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ARGENTINA | 26-03-2023 14:33

Argentina's former president Mauricio Macri says he won’t run for president in 2023 election

Former president announces he won't stand in opposition's presidential primaries, paving way for a heated battle for Juntos por el Cambio's nomination.

Former president Mauricio Macri has announced that he will not be a candidate in Argentina’s upcoming October presidential election, paving the way for a heated showdown for the opposition coalition’s nomination.

Speculation over Macri’s potential candidacy has been rife, though most analysts had expected him not to run and to step aside. After months of suspense, the conservative leader finally confirmed on Sunday that he will not stand in the PASO primaries.

"I want to ratify the decision that I will not be a candidate in the next election. There are a lot of new leaders. I trust that they are not going to let us be trampled by populism," Macri said in a video posted on social media. 

Removing one of the big question marks hanging over the 2023 presidential race – and with a wink to Argentina’s growing libertarian movement – Macri said he is “convinced” that the opposition must “enlarge” its coalition, stressing that he will continue to "defend freedom, democracy and the values we share.”

"I share the certainty that Argentina today is in a state that is difficult to recognise. We are adrift, without leadership, isolated from the world, alone," the former president declared.

"Millions of Argentines are afraid of being left without work, of needing healthcare and not getting it, of not being able to get a pension, of being robbed, of our children leaving the country, of everything getting even worse and turning the future into a threat instead of hope."

The former president declared, however, that he feels that "this dark time has already begun to end" and said he trusted that Argentines would vote for a new path in October.

"I know that millions of people hold the desire for us to return to working together in the direction we started back in 2015, a direction that was sadly interrupted in 2019," he added.

Macri, 64, served as head of state from 2015 and 2019 and is the dominant leader of the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition. A multi-millionaire and head of a powerful family business holding company, he is a former mayor of Buenos Aires City and a former president of Boca Juniors Football Club.

When he failed in his bid for re-election in 2019 against the current head of state, Alberto Fernández (standing for the Frente de Todos coalition on a Peronist ticket), Macri left Argentina with its largest-ever debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), totalling some US$44.5-billion. 

The former president’s decision not to run paves the way for a gruelling battle for the opposition nomination. The frontrunners both come from Macri’s PRO party, one of three groupings within Juntos por el Cambio, which is the successor of the Cambiemos coalition that took the former president to the Casa Rosada.

Competing for the nomination are former security minister Patricia Bullrich – the chair of Macri’s PRO party – and Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, a longtime ally of the former president who succeeded him in leading the nation’s capital. Both praised Macri's decision to step aside and praised his selflessness.

"The historic decision by Mauricio Macri confirms his greatness and generosity," Bullrich said in a post on social media.

"Once again, as he has done throughout his life, Macri takes a decision that makes clear his enormous vision, his generosity, courage and love for Argentines," said Rodríguez Larreta.

National lawmaker and ex-Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal also intends to stand in the opposition primary, though most analysts expect her to step aside too. The ballot will also include representatives from the other parties that make up the coalition, such as Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales (from the UCR Radicals), and Coalición Civica-ARI leader Elisa ‘Lilita’ Carrió.

Macri is not expected to endorse a particular candidate. He has previously spoken of his desire to encourage “competition” in the opposition coalition, a theme he returned to in his announcement video, citing Argentina's World Cup-winning football team as an example of what competition and teamwork can achieve.

"Juntos por el Cambio has managed to overcome the false illusion of the individual saviour," declared Macri, who said a "large number of new, competitive and different leaders" have emerged as potential leaders of the opposition coalition.

The former president's decision not to run follows that of his arch-nemesis, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Argentina’s current vice-president preceded Macri in officer, serving two terms in office as head of state from 2007 to 2015.

Fernández de Kirchner, 70, announced last December that she would not be "a candidate for anything" after a court sentenced her to six years in prison and lifetime disqualification from holding public office for corruption offences related to the awarding of public works projects during her terms in office. The conviction has been appealed to a higher court. 

The vice-president has described Argentina’s courts as a "judicial mafia at the service of right-wing groups" and says she is a victim of political persecution.

President Alberto Fernández intends to seek re-election for the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, though it remains to be seen who he will face in the front’s presidential primary vote.

During his video, Macri pointed the finger at Fernández de Kirchner, blaming her for Argentina's economic woes and branding Alberto Fernández "a puppet."

According to the national electoral calendar, Argentina’s Open and Compulsory Primary Elections (otherwise known as the PASOs) will be held on August 13, with a first round presidential ballot on October 22. A run-off will take place on November 19, if needed.

 

– TIMES/AFP/PERFIL

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