Saturday, December 9, 2023

ARGENTINA | 27-10-2023 09:45

Split ahead? Milei the dividing-line for Juntos por el Cambio

UCR, Coalición Cívica and some PRO figures distance themselves from Bullrich and Macri in wake of Milei deal. With just over three weeks to go until the run-off, will the opposition coalition still be united by the time the run-off arrives?

The explicit support given to Javier Milei by Patricia Bullrich and Mauricio Macri has shaken-up Juntos por el Cambio and pushed it on the verge of breaking-point.

Bullrich, who came third in the first round of the presidential election last Sunday, said at a press conference this week that she will support "the change" represented by Milei, with whom she clashed fiercely throughout the election campaign.

"We have differences with Milei, that's why we competed. However, we are faced with the dilemma of change or mafia continuity. The majority chose change, we represent it," said Bullrich.

The announcement has exposed the deep differences within her coalition. The decision angered some opposition leaders, who are not in agreement with the stance and feel Milei – who faces ruling coalition candidate, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, in the November 19 run-off – is a threat to Argentina. Some are now wondering if the differences the pact has generated are irreconcilable.

Bullrich, who won 24 percent of the vote, clarified that she was not speaking on behalf of  PRO or Juntos por el Cambio, which also includes the social democrats of the Unión Cívica Radical and the Coalición Cívica.

Although the unsuccessful presidential candidate said her declaration of support for the libertarian lawmaker came in a personal capacity, some still feel say it crossed a line, especially as the statement was delivered without prior consultation and in the wake of two postponed meetings between the coalition’s top leaders.

The UCR's anger focused on what they understood to be a move by Bullrich and her vice-presidential running-mate, Luis Petri, to lead the six million citizens who opted for this pairing one way when not all members of the party agree with the position.

In a statement issued by Radical leaders, the party said "neither of the two [candidates] guarantees a future of progress for Argentina."

At a press conference on Wednesday, outgoing Jujuy Province governor and UCR chair Gerardo Morales put the blame firmly on Bullrich and Macri, alleging that the former president in particular had long sought to break up the opposition coalition.

"Macri is happy because that's what he wanted, to fuck up the life of Juntos por el Cambio," charged Morales, who said party leaders had not been informed of Bullrich's press conference in advance.

He said Bullrich had made a decision of “great irresponsibility.”

“What Patricia has done … she is not the one to speak on behalf of the six million who voted for us. They are responsible for putting Juntos por el Cambio at risk," said the outgoing governor.

Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta also distanced himself from Macri and Bullrich and announced that he will not support either.

"Milei is a new populism, he is a leap into the void, I don't believe in anything he proposes", declared the Buenos Aires mayor at a press conference, in which he said the libertarian "is on the edge of democracy" and "his ideas are dangerous."

One of the toughest on Macri was the leader of the Coalición Cívica Elisa Carrió, who accused him of having "always played for Milei and for the destruction of Juntos por el Cambio.”

"We are not going to submit to any extortion, we are not going to jump into the void for the sale of organs because it violates human rights, we do not agree with the sale of children and the legalisation of drug- trafficking, all this will lead to crimes against humanity," said Carrió, adding: "His dark side won him over.”

"Milei is my limit," agreed Morales on Wednesday.

UCR Senator Martín Lousteau didn’t hold back either. “We found out about this conference [Bullrich's] while she was preparing. The lack of consideration for the coalition... the formula does not exist, two people cannot go and say that they represent the six million people who voted for us.”

Lousteau, the vice-chair of the Radicals, was tight-lipped during a later television interview when he was asked whether he would vote for Massa. 

Milei, a 53-year-old economist who advocates "anarcho-capitalism" and rails against what he calls the "thieving political caste," was the frontrunner going into the election.

A few days prior to voting day, he forecast a first-round victory but his tally last Sunday, just under 30 percent, was almost identical to what he had obtained in the August PASO primaries when finishing first.

In contrast, Massa soared to almost 37 percent, an increase of 15 points over his tally in the ruling coalition’s presidential primary.

The unrest in the opposition coalition will complicate governability efforts. Juntos por el Cambio has nine of the country's 23 governors, plus the mayorship of the federal capital, Buenos Aires City. 

In Sunday's elections, which also partially renewed Congress, no single force has a parliamentary majority.

Juntos por el Cambio came in second with 24 senators and 93 deputies, behind the ruling Unión por la Patria coalition with 72 senators and 108 deputies.

Milei's La Libertad Avanza went from having three deputies, elected two years ago, to a total of 38 representatives in the lower house and eight seats in the Senate.

Political analyst Sergio de Piero, of the University of Buenos Aires, said Bullrich's “decision to back Milei "is to be expected,” but would still confuse voters.

It confuses Bullrich's voters. We will have to see if they accept voting for Milei. But above all it confuses Milei's own voters. It remains to be seen whether they will accept the turnaround. Now it's another Milei," he said.



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