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ARGENTINA | 17-09-2021 21:59

Coalition in crisis: How Frente de Todos' post-PASO crisis developed

With the ruling Frente de Todos coalition in crisis, here's a look at the key moments pushed it into disarray.

With the ruling Frente de Todos coalition in crisis, here's a look at the key moments since last Sunday's PASO primaries that pushed it into disarray.

 

Reacting to defeat, Fernández admits to ‘errors’

Addressing supporters and officials on Sunday night after the results of the PASO primaries were released, President Alberto Fernández admitted that his government had not met society’s “demands.”

Speaking from the Frente de Todos bunker in Chacarita the Peronist leader conceded that his government had made “errors” and vowed to win back voters before midterm elections in November.

"Nothing is more important than listening to the people. When the people express themselves, we abide by it," said the head of state. "Evidently, we have not done something right.”

Fernández was the only leader who addressed the audience, though the president was joined onstage by the coalition’s key leaders, including Axel Kicillof, Maximo Kirchner and Sergio Massa. Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was also there – and she didn’t look too pleased.

Reacting to the loss, the president said he would “respect” the will of voters and strive to meet their demands.

"We remain convinced that we are facing two models for the country: a model that includes everyone and a model that leaves millions behind," he declared.

“The campaign has just started and in November we have to win it, because we have a commitment to Argentina,” said the president, who admitted that his administration's efforts must have been "insufficient."

 

Show of support for Guzmán

On Wednesday afternoon, President Fernández heads a ceremony to present his government’s new oil and gas investment bill. Accompanied by Energy Secretary Darío Martínez and Economy Minister Martín Guzmán, the president takes advantage of the occasion to back his economic team.

"This bill advances in a very clear direction– improving the productive capacity for the oil and gas which Argentina needs. It also has the distinguishing feature that we listened to everybody to make it better and more fruitful for all concerned," he adds pointedly.

The Peronist leader also reveals that the government will file its 2022 Budget bill later that night, though he says it will not include “any external commitments next year and that requires continued negotiations with the [International Monetary] Fund.”

Guzmán, who spoke prior to the president, also defended his leadership of the portfolio. 

"In these 21 months we have seen 15 economic laws approved and in each and every one of them the aim has been to look after our people. We had to run a country without credit because it was all squandered in the period between 2016 and 2018. There were not even any credit markets in our own currency and then the pandemic hit us," he argued in favour of the decisions taken, many now the target of criticism after the electoral defeat.

The official then proceeded to quote Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

"There’s something Cristina said some days ago which I liked a lot, about persistence in one’s convictions, about the balance between obstinacy and adaptability. We have governed in a context of enormous uncertainty where adaptability was fundamental because the context was changing all the time while responses were needed," he said.

 

Minutes later, the resignation offers arrive

Minutes after the president had finished speaking, press officers for Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro begin circulating the interior minister’s resignation letter, in which the La Cámpora leader offered to step down from his post. 

After “listening to [the president’s] words on Sunday night where you raised the need to interpret the verdict expressed by the people, I have considered that the best way to collaborate with that task is by putting my resignation at your disposal," he writes. Ministers Martín Soria (Justice & Human Rights), Jorge Ferraresi (Territorial Development and Habitat), Roberto Salvarezza (Science & Innovation) also tender their resignations, along with PAMI chief Luana Volnovich and ANSES head Fernanda Raverta. 

Within hours, more names join the list: Culture Minister Tristán Bauer; Environment Minister Juan Cabandié; Acumar chief Martín Sabbatella; INADI head Victoria Donda; and Internal Trade Secretary Paula Español.

There is little initial word from the president, who continues to resist a reshuffle, though sources inside the Casa Rosada say he will not accept the offers.

He later takes to Twitter, vowing to keep the broad ruling coalition unified.   

“Now isn’t the time to raise disputes that derail us,” the Peronist leader said in a Twitter thread, adding he’ll “continue guaranteeing the unity” of Frente de Todos. 

There’s still time for another twist, however – reports begin to emerge that Fernández de Kirchner has called Guzmán directly to deny claims she is seeking to oust him from his post.



 

Vallejos’ leaked WhatsApp audio explodes online

Outgoing national deputy Fernanda Vallejos (Frente de Todos-Buenos Aires Province) poured fuel on the flames of the ruling coalition’s post-PASO crisis with strident criticism of President Alberto Fernández.

An 11-minute WhatsApp audio voice note, which Vallejos later admitted was made by her, quickly spread across social media on Thursday. In it, the deputy – a close ally of Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – described President Alberto Fernández as "sick and a squatter digging in" at the Casa Rosada, which she claimed he held "on loan" while surrounded by "useless people."

"We were all hoping that the sick squatter Alberto Fernández would last Monday be holding a press conference in an office with all the resignations on his table,” declared the ultra-Kirchnerite politician, claiming the president was “deaf as well as blind and never listened to anybody nor learned anything from Néstor [Kirchner] nor anybody,”

The recipient of the message was unnamed but reports suggested it was a leader with whom she often exchanges political analysis. 

"He wants to conserve his core following of useless people who are all there occupying Casa Rosada offices on loan and have never done anything. There is no political leadership in the Cabinet because the Cabinet chief [Santiago Cafiero] is a clown," continued Vallejos, who complained: "Economic policy should have been subordinated to health policy and not to the reduction of the fiscal deficit to comply with the International Monetary Fund." Recalling how she questioned the previous president Mauricio Macri, she said: "How sad to have to say the same about somebody whom we made president."

In the message in the midst of the crisis facing the government after its PASO primary defeat, the deputy repeated her criticisms: "He’s dug in at the Casa Rosada, a squatter. This government must be relaunched. It already belongs to the past, having failed until now. They handled the pandemic, now we must turn the page and begin a new government."

Finally, she said: "The owner of the votes, the owner of legitimacy, the owner of popular support, the basis of this government and the person who placed him there is Cristina."

Vallejos later apologised to her “comrades” for her “inappropriate” expressions.

 

Cristina lets rip at Alberto

Heightening the extraordinary political crisis, on Thursday evening, Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner posts an open letter online entitled: ‘Como siempre… sinceramente.’ The astonishing intervention, which sparks so much traffic her website collapses, blasts the president without reservation.

She blames Fernández for the "political catastrophe" witnessed the previous Sunday and states that the loss is primarily down to the government's mistaken adoption of fiscal austerity. 

"Do you seriously believe that it is not necessary, after such a defeat, to publicly present the resignations and that those in charge facilitate the president to reorganise his government?" the vice-president wrote, referring to a string of resignation offers from government officials who respond to her. 

In meetings with the president ahead of the vote, Fernández de Kirchner said she repeatedly warned against spending cuts “that were negatively impacting economic activity and society, and which would undoubtedly have electoral consequences.”  “I didn’t just tell him once, I got tired of saying it – and not just to the president,” she wrote. “The answer was always that it wasn’t like that, that I was mistaken and that, according to the polls, we were going to do ‘very well’ in the election.”

She closes by recalling that she chose the president to top their ticket in 2019 and calls on Fernández to “honour” the commitment they made.

 

– TIMES/BLOOMBERG/AFP/NA/PERFIL

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