Unión por la Patria’s Leandro Santoro has announced that he will not compete in the run-off to decide the next mayor Buenos Aires City, despite qualifying for the second round.
His withdrawal means that Vicente López’s on-leave mayor Jorge Macri, the cousin of former president Mauricio Macri who currently serves as Buenos Aires City government minister, will be the next leader of the nation’s capital.
Macri, 58, will serve a four-year term beginning in December, extending the opposition PRO party’s 16-year control of the City Hall.
Santoro, 47, announced his decision on Tuesday in a statement, two days after coming second in the mayoral vote in Buenos Aires City, a region that historically has been hostile to Peronism.
With 98.68 percent of polling stations reporting, he currently has 32.2 percent of votes compared to 49.61 percent for Macri.
Trailing in third and fourth place are La Libertad Avanza's Ramiro Marra, on 13.89 percent, and Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores - Unidad candidate Vanina Biasi, who has 4.28 percent.
City mayoral candidates must win 50 percent of the vote to triumph outright in the first round.
"We want to thank the almost 600,000 porteños and porteñas who gave us their trust through their vote," read a statement issued in the names of the ruling coalition’s candidates in the capital.
"A few hours before the final count begins, our records show that the result obtained by Jorge Macri will be very few votes away from reaching the number established by the Constitution of the CABA [Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires] to be elected Head of Government.
“That is why a realistic reading of the election result, coupled with the explicit support of Javier Milei to Jorge Macri, give us the indication that it would be foolish to force a run-off," it continued.
"For these reasons, we believe that the correct strategy that this historic moment demands is to concentrate our efforts on defending democracy against the authoritarian threat, helping Sergio Massa to win in Buenos Aires City and be elected President of the Nation,” the statement reads, referring to the upcoming presidential run-off between Argentina’s economy minister and outspoken libertarian lawmaker Javier Milei.
Criticism and cynicism
Santoro’s decision – widely seen as cynical and designed to dampen opposition voter turnout in the November 19 presidential election run-off – should prevent any sectors of Juntos por el Cambio from using the mayoral race in horse-trading talks with Milei over who the opposition should support in the second-round presidential showdown.
Within the ruling coalition, there is a school of thought that believes that pulling out of the run-off will dissuade voters who backed opposition leader Patricia Bullrich in the presidential race last time out from bothering to go to the ballot box.
Ruling coalition allies dismissed the speculation, saying the decision was purely mathematical.
"We do not see the mathematical possibility, the decision has to do with that, Jorge Macri got 49.6 percent. With those numbers it was not possible to generate the triumph and that could generate a diversion of attention to our activists," said Unión por la Patria national deputy Eduardo Valdés in an interview with Radio con Vos.
"I think it was a decision taken by the first ring of the UxP table in the City of Buenos Aires, it was not Massa's decision," he speculated.
Left-wing presidential candidate Myriam Bregman was among those who bemoaned Santoro’s decision.
“What a waste,” she wrote on social media.