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Perfil

ARGENTINA | 12-04-2023 23:23

Lacking agreement, Argentina's ruling Frente de Todos coalition heads towards decisive month

Ruling coalition no closer to deciding its line-up for the PASO primaries; Justicialist Party (PJ) National Council set to meet at the end of April, but President Alberto Fernandez will not define his candidacy until May.

Electoral rules and regulations are pushing Frente de Todos into a corner. At the end of the month, the main leaders of the Justicialist Party (PJ) Peronist party will meet. It will be just a formality though, as the final internal battle over candidacies for the PASO primaries will take place sometime between mid-May and the first days of June.

At the end of April the PJ headquarters on Matheu Street will gather its more than 70 council authorities. Its chairman, Alberto Fernández, vice-presidents and councillors will all have to attend. Among them, more than compañeros, there are internal enemies.

The names range from the albertista circle – including Santiago Cafiero (foreign minister), Julio Vitobello (presidential chief-of-staff), and Juan Manuel Olmos (deputy Cabinet chief) – to La Cámpora Kirchnerites such as Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro and ANSES social security administration chief Fernanda Raverta. Most of the Peronist provincial governors and trade union leaders such as Héctor Daer (health workers), teamster Pablo Moyano (truck-drivers) and Hugo Yasky (CTA trade union umbrella) will also be present. Some contact has been made, but only over "operational discussions.”

During the meeting, the sector responding to the Vice-President will once again question the head of state about his aspirations, as they did at a previous meeting back in February.

Fernández will insist on demonstrating his commitment that the party hold a primary to select its presidential candidate. As Perfil has been reporting since February, the president intends to delay his decision over whether he will run until May.

While some in the ruling coalition are trying to hurry Alberto Fernández to make up his mind, neither Cristina Fernández de Kirchner nor Máximo Kirchner have given any indication of the electoral strategy their wing will adopt. The national deputy slipped a message to the president assuring him that if he loses it, they can compete and let the people decide with their vote. The name Frente de Todos no longer makes much sense – within Peronist ranks, the sense of resignation has even led them to joke about how they could reinvent themselves with a new name: Frente de Rotos.

Although it created them, Peronism does not know how to compete in the PASOs and – fearing that internal competition could lead to fierce campaign fights – Cabinet Chief Agustín Rossi has proposed drawing up a manual for coexistence.

"I think it is very necessary if there is indeed a PASO. For them to be constructive and not fratricidal elections," he told another coalition leader this week.

Meanwhile, Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro is active and raising his profile. He does not know if he will finally be the one chosen to represent Kirchnerismo, but they let him move around, which is no small thing. Last week, the possibility of Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof being on the presidential ticket popped up again.

"To be a competitive candidate for the presidency you have to have more than 80 percent recognition and also, to be the ‘K’ candidate, you have to achieve what others do not: to retain 85 percent of those votes. Don't ignore that,," warns one coalition leader, who even speculates about a ‘CFK 2023’ campaign reigniting, but this time with Fernández de Kirchner running for governor of Buenos Aires. 

Amidst the usual speculation in the weeks leading up to the closure of the lists, at least one person has dared to speak of a potential rival to the president. Political consultant Rosendo Fraga put the question to journalist Horacio Verbitsky and since then, conjecture reached the head of YPF, Pablo González. "I am not the dark horse,” he told El Destape Radio. The place where he is not in the dark is Santa Cruz Province – if Alicia Kirchner does not go for a third term, he will sign up to run.

If there is one thing that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will not let leak, it’s her electoral strategy. Yet some of her critics within Peronism counter: it is not yet leaked because they do not have a strategy.

So if she does not bring forward the timeline and give a definition in this meeting, the unknown will not be revealed until the first weeks of May, when more than 900 party convention delegates will meet (the council must comply with the formalism of convening the body entrusted with approving the formation of Frente de Todos).

If the head of state plans to run for re-election, Kirchnerism has already given notice: when drawing up the rules with which the ruling party will compete in these elections, it will be proposed that the PASO be used for all levels of the ballot.

As anticipated by Perfil on April 2, in the event that the head of state does run, he will have to look for candidates to complete his own lists. In statements to the C5N news channel, De Pedro said that everything is heading towards internal elections with the president. The sector responding to the vice-president says that the head of state should not compete, and they will do everything they can to ensure that this is the case. 

Fernández sees these manoeuvres and they even bring a smile to his face. He has already made a decision and it has nothing to do with these final moves to get him out of the race.

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Rosario Ayerdi

Rosario Ayerdi

Jefa de Política. Mail: [email protected]

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