Argentina’s main opposition coalition is at odds over the potential incorporation of an influential Peronist governor into its ranks.
Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti, a veteran Peronist who is critical of the ruling Frente de Todos coalition’s Kirchnerite wing, is the figure in dispute. Formerly allied with lawmaker Florencio Randazzo and ex-Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey, the 73-year-old is said to be considering a new alliance for the electoral year.
Juntos por el Cambio’s leaders have been debating how to broaden the coalition’s ranks in the lead up to August primary and October general elections. However, tensions have arisen over both the introduction of both Peronists and others from Argentina’s growing number of liberal and libertarian lawmakers.
The row is the latest in a series of flashpoints between the pro-dialogue and hardline sectors of the opposition coalition, which have been dubbed “doves” and “hawks” by political analysts.
Authorities from Juntos por el Cambio were due to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the potential introduction of Schiaretti into the coalition, as well as the electoral future of liberal lawmaker José Luis Espert, who wants to run for the presidency.
The leaders from the coalition’s three main parties – PRO, Uniòn Civic Radical (UCR), Coalición Civíca – were all set to attend, along with other influential figures.
Political alliances for the upcoming PASO primaries must be resolved by the middle of June.
Behind the push
Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta (PRO) and Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales (UCR) are those pushing hardest for Schiaretti’s incorporation.
Rodríguez Larreta, who is seeking the presidency, said in an open letter published over the weekend that “a new majority” is needed in order to deliver the “total change” that Argentina requires.
"It is not a matter of names. It is, as I say, total. It is a matter of vision, of understanding that this system in which we live is no more," argued the head of the City government.
"I am convinced that to achieve this, and for this change to last forever, we have to expand the space for change that we started with PRO and Juntos por el Cambio,” he concluded.
Miguel Ángel Pichetto, another veteran Peronist who joined the opposition in 2019 to run as then-president Mauricio Macri’s running-mate, is also supportive.
"I am in favour of broadening the coalition and also of the need to preserve the unity of Juntos por el Cambio. We have to build a great coalition to win the elections and govern Argentina,” Pichetto, the leader of the Encuentro Republicano Federal grouping, told reporters on Monday.
Coalición Civíca party sources also say they back enlargement, though they stress unity is of paramount importance.
The main challenge to expansion comes from Patricia Bullrich, the ex-PRO leader and former security minister who is seeking the opposition’s presidential nomination. She is firmly against any move to include Scharetti, saying his inclusion goes against the coalition’s identity.
In an interview with the LN+ news channel on Sunday, Bullrich vowed not to back down, describing the proposal as “far-fetched” and invented “by those who are afraid of losing the PASO.”
"Argentina needs a programme of deep-rooted change. If we end up being a vague, imprecise thing, where one comes and defends trade union laws as they are, or the political model as it is, what do we add?” said the presidential hopeful.
Morales warned Monday that Juntos por el Cambio should not “become a sect that functions according to whether it suits this or that candidate.”
“Today there are two positions within Juntos por el Cambio: the most extreme one expressed by Patricia and Macri. And on the other side we are leaders who have to govern and who have taken decisions. And we are there with Republican Peronism, the Coalición Cívica, a majority sector, I would say 80 percent of Radicalism and a sector of PRO led by [Rodríguez Larreta],” he charged.
The other key issue in the debate is Espert and whether he is allowed to compete in the opposition’s presidential primary. Bullrich is said to be against the idea, with Rodríguez Larreta and Pichetto both in favour.