Former Buenos Aires Province governor and national lawmaker María Eugenia Vidal has decided to drop out of the race for the Casa Rosada, thinning the line-up for the PASO primaries and leaving the opposition PRO party with two declared candidates for the presidency.
Vidal, 49, is understood to have confirmed her decision to Mauricio Macri at a meeting last Saturday at the former president’s Los Abrojos residence. She confirmed it in a post on social networks on Thursday.
Hace un año y medio que recorro el país y, si bien estoy orgullosa del potencial que tiene nuestra Argentina y del empuje de su gente, no puedo ignorar la angustia, el miedo y la tristeza que me transmiten en cada provincia. Paraliza la inflación, asusta la inseguridad, aturden… pic.twitter.com/MDNSwl8A18— María Eugenia Vidal (@mariuvidal) May 4, 2023
Sources close to the national deputy say she has not yet decided who she will support in the battle for the opposition coalition’s presidential candidacy.
Despite speculation, she is also unlikely to throw her hat in the ring to be the next mayor of Buenos Aires City – and neither would she have the support of key party colleagues were she to do so.
Rumours this week suggested she could run as a “unity” candidate for PRO in the City, given that the centre-right party has not settled a dispute over who will stand in the PASO primaries, but those were shot down by Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta this week.
Vidal, once seen as one of Argentina’s rising political stars after she stormed to victory in the 2015 election to seize control of Buenos Aires Province, now faces an uncertain future with her next move open to speculation.
Vidal formally announced her decision in a long post on social media on Thursday.
“After campaigning for a year and a half and while proud of our Argentina’s potential and the drive of our people, I cannot ignore the anguish, fear and sadness transmitted to me in every province, paralysed by inflation, shocked by crime and disturbed by bad news. This gives rise to fear for the future because there is no confidence in the government.
“I’m convinced that it is fundamental for Argentines to trust in Juntos por el Cambio being the only way out as the only political grouping with the team and the experience to take this country forward. I know that multiple candidacies only create division and uncertainty. Individual plans cannot outweigh the collective.
“‘Don’t fight, unite,’ they told me at every turn. Because I have listened to them and because I understand them, I have decided not to be a presidential candidate.
“This, like every decision in my political career, was taken in the street, not at a desk. I decided to listen to those who seek education to progress, to those who choose freedom, not submission, and those who work and create work. I decided while on the move and planning the future I want for my country. That’s what I’m going to keep on doing, working to defend our unity, boost our proposals and bring to every corner of the country the hope that a better Argentina is possible, without infighting or cheap tricks.
“Tomorrow will find me in the same place as 20 years ago, working for Argentina’s recovery,” she concluded.
Most analysts had foreseen the decision, given that she trailed her party rivals, Rodríguez Larreta and former security minister Patricia Bullrich, by a considerable margin in the polls.
As rumours of her withdrawal spread this week, speculation arose that Vidal may seek to switch categories and instead run as a “consensus” pre-candidate for the Buenos Aires City mayoral post. Vidal has not personally commented on the possibility, but she has reportedly told her colleagues she is willing to contribute wherever necessary.
PRO, which has held the mayorship of the capital for the last 12 years, has failed to unify behind a single candidate, though this week’s news that City Education Minister Soledad Acuña has pulled out means that there are now two candidates: City Government Minister Jorge Macri and City Health Minister Fernán Quirós. The former is backed by his cousin, Mauricio Macri, and Bullrich. Quirós nominally has the support of Rodríguez Larreta, who is also supportive of Radical Senator Martín Lousteau’s bid to be mayor.
Trailing Vidal’s move on Thursday, PRO’s interim party chief Federico Angelini described the move as a “personal decision” taken by Vidal but said she would still be part of the “electoral process” in the run-up to October’s presidential ballot.
“It’s a personal decision not to be part of the competition,” he said in an interview with a local radio station. “We knew there was going to be an announcement from her. So, well, there are fewer candidates.”
Asked about the deputy’s future, Angelini ruled out the possibility of Vidal running in the City, and said that PRO’s candidate is Jorge Macri.
“María Eugenia is a great leader, with an enormous future, wherever she thinks she can contribute her bit, but today our candidate is Jorge Macri – even she has said so,” said the PRO chief, the party’s interim leader while Bullrich is on leave.
His words are in line with the statements made by Rodríguez Larreta, who said Thursday that the party had only two candidates in the City.
“I have already made it clear, today PRO has two candidates in the City of Buenos Aires. María Eugenia Vidal is currently running for president, it is her decision. I value her a lot, I respect her a lot and she is one of the best political leaders Argentina has. And I also have a relationship and personal affection for her that goes back decades, but these are her decisions,” he said at an event in the capital.
Mauricio Macri is said to be against Vidal running in the capital, as he doesn’t want to withdraw his support for his cousin with less than two months to go before PASO primary line-ups must be confirmed.