Leaders from Argentina’s divided Peronist ruling coalition are keeping the door open to Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner running for president in this year’s election, in what would amount to a shocking political U-turn.
At a party summit Thursday night convened by President Alberto Fernández in Buenos Aires, the Frente de Todos coalition failed to rally behind a single candidate ahead of the October general election. Amid severe infighting, sinking approval ratings and an economic strategy failing to tame 99 percent inflation, the group is instead hinting at participating in a primary election with multiple Peronist candidates rather than putting forward one candidate, despite being the government party.
The primary is the institutional mechanism “to include the participation of parties and synthesise the different visions of a common project,” the party said in a statement Friday morning.
Holding an internal election to pick a presidential candidate is a novelty for Peronism, which has governed Argentina for 28 of the past 40 years. While Fernández has hinted he would seek a second term, he is facing significant push back from the groups supporting his powerful vice president.
“The prospects for the ruling coalition are looking bleak,” Daniel Kerner, Managing Director for Latin America at Eurasia Group, wrote in a note to clients Friday. “It’s a tough environment for an incumbent, economic conditions will likely deteriorate, and they lack good candidates.”
In December, Fernández de Kirchner announced she wouldn’t be a candidate after federal judges convicted her on corruption charges, banning her from holding public office and sentencing her to six years in jail. As vice-president and head of Argentina’s Senate, she holds immunity. Still, her wing of the coalition clamours for her to reconsider running and argues the court’s ruling amounts to political banning. Fernández de Kirchner didn’t attend the summit, nor commented as of Friday morning.
“We have a responsibility to take the necessary actions to impede banning our partner, Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose leadership and electoral potential we can’t take away,” according to the coalition statement.
The Peronists reclaimed power in the 2019 election, but have struggled to govern together with Fernández de Kirchner and her loyalists often criticising Fernández and his ministers. In their statement Friday, coalition leaders criticized right-wing parties for the economic problems they inherited and blamed the pandemic and war in Ukraine for exacerbating the situation.
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg