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ARGENTINA | 21-08-2021 09:59

Argentina looks back for the future (again) as primaries near

Campaign rhetoric heats up – and both the government and the opposition seem happy to keep things focused on the country’s divisive former presidents Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Mauricio Macri.

Argentina looked back for the future this week as campaigning for the upcoming PASO primaries and midterm elections ramped up a stage.

A series of rallies and photo-ops saw candidates traipse across their potential constituencies in the search for votes. But despite the candidates actually having to run for office and show something in the form of concrete proposals, there was little in terms of detail, with most political leaders keen to focus more on saying what they are not than what they are. And so, enter the evergreen targets: Argentina’s former presidents Cristina Fernández de Kichner and Mauricio Macri.

At practically all political events this week, the ex-head of states loomed large – as did the scandal surrounding President Alberto Fernández and his partner, First Lady Fabiola Yáñez, and their illegal birthday party at the Olivos presidential residence, held last year at the peak of the government’s lockdown restrictions.

 

RULING COALITION

For the ruling coalition, two words were at the heart of their campaign rhetoric this week: unity and Macri. 

With governing put on pause, both president and vice-president were reunited in Avellaneda and La Plata as Cristina showed her support after the Olivos scandal. Indeed, the former president turned out not once but twice with her alleged boss this week. 

This speaks volumes about the Casa Rosada’s fears about the potential damage the secret birthday party may do. Not even during the 2019 election, when they were running mates, did they share a stage twice in 24 hours.

Underlining that, this week saw videos from the event leaked online, an act most analysts have attributed to the government itself, speculating that they’d rather take the hit now, rather than see them resurface on election day.

With the opposition continuing to blast Frente de Todos over the first lady’s secret celebrations, Fernández de Kirchner sprang to Alberto’s defence, claiming that "the errors of popular governments are blown up to irritate” everyone. 

After telling Alberto to “calm down,” she aimed her fire squarely at Macri, describing the Cambiemos leader’s four years of government as “república de morondanga” (slang for useless or worthless). For good measure, she accused Macri of staying out of the country to elude justice and of having plunged the country into "unlimited" debt. 

Better times are ahead, she charged. On Wednesday, Fernández de Kirchner even said that the government's economic project would require “many periods of government," painting a picture of eternal Peronist rule.

Reiterating the Frente de Todos campaign slogan of "the life we all want" ("la vida que todos queremos"), the vice-president said that “a model of development and productive growth" must be installed in order to “sustain” the country.

Again lashing out at Macri's administration, the former president said she "never tired of evaluating what would have happened to Argentina if other policies had been applied in 2015 and the economic model promoted by [ex-president] Néstor [Kirchner] had been maintained."

Speaking Thursday, President Fernández claimed that Macri had "despised education and public health while assembling a judicial panel to persecute the opposition." 

 

 

The opposition front

 For his part, Macri, who formally rejoined the opposition’s Juntos campaign in the City of Buenos Aires, appealed to voters to say "enough" to Kirchnerism, Peronism and its spin-offs.

Letting rip, he slated the government for “so many problems regarding the future of employment, crime, the mismanagement of the pandemic and the abuse of power by this government."

In statements to TN news channel, the PRO leader described his objectives as: "Defending the ideas in which we believe and saying enough to outrages and lies. Faced with so much sadness, we can only transform it into healthy rebellion." 

When consulted about the decision of Frente de Todos to step up criticisms of his Cambiemos government, Macri asked ironically: "When did they ever stop?"

In that sense he denied that his presence at the rally of Congress hopeful María Eugenia Vidal was in any way a response to the government but rather a display of opposition unity. 

"It has to do with all of us being together to defend our ideas and to put a stop to the lies because that amount of lying, as they’ve done with that VIP birthday party in Olivos, is impossible. You do not build anything by lying," he concluded.

Minutes previously, Macri had blasted the government in a radio interview, responding to Cristina’s criticism

“They made us a morondanga country by denigrating politics with their VIP vaccines and by restricting freedom, only to laugh among themselves at all those who were locked down," he said, referring to the headline criticism from the former president. 

Both sides, as campaigning continues, are going back to their greatest hits.

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James Grainger

James Grainger

Editor-in-Chief, Buenos Aires Times.

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