President Alberto Fernández has stood down his candidacy and put aside his aspirations for re-election. In the midst of further financial instability and with Frente de Todos fractured by infighting, the Peronist leader is now seeking to position himself as the “guarantor” of the PASO primaries.
The head of state has taken to the airwaves to voice his hopes and sent some of his key allies out onto the field. He wants to avoid diluting what little remains of “albertismo."
"I hope that there is a space which proposes one candidate, another proposing another and that the people decide," Fernández told the Nacional Rock radio station in an interview.
"There are several good candidates: [Cabinet Chief Agustín] Rossi is a spectacular leader; Victoria Tolosa Paz can also be one too,” he said, naming his Cabinet chief and Social Development minister.
The president even offered up Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro as a hopeful for the coalition’s Kirchnerite sector while underlining the importance of competition and leaving party supporters to choose their candidate for the October elections.
The ruling coalition’s race for the presidential nomination is wide open, with no frontrunner leading the way.
Economy Minister Sergio Massa has been tipped by many analysts as a consensus candidate but he has so far refused to discuss running. Meanwhile, Argentina’s economic struggles clouds any potential run for the nation’s highest office.
For now, the most prominent display of presidential power has been Tolosa Paz’s deployment as a Buenos Aires Province gubernatorial hopeful. Launching a new group last weekend, Camino a la Victoria (“Path to Victory”), the official staged a rally aimed at positioning her as a potential PASO rival to provincial governor Axel Kicillof.
Heading a rally in Ensenada in front of thousands of activists, Tolosa Paz was joined by Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, Security Minister Aníbal Fernández and Rossi onstage in a show of support for her as-yet unconfirmed candidacy.
A notable absentee was Daniel Scioli, Argentina’s ambassador to Brazil and the only big-name politician to have formally entered the race for the presidential nomination.
“I am a (presidential) hopeful,” declared the experienced envoy last week.
President Fernández is keen to have the veteran official represent his political sector in a hypothetical PASO line-up but Scioli would prefer to be a candidate “of synthesis,” the Noticias Argentinas news agency reported.
In his interview, Fernández said that Scioli is “a great leader who could be a candidate,” but not everyone is in agreement. National lawmaker Máximo Kirchner, for example, is not in favour of everyone lining up behind Scioli, who narrowly lost the 2015 election to Mauricio Macri. Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is also said to be cool on the idea.
Failure to recruit Scioli to the president’s cause could play into another veteran’s hands, Agustín Rossi, a politician with a genetic profile far closer to Kirchnerism.
Rossi said previously he was willing to stand but only if the president decided to step down. Reacting to that news, he praised Fernández’s “commitment and generosity" and said he will now evaluate his position.
Casting a gaze towards the capital, the president’s closest ally is Tourism & Sports Minister Matías Lammens, who managed to take 35 percent of the vote in Buenos Aires City in 2019 when he was attached to the Fernández-Fernández de Kirchner ticket.
Two years ago, Lammens did not want to leave the Cabinet and stand as a deputy in the capital. He was replaced at the top of the slate by Leandro Santoro, who took a respectable 25 points but struggled to gain more votes amid the arrival of libertarian Javier Milei, who seized 17 percent of porteño support.
For now, only Scioli and social leader Juan Grabois are not hiding their presidential ambitions. Both have expressed their intentions publicly and are looking to make a mark.
With no territorial or political structure of his own, Scioli is seeking to boost his candidacy through the virtues of his role, which allows him to freely dialogue with governors and mayors.
Grabois, for his part, is increasingly distancing himself from the Casa Rosada. He dares Massa to stand and challenge him in a PASO but says he would drop his candidacy if De Pedro stands.
Nevertheless, the social leader’s Patria Grande has registered to obtain electoral status, which allows them to “contribute to the unity of Frente de Todos with our own profile in these troubled times and to guarantee the candidacy of Juan Grabois.”
De Pedro has not declared but said over the weekend that the president’s withdrawal from the race was “a necessary step to begin to put Peronism in order.”
With the exception of Fernández de Kirchner, who has ruled herself out of the race for elected office but could still change her mind, the only other known hopeful is Chaco Governor Jorge Capitanich.
The northern leader has long flirted with the idea of entering the race, longs for Cristina's blessing and maintains a good relationship with the Casa Rosada. He has said he would like to compete but will do what "the movement defines," his entourage told Perfil.