Monday, December 4, 2023

ARGENTINA | 01-11-2023 15:55

Opposition politicians who are backing Sergio Massa in the presidential run-off

With great differences within Juntos por el Cambio and in particular the Unión Cívica Radical, Javier Milei is proving to be the dividing line for some.

Following the electoral pact between Mauricio Macri and Patricia Bullrich made with Javier Milei, key opposition figures in the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition find themselves with a choice to make: back the libertarian or support Sergio Massa in the November 19 run-off.

Many have already made their choice, explicitly or not, by citing irreconcilable differences with Milei and his proposals. Those backing the libertarian and demanding “change” have on the whole voiced their opinion loudly. Others have chosen to remain neutral, finding themselves unable to support either candidate.

From the ruling Unión de la Patria coalition’s electoral headquarters, they say they are aiming for a “government of unity” based on a “road to consensus.”

In the general election, Massa captured the majority of “loose” votes from the PASO primaries, consisting mainly of new voters and those who backed forces that failed to surpass the 1.5-percent threshold in the primaries.

Attempting to capitalise on the opposition’s internal conflict, Massa met Monday with a group of figures from the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) that support his candidacy. 

The “Radicals with Massa,” headed by Sergio Palazzo and Leandro Santoro, stated that the economy minister would reach the Casa Rosada “by the hand of” former president Raùl Alfonsín, Argentina’s first leader upon the return of democracy in 1983.

This group of Radicals, which were already part of Unión por la Patria, rejected Milei without expecting confirmation from the UCR’s national committee, which ultimately pronounced itself against both candidates.

In a brief press release, entitled “Radicals have nothing to do with Kirchnerism or the far right,” the national leadership on Tuesday indicated it would not formally back Massa. 

Only a few days earlier, the second vice-president of the UCR’s national leadership, Federico Storani, had stated that Massa “is the only democratic option left” in the second round.  A group of Radicals from the north of Argentina have also chosen to support the minister. Hugo Kenny, the mayor of Victoria, has also backed Massa.


‘We don’t want Milei’

The first opposition voice to support Massa was UCR vice-president María Luisa Storani, who stated: “We don’t want Milei.” Evolución deputy Carla Carrizo was just as emphatic, predicting that “Radicals will recover their historic line of agreements with Peronism.” 

Soon other voices followed. The president of the Buenos Aires City UCR youth organisation, Agustin Rombolá, declared damningly: “If you consider yourself a Radical and are voting for Milei, you’re not a Radical: you’re an anti-Peronist who did not have enough fuel to be a conservative.”

In the same vein, former UCR deputy and former Buenos Aires City mayor Facundo Suárez Lastra anticipated his rejection of any potential alliance with the libertarian leader. “Don’t count on me to vote for Milei,” he stressed in a post on social-media. “Run-off: obviously NOT Milei,” posted socialist leader Roy Cortina on Tuesday, the third vice-president of the Buenos Aires City Legislature and a figure close to Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Martín Lousteau.

An internal UCR group called Movimiento Nacional de la Militancia Radical followed suit, headed by Santa Fe historical leader Luis ‘Changui’ Cáceres, who stated that he could “never vote” for Milei given “his totalitarian, anti-democratic proposals.” In Patagonia, a provincial lawmaker from Río Negro, César Gass and former Chubut senator Mario Cimadevilla also declared for Massa.


Beyond the UCR

Officials close to former Hacemos por Nuestro País presidential candidate Juan Schiaretti, who took seven percent in the run-off, have also indicated that they will back the economy minister, though the outgoing Córdoba Province governor for now is remaining neutral. 

Schiaretti’s local party, Hacemos Unidos por Córdoba, includes Peronists, Radicals and figures from PRO and some of them have publicly come out for Massa. They include deputies from the federal inter-bloc caucus, Natalia De la Sota and Alejandro ‘Topo’ Rodríguez, Mina Clavero Mayor Claudio Manzanelli, and the vice-president of the Córdoba Legislature, Nadia Fernández. 

Dissident Peronist and former Juntos por el Cambio vice-presidential candidate Miguel Ángel Pichetto and his party, Encuentro Federal Republicano, expressed last week that they would assume their role as an alternative opposition, and consequently, would not support either Milei or Massa.

“I do not underestimate society and I’m in a position to tell citizens who to vote for,” said the National Auditor-General. In spite of that, on Tuesday Senator Juan Carlos Romero differentiated himself from Pichetto, when he stated that he “would vote against Kirchnerism.”

Left-wingers Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores–Unidad, headed by former presidential candidate Myriam Bregman, has already asked Argentines “not to vote” for the La Libertad Avanza candidate, but they alliance has also refused to give “any kind of political or electoral support” to Massa.

In its press release, the left-wingers defined Milei as an “ultra-reactionary,” but assured it “did not agree” with supporting Massa as “that would be contributing to reinforcing an option contrary to the interests of workers and continuing to be subject” to the International Monetary Fund.


Not so together

The biggest fracture, however, has come in the opposition coalition, which has been rocked by Macri and Bullrich’s public backing of Milei.

In a televised speech last week, Rodríguez Larreta refused to support a candidate, declaring: “Both options we have for the run-off are very bad for all Argentines.”

PRO national deputy for Buenos Aires City, María Eugenia Vidal, agreed. “Like millions of Argentines, I don’t feel represented by either of them. I’m not supporting either candidate,” she wrote on social media.

Coalición Cívica founder Elisa Carrió anticipated last week that she would not vote in the run-off on November 19 because she is “morally” tired of society. She rejected Milei, saying simply: “I’m not going for madness.”

Her party’s founder, Maximiliano Ferraro, followed the same line, and confirmed that the force “would not support” Massa or Milei in the run-off. He said he would cast an invalid vote in the election in protest.

The UCR’s main leaders have all expressed similar dissatisfaction, though some have dropped hints.

As is the case with Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales, who said: “I’ll do everything in my power to keep Milei from winning.”

Martín Lousteau, Mario Negri, Luis Naidenoff and Alfredo Cornejo are other Radical leaders who have expressed neutrality in the run-off.



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