Local politics is undergoing increasingly dizzying times and the books of Mauricio Macri reflect that.
The ex-president presented Primer tiempo 19 months ago to an auditorium of Juntos por el Cambio leaders who accompanied him out of respect for his office but with the certainty that any second half would necessarily be with other players. But a completely different question dominated the launch of Para qué in the Rural Society exhibition grounds: Will Mauricio Macri be a candidate?
The former president has already decided to postpone any type of definition until next March or April, something that is creating tension among the leading figures of his party, such as Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Patricia Bullrich (who were both in the front row at Monday’s presentation), but also among allies.
Meanwhile, Macri is placing his bets on continuing to consolidate his leadership and authority over other PRO and Juntos por el Cambio leaders, promoting competition as a necessary value for the future, in economic but also in political terms.
“Mauricio feels the candidacy on top of him, but he is not convinced,” assures a member of his entourage, who backs his argument by pointing to the high demand for invitations to the book presentation. The Rural Society hall has a maximum capacity of 1,500 people and the Macri team underlined the amount of juggling needed in order not to leave any leaders out.
That state of grace he feels with the leaders can also be perceived in his outings. “He was delighted with how his excursions in Greater Buenos Aires have gone until now,” describes one of the men who has met with him in recent weeks. Although the opinion polls continue registering a high level of negative image, above all in that Greater Buenos Aires zone, Macri’s team highlights the good response from visits to districts like Ituzaingó, Quilmes, Tres de Febrero or San Miguel, places where it would never have occurred to him before to take spontaneous walks and ring doorbells.
“He’s doing it all,” Juntos por el Cambio leaders repeat – meetings, the campaign circuit and media interviews. “Yes, he might seem to be acting like a candidate but deep inside he keeps saying no,” they assure from his inner circle. Another supporter agrees: “I do not see him deciding, the issue is that he has yet to find the answer between yes and no…”
“If there were someone to convince him, I’d be calmer,” says one of the sources consulted.
“He criticises both of them [Rodríguez Larreta and Bullrich] while he sees [María Eugenia] Vidal as lagging a bit behind, but he’s happy because he sees them growing,” adds another.
The criticisms of PRO chair Bullrich centre on doubts as to her capacity to build teams and whether she has the right temperament to face up to presidential responsibilities. In the case of Rodríguez Larreta, the differences seem to run deeper. “Mauricio feels that when Horacio talks about the grieta chasm, he is hitting out directly at him,” they say.
In Macri’s entourage they believe that two of the City mayor’s arguments no longer apply. Firstly, that he is the only one who can guarantee a Juntos por el Cambio triumph – brimming with optimism, they all see themselves today as potential winners, including Macri. And secondly, with the consolidation of the libertarian Javier Milei, they see that it no longer makes sense to broaden the coalition with outreach to Peronist sectors since libertarian deputies could supply the votes needed to advance with reforms.
In Rodríguez Larreta circles, they seek to minimise the Macri factor. “The better off he [Macri] is, the better for everybody,” they assure in mayoral offices, while insisting that the City leader’s candidacy does not depend on what others do.
“The extremes make more noise but lack volume,” they analyse to defuse the hawks while the PRO chair keeps working, convinced that she will end up in pole position. So bullish is she that some Macri supporters are already asking themselves what they would have to do to bring her back down to earth, should the ex-president decide to compete.
“Mauricio, you have to make friends with everybody,” is the message Civic Coalition leader Elisa Carrió sent him a few weeks ago and the ex-president is working according to that logic.
With everybody with whom he converses, Macri focuses on two issues. Firstly, his belief that Juntos por el Cambio must go institutional with ground rules which last over time. And secondly, he wants everybody to share his panorama as to the future problems facing Argentina.
“He tells everybody running for mayor[al positions] that they should know that they will have no short-term successes to boast about,” they inform.
For now, Macri is going back on the road: first to the United States where he will give classes in Florida and then in Saudi Arabia to give some chats. The World Cup kick-off will find him already in Qatar with a full agenda as the president of FIFA Foundation. Summer will bring more walkabouts and door-knockings, with the moment of definition likely to arrive in March or April.
It has been 19 months since the presentation of his first book – six months down the road the panorama might continue to change.