understand it, that would. To the extent that they agree with the proposals advanced by the president, they may compete. We must not be afraid of competition. It does not weaken a political force. In these recent elections, both in my province and Buenos Aires Province, it was highly beneficial for our adversaries. Candidates of contrasting positions emerged and later were integrated in a list incorporating minorities, thus constructing a very potent proposal.