With the typical brutality that characterises Argentine politics, the pieces are finally falling into place ahead of the final deadline to determine the makeup of the different formulas competing for the ultimate prize. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner drew first blood, announcing she would pick former Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernández to lead the ticket, while she would be his running mate, in an act of grandeur. In the Casa Rosada, Mauricio Macri and his electoral team—which is mainly composed of Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña and Ecuadorean advisor Jaime Durán Barba— finally managed to breathe a sigh of relief after their main allies, the Radical Civic Union (UCR), agreed to remain within the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition on Monday.
Macri’s strategy appears to be working, as Macristas and Kirchneristas have defined their intention to continue their strategy of polarisation, meaning the so-called “third alternative” of “Rational Peronists”, disenchanted Radicals, socialists, and, of course, Margarita Stoblizer seems to have collapsed on itself. For the likes of Sergio Massa, Roberto Lavagna, and Juan Manuel Urtubey, time seems to be running out.
Despite deep dissatisfaction with President Macri’s tenure, the Radical party convention voted to remain in the Cambiemos coalition. The convention held this week in the Parque Norte complex in the Belgrano neighburhood of Buenos Aires had been hotly anticipated, as several internal factions had indicated they would seek to break with Macri. Mendoza Province Governor Alfredo Cornejo, sitting party chairman, had leaked the working document in which they proposed a “broadening of the coalition”. Formosa province Senator Luis Naidenoff, who is also leading the Cambiemos caucus in the Senate, spoke in the same direction, noting “Cambiemos isn’t breaking, in any case there may be an amplification of the coalition to include other sectors.” One of the running rumours had to do with Macri’s own candidacy, with some convention delegates asking the President to compete in primaries, while others suggested having a Radical running for Vice-President. Among those competing for that spot is Martin Lousteau, who acted as Macri’s Ambassador to the United States and then earned his lawmaker seat in the City of Buenos Aires outside the party structure.
The UCR will now form a round table composed of six Radical leaders who will take a range of proposals to their Cambiemos counterparts. The round table will include Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales, Mendoza Governor Alfredo Cornejo and Corrientes Governor Gustavo Valdés, Perfil reported.
While the ticket for Cambiemos hasn’t been decided yet, uncertainty and anxiety are a fitter description for what’s happening with the Peronists. Having attempted to form a coalition under Alternativa Federal ("Federal Alternative"), the likes of Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto, Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti, and Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey appear to have been left to dry. And the main culprit is Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa. The former Cabinet Chief to Fernandez de Kirchner had already confirmed he would run for president in the upcoming PASO primaries under the Alternativa Federal banner. In part, Massa knew the odds were with him, as former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna didn’t seem to count with the votes to beat him – which is why he has failed to agree to a coalition with Alternativa Federal – and neither did Urtubey, the two main opponents. Yet, the announcement of the Fernandez-Fernandez ticket changed the game, attracting several governors who seemingly were the support base of Alternativa Federal.
This, coupled with Alberto Fernandez’s attempts to seduce Massa, have led to a schism of sorts this week. Urtubey, who has publicly appeared with President Macri on several occasions this week, criticised the former Cabinet Chief for being part of “this grotesque spectacle where politicians argue about power while people are starving.” The Salta governor was referring to the real possibility that Massa may jump ship and join the Kirchnerites, something Alberto Fernández himself has been talking about publicly, Yet, Massa has made clear he will run for the presidency, meaning he wants Fernández’s own spot.
Near the Victory Front leader, patience is running dry. Fernández de Kirchner’s distaste for Massa is well-known, yet her son Máximo and running-mate Alberto are trying to convince her to bring him on to run for the Governorship of Buenos Aires Province. She would rather see her former Economy Minister Axel Kicillof lead the ticket with La Matanza mayor Verónica Magario by his side. While ultra-Kirchnerites congratulated Kicillof on social media on Tuesday, the former Economy Minister played down the rumours, noting the candidacy hadn’t been decided yet. He confirmed conversations with Massa were ongoing, yet he also put down his foot. “We won’t wait for him forever.”
Thursday, it was time for Massa’s own convention. The Renewal Front met in the same complex as the Radicals less than a week earlier. There, Massa told his faithful a “new opposition majority” is need to oust Macri. “Argentines won’t tolerate more lies and deceit,” he added.
Massa appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. On June 12, alliances must be formalised in order to compete, while candidacies must be defined by June 22. At this juncture, it seems, it all depends on him.