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ARGENTINA | 23-10-2023 01:31

Massa declares end of polarisation after topping presidential ballot

Economy minister and ruling coalition presidential candidate emerges wins first round; Massa declares that nation's steep political rift, 'la grieta' is over and that a “new stage” lies ahead for Argentina.

Sergio Massa declared that Argentina’s stark political divide is over on Sunday night as he scored a surprise comeback victory in the presidential election.

Massa, 51, took more than 36 percent of the vote, vastly improving on his coalition’s performance in the PASO primaries back in August and installing himself as the favourite to emerge triumphant from the November 19 run-off against libertarian lawmaker Javier Milei.

But in a speech to supporters at the ruling Unión por la Patria coalition’s bunker in Chacarita, Buenos Aires, on Sunday, Massa refrained from revelling in the victory and adopted a sombre tone as he sought to win over voters who backed rivals ahead of the run-off.

Repeating his call for a “national unity” government, Massa argued that the vote proved that “la grieta” – the local name for the polarised politics that has dominated recent years – was no more and that “a new stage” for the nation would begin on December 10.

"I want to call on us to understand that the Argentina that is coming is the Argentina of the embrace, of the countryside and industry, of the interior and the city, of railway development, of businessmen and workers sitting at the same table building the sum of capital and labour, more Argentine development," the presidential hopeful remarked.

Rejecting the aggressive approach trademarked by Milei, Massa said he wanted to “put an end to the idea of the destruction of the other, to the idea of the friend-enemy.”

“If there is one thing that has been clear in this election, it is that the grieta is dead and a new stage begins on December 10 with my government,” he said confidently.

Massa appeared alone onstage and was only joined by fellow party leaders and his family when his speech had finished. It was a very deliberate approach, distancing himself from the internal bickering of the ruling coalition and attempting to appeal to swing voters who are unsure who to back in the run-off.

"I want to thank the more than eight million Argentines who placed their hope and trust in us, and I want to do so understanding that our country is going through a complex and difficult situation, full of challenges and difficulties to face,” said Massa, who took over stewardship of Argentina’s economy last year.

 "I want to thank each of our activists and supporters, I had to be the face, but have no doubt that in the strength, the will, the commitment that I found in each one of them, was the energy that allowed us to grow almost 15 points from the primary to today," he declared.

Turning to the battle ahead, Massa emphasised that he stood for “democratic values” and “respect for institutions” – keywords that will trigger voters who backed the opposition coalition.

"I want to talk to those who went to the dark room and voted [by casting] blank [ballots], who perhaps, with despair or anger stayed at home. I want to talk to them if they chose [rivals] Myriam [Bregman], Juan [Schiaretti], to those thousands of Radicals who throughout Argentina share democratic values with us but also to those who chose another option thinking about the need to have an Argentina in peace, with order, on the basis of building democratic values, respect for institutions, those who want a country with certainties."

In another part of his speech, Massa contrasted his approach to politics to that of Milei, saying he is a leader who "does not like to insult or destroy others" and said he "believes in dialogue and consensus.”

"Even if I am worthy of criticism, this is the way I have moved all my life and this is the way I will move on December 10 as president of the republic," he said.

"I want you to know that I am going to work over the next 30 days to consolidate the idea that this government of national unity is possible. I want to tell every Argentina that I am going to be the president of work and security, that is my greatest commitment," he said.



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