Thirty hours before the deadline for the naming of lists, Unión por la Patria’s social media accounts announced what had until that point seemed unfeasible: Argentina’s ruling coalition will stand in unity at the election and its Kirchnerite wing will not be represented on the main ballot.
After a dramatic U-turn, Economy Minister Sergio Massa will head the ticket as candidate for president, with Cabinet Chief Agustín Rossi his partner for the vice-presidential post.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner understood that the launched formula of Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro and Tucumán Governor Juan Manzur did not convince even her own party. That is why, early on, she contacted Deputy Cabinet Chief Juan Manuel Olmos and asked him to mediate with Alberto Fernández in order to reach a unity list. Negotiations progressed and finally the president and his vice-president spoke on the phone to agree on a truce that would put an end to internal conflict in the ruling coalition.
Fernández asked for two things: to decide the candidate for vice-president and for the list of deputies for Buenos Aires Province to be opened up. The head of state also said that he did not want vetoes for the names he proposed to be applied. The president chose his own Cabinet chief to be Massa’s running-mate. And he gave two names for the list of lawmakers who will enter Congress from December 10: Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero and Social Development Minister Victoria Tolosa Paz.
At the end of the conversation with CFK, the head of state called Cafiero and another person of utmost confidence, expressing concerns that Peronist governors were exasperated at the ‘Wado-Manzur’ ticket. The details were left in the hands of Olmos and Cafiero. The president celebrates that there is no ‘K’ candidate on the list. And he goes further: the two leaders are part of his government – the government that Kirchnerism made a point to criticise.
Fernández also spoke with Daniel Scioli. Argentina’s ambassador to Brazil assured the president that he would not be an obstacle to Peronist unity. He did not want any other position and will not be part of the Unión por la Patria campaign, nor will he offer public dissent.
De Pedro also remained silent after the news was made official, the one who supported the new ticket publicly was Manzur. "We celebrate the unity of our political space and we wish success to our candidates for president, Sergio Massa and vice-president, Agustín Rossi, who express the consensus of the forces we are part of," said the Tucumán leader, who had already recorded a campaign spot that will never be aired.
No longer a presidential hopeful, De Pedro will head the ruling coalition’s senatorial list in Buenos Aires Province, with Máximo Kirchner as the first name on the list of deputies. He will be accompanied by Tolosa Paz. From that space, and facing possible defeat, Kirchnerism will prepare to resist.
The final slate, without a Kirchnerite on it, surprised even the movement’s leaders.."Sergio earned it, he has very powerful friends and he gave Cristina what Alberto Fernández did not guarantee her," one La Cámpora leader told Perfil, without wanting to provide further details. "We understand that we have to go with Massa if that assures us a triumph, as happened in 2019, but to lose, I prefer to lose without being wrapped in the US flag,” is another of the phrases coming from the Kirchernite wing that has still not digested the news.
There are also murmurings of discontent and in the coming weeks they will intensify. Although in public they will adhere to the edicts from above, Kirchnerite leaders will not go out to support a ticket they do not share. Without key voices to endorse the ticket, one of the main shouts of support came from the General Confederation of Labour umbrella union grouping. The CGT, which until now had been in disarray, has aligned itself with the Massa-Rossi ticket.
Social leader Juan Grabois refuses to accept the choice and will run in the PASO primary against Massa. He initially stepped down to support De Pedro’s candidacy. "I am in profound disagreement with what happened, we will run in the primaries," he said at a press conference a few metres from the Congress, rejoining the fight.
In the end, Fernández de Kirchner was forced to be the one to organise the coalition. On Thursday, she had dinner with Massa, who laid out all the evils that would occur if he did not stand as the candidate, starting with the economic catastrophe that problems with the IMF would cause.