On becoming president, Alberto Fernández rejected the possibility of chairing the Justicialist Party (Partido Justicialista, PJ), privately assuring that he preferred to concentrate on government administration and representing the totality of voters in his broad multi-party alliance. Nevertheless, after 10 months in office and almost seven of pandemic, President Fernández will today receive an offer to take over the party’s leadership, while the other sectors of Frente de Todos realign in the background – not only in a bid to conserve their electoral clout, but also, to spread their wings.
The offer to preside over the PJ first came from Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) trade unionists and then from provincial governors. It has been timed for today’s 75th Peronist Loyalty Day, which must be marked virtually in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The leaders making the proposal are seeking to boost the presidential figure beyond but also within the governing alliance.
The PJ could become a refuge for Fernández should party infighting intensify, something which the various sectors of Frente de Todos coalition have ruled out until now. Within the front, the Peronist governors who accepted the former Cabinet chief’s proposal of unity in 2019 play a key role. Many of them refused to line up behind Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and only when she came up with the candidacy of the current president did she manage to enlist them.
Inward or outward?
Frente de Todos, however, is more than the Justicialist Party. That’s what led them to win the election in 2019.
“Are we going to be the inward-looking of 2017 or the outward-looking of 2019?” asks one of the alliance’s main leaders. In government circles they acknowledge that in recent months they have started fights removed from the everyday concerns of the citizenry, such as judicial reform, shrinking the field instead of broadening it.
In this sense the Frente Renovador, led by Sergio Massa, is trying to hang onto its independent and more volatile voters. They estimate themselves to be around 1.5 million of the almost 13 million who voted for the Fernández-Fernández de Kirchner ticket last October. Today, they are estranged. On sealing the deal last year, Massa, the current speaker of the lower house insisted on conserving his brand, which he will again start putting on display.
The aim is to conserve the centrist voter who could be picked up by Juntos por el Cambio. Massa has already started to drop pointers in this direction: he seemed to step away from the official line when he backed the use of taser pistols and the return of kids to classrooms, both banner issues for the opposition coalition. Hours before using posts on social networks to support the implementation of tasers, he spoke with Security Minister Sabina Frederic in order to coordinate the stance to be taken after the death of the policeman Juan Pablo Roldán. Massa also spoke with the President and Education Minister Nicolás Trotta before showing himself publicly as the first in the alliance to speak of a return to face-to-face teaching.
“Now that we are leaving the pandemic behind and the economy is starting to grow, we have to get back to work on making the coalition grow,” they say in Frente de Todos. From Congress they fire off: “The people are going to measure us by how we improve their lives, they won’t be looking at how Peronist we are.”
Kirchnerismo & La Cámpora
Kirchnerism also acknowledges the need to start concentrating on a “civic agenda.” In recent weeks the vice-president has dropped the discussion of judicial issues and even asked her main supporters to stay quiet in the controversy over the vote against Venezuela in the United Nations.
“It’s not an issue which interests people,” was the answer to which her entourage limited itself, when consulted by Perfil.
Kirchnerism and the La Cámpora youth grouping know that they must maintain the expectations of the more radical militants. To that end they aim their fire against Juntos por el Cambio – not only against ex-president Mauricio Macri but also Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
They recognise that they must pick up the new voters too. They note with concern that quarantine restrictions have alienated adolescents who do not want to lose contact with their friends. Since La Cámpora’s existing membership no longer suffices, they will also begin to approach adolescents voting for the first time next year.
Since 2018, and above all in Buenos Aires Province, the grouping headed by Máximo Kirchner has become part of the Justicialist Party. “We are no longer something different,” says one of its leaders. Nevertheless, they also will conserve their identity as hardliners against the opposition. Next year it will be time to go out on the streets again.
“While Cristina’s around, no militant will make a move, even if they don’t like some of Alberto’s movements,” they say.
Today will show them all united. Trade unionists, governors, Kirchnerites, followers of Alberto and Massa will all be represented at the virtual rally but next week the different sectors will be at it again.
Not only will Alberto Fernández be boosted both internally and externally by the party leadership, the coalition’s various components will seek to broaden it. Not only to win next year’s elections but also to gain room in an alliance in which the infighting has only just started.