Sergio Massa is determined to fill a vacancy within Peronism that is currently empty. Argentina’s economy minister and presidential candidate for the ruling coalition wants to deepen his leadership of a space that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner no longer wants to occupy and that Alberto Fernández never took it upon himself to dispute. "Politics is like physics. The one who occupies space and wins it gets the space," says Massa in private. He will not wait for the election result to determine if he feels the place.
The economy minister is critical of the way in which the head of state has approached the current government. He does not believe in transversality or horizontal leadership, but rather in firmness when making decisions, something that he also believes Fernández lacks.
"It has to be clear what each sector of the coalition brings to the table," he tells his colleagues in private, while warning: "If everyone takes care of a tile, has to clean it and make it shine, they will be in charge of that tile. But I'm going to supervise them and I'm going to be responsible for all the tiles," he says.
Massa wants to be the leader of the new stage of Peronism that runs beyond the electoral result. But he also needs to win the elections. The focus groups they check on at the ruling coalition’s bunker show that those consulted ask for "authority and firmness" in governance. The minister and candidate is doing his homework – at the recent inauguration of an new underpass in Pilar he assured that he has "courage and firmness" to take the necessary decisions and said he is ready to take office. "There are things to change," he told voters. The first thing he will change is the names of those in charge. If there are officials who haven’t been up to the task, he will have the courage to change them. According to the presidential candidate himself, if he wins the elections, his list is extensive.
Massa is the economy minister of this administration, but he will continue to distance himself from the president. Photos between the head of state and the candidate are rare. He is determined to occupy the space that Fernández de Kirchner has occupied until now in the ruling coalition. The vice-president knows this and has no objections – no leader of the ruling party has dared to go so far and the head of the Senate welcomes it. She had already demanded that they take up the baton and her own leaders looked the other way.
Massa repeats in private: "Spaces have to be filled. It is my turn to lead.” He also admits it in public, recently saying: "Let's not look up any more, there is no-one." This phrase, moreover, is said with Máximo Kirchner by his side. The deputy, the head of the Buenos Aires Province branch of the Partido Justicialista and first candidate on the list of provincial lawmakers, nods in agreement. The plan is clear: emphasise that Massa is the boss now, that there are no internal differences (although there are) and that the coalition is united. Máximo compares this unity to the marked differences on display within Juntos por el Cambio. "We discuss and we may have different ideas but we don't fight," says the deputy.
Massa is also betting on the division of Juntos por el Cambio. His dialogue with leaders from the Unión Cívica Radical’s ranks are more frequent than usual and one of their governors admitted to the minister a few days ago that Patricia Bullrich no longer has any chance of making it to the run-off. The first moves towards a new political construction may begin in Congress where some Radical lawmakers are ready to support some bills. The bunker of Unión por la Patria seeks to vindicate the role of the UCR, convinced that there will be safe allies there, especially in the face of a possible second-round face-off against Javier Milei.
The governors, trade unions and social movements that support the ruling coalition have already signed up to the positioning of Massa as the new leader of the party. A week ago, the minister arrived in Tucumán to convince leaders of the importance of putting all the structure into play. Days later, some pushback arrived. "It's all well and good to try to win the election and [order] the elimination of income tax, but if he doesn't win, what do we do? It leaves us without funding," complained one northern provincial leader.Now, more than ever, he will have to defend his candidate.