One month before the campaign for the PASO primaries formally gets underway, everything said by both the opposition and the government will be internally directed, at least in part. Within Juntos por el Cambio, the criticisms of the government have started to grow harsher, headed by Patricia Bullrich’s hardliners. Over and above the justice of these critiques, one of their main motivations is differentiation from the coalition’s so-called ‘doves,’ led by Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
If former Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal finally decides to switch to the City in these midterms, she will be moving into a territory where Bullrich, now chairing the centre-right PRO party. had been hoping to head the list of candidates.
The ex-Security minister’s sector has vocalised its criticisms of the government (over the vaccination campaign, inflation and agricultural policy) to highlight their differences with Juntos por el Cambio’s moderates, but it directly questions the former governor.
They say (in private): “If she jumps from the province to the Capital, it will be very difficult for her to show, looking ahead to 2023 [with general elections], that her boss is not Horacio and that she is not just doing it because he asks her to. She would then be the employee of the month for Horacio and it could be embarrassing if she loses against Patricia [in the PASO primaries]. María Eugenia has kept mum for the last 18 months while Patricia was the voice of resistance in this city and the rest of the country.” This sector understands that Vidal will be a key figure in the electoral campaign, but in Buenos Aires Province.
Rodríguez Larreta and Vidal, now also teaming up with Elisa Carrió, worry that Bullrich’s more confrontational stance, openly encouraged by ex-president Mauricio Macri, is dangerous in times of high social sensitivity. They are also sure that the ballot-boxes will end up rewarding those leaders who “rather than keep fighting, have the capacity to impose reason and sit down to dialogue, or at any rate try to do so and show up the government if they reject the path of dialogue.”
This group of moderates understands that hawkish discourse obliges them to raise the tone of debate, so as not to be wrongfooted with more critical voters.
The government has its own duel between hawks and doves where often enough, the hawks on both sides have more in common with each other than with the doves in their own coalitions. From that duel within the government emerged this week’s decision to close down beef exports for a month.
The renewed confrontation between the government and the farming sector has just given the opposition’s hawks and doves an unforeseen motive to display their unity once again, in spite of everything – in this case nobody doubts that their place is offering unstinting support to agriculture.