Emboldened by a Kirchnerite defeat in last Sunday’s PASO provincial primaries in Salta, President Mauricio Macri made the northwestern city his Thursday stop in his "#SíSePuede" campaign swing of 30 cities in 30 days, as he continued his search for an electoral “miracle.”
The Juntos por el Cambio leader, who is seeking re-election, asked voters to back him at the polls on October 27, telling them Argentina’s problems could be solved with “more time.”
"With more time, we will solve the economic problems and grow without inflation and without crisis, which is what we all want," the head of state told supporters gathered at the Plaza de la Independencia.
"Because I know we have the possibilities and what we Argentines are capable of when we agree," he added.
"This time it's serious," he declared. "We believe in what we are doing. Without hiding reality and facing up to the problems."
The president went on to hail his administration's work in the province, highlighting the expansion of the 4G network and the fight against drug-trafficking on Argentina's northern border.
During his last visit to Salta in mid-September, Macri was reproached by local archbishop Mario Cargnello for his failure to deliver on his 2015 campaign promise of “zero poverty.”
Last Sunday’s PASO primaries resembled the previous round of provincial voting (Mendoza's gubernatorial elections on September 29) in at least two respects – the winner was the mayor of the provincial capital and, perhaps of more national significance, the result was a shot in the arm for a faltering Macri re-election campaign.
Salta City Mayor Gustavo Sáenz, who first came to national attention as Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front running-mate in 2015, was the victor with 43 percent of the million or so votes cast as against 32 percent for Frente de Todos in a 69 percent turnout. This result reversed the verdict of August’s national PASO primaries when Frente de Todos garnered 48 percent.
At the level of candidates there was also plenty of role reversal. Sáenz defeated a front which now includes his 2015 running-mate Massa.
On the other side of the fence, local Peronism changed gears from the centre-right leadership of three-term Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey (now also a national running-mate, with Roberto Lavagna) to the more leftist Kirchnerite style of Sergio “Oso” Leavy, who clinched the opposition gubernatorial candidacy with 74 percent of the Frente de Todos vote, at the expense of Miguel Isa.
As in Mendoza, Frente de Todos aggressively nationalised a provincial vote yet this strategy has now resulted in a second consecutive defeat for national frontrunner Alberto Fernández. But the front, officially representing local Peronism, also suffered the loss of Urtubey voters to Sáenz.
At provincial level opinions were divided between whether the result was more an endorsement of Sáenz or a rejection of Urtubey in a province with 41.8 percent below the poverty line but neither of the two main national presidential candidates was seen as decisive for the outcome.
Sáenz won an absolute majority of the vote in the provincial capital, which was seen as recognition of his mayoral track record. The best Frente de Todos performances were in Metán and Orán.
Third-party voting was dominated by national deputy Alfredo Olmedo, the maverick conservative with the trademark yellow flak jacket, who picked up 20 percent with leftist FIT gubernatorial hopeful Pablo López picking up less than six percent. It was unclear how much of the local Cambiemos vote backing Macri nationally went to Sáenz and how much to Olmedo.