Peronism has the gift of survival. Despite the ailments of age – he will soon be 80 years old since his first electoral victory in Argentina – he reacts when he perceives himself too close to the precipice. He did it in May 2019, when Cristina Kirchner engendered the candidacy of Alberto Fernandez who defeated Mauricio Macri with 48% of the votes. And he did it again now. On Thursday of the week that passed, Peronism got back together after a year of infighting. It was, like four years ago, out of sheer necessity. In October there are general elections and things are not looking good for the government party. While the economic crisis worsens, the president and his vice president do not speak to each other. 33 leaders – including Alberto Fernandez, but not Kirchner – agreed after five hours of discussions at the party headquarters to unite “in diversity” to “prevent the return of the right.” It is, at the end of the day, what Peron’s heirs do best: get together to win elections.
The coalition that governs Argentina is called Frente de Todos. The “everyone” includes Kirchner and Kirchnerism, Alberto Fernandez and Albertismo, and Sergio Massa, Minister of Economy, and Massismo. But the thing do not ends there. In the bag there are also governors seeking their own space, powerful trade unionists and leaders of social movements. Last December, hours after being sentenced for corruption to six years in prison and disqualified from holding public office, Kirchner announced in a video that she declined any electoral aspirations. “I won’t be running for anything,” she said. Her decision opened a hole in the Front’s strategy. Kirchner is the most convening figure of Peronism, although not enough to win alone. Without Kirchner, Alberto Fernandez, whose popularity does not exceed 30%, saw an open door for him to be re-elected, in a race in which Sergio Massa also participates. The map, which seems simple, hides a very complex framework.
Thursday’s meeting was a kind of collective catharsis. Albertismo reproached Kirchnerism for not allowing it to govern. Kirchnerism blamed the president for “cutting himself” and not listening to the majority group of the coalition. Massismo warned that political noise complicates Massa’s efforts to lower inflation (which in 2022 was close to 100%) and to meet the fiscal austerity and reserve accumulation goals agreed with the IMF a year ago. Massa had promised a CPI of less than 4% in March, but the 6% registered in January makes it impossible to meet that goal. It is up to us to see, even, that he can close 2023 with the 60% inflation that appears in the budget approved by Congress.
And Cristina Kirchner? The vice president is, even in her weakness, the most convening figure of Peronism. But her legal problems hinder any political strategy. In the Peronist conclave it was resolved to form a commission to convince her to be a candidate, either for president or for senator for the province of Buenos Aires, her electoral stronghold. Alberto Fernandez agreed: he s to the Kirchnerist thesis that Cristina has been banned since December, when she was convicted of corruption. He obtained, in exchange for her support, the promise that the friendly fire against her management will not be lethal, as it has been until now.
“There was a great commitment from all sectors to carry out an action plan to ask Cristina to review her decision” not to be a candidate, said Minister De Pedro. The clamor operation will reach its zenith on March 24, during the commemorations for a new anniversary of the military coup of 1976. The proposal barely hides a contradiction in the official discourse: Kirchner says he is outlawed, but since the sentence is not final, nor is it will be in the short term, is not prevented from being a candidate.
The opposition, meanwhile, watches the ups and downs of the Casa Rosada with the enthusiasm of someone who already feels like a winner. But that same conviction of triumph has overheated his own inmate for choosing a candidate. Former President Mauricio Macri maintains the suspense of his candidacy, while fueling the internal fight.
This week the head of government of the city of Buenos Aires, the centrist Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, will launch into the race. His decision pits him against Macri and the sectors furthest to the right of Together for Change, as the opposition coalition is called. Patricia Bullrich, Macri’s former Security Minister, is waiting there while the leaders of the Radical Civic Union (UCR), a centenary party that used to be the main counterweight to Peronism, seek their own space. There are eight months left for the presidential elections in Argentina, an eternity.