As he exited the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) Law Faculty after voting last Sunday, Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta was asked about the future of the opposition coalition. He responded: “In no way is the unity of Juntos por el Cambio at risk.” It was a remark reminiscent of that famous patient of Sigmund Freud who said: “My mum’s not the problem, doctor,” to which the analyst responded that his need to deny it made the problem all the more evident.
Juntos por Cambio runs the risk of disintegration after Argentina’s 2023 election. Libertarian leader Javier Milei offered congratulations to PRO’s two territorial winners, Jorge Macri and Rogelio Frigerio in Entre Ríos Province and added to the repetition of the word “juntos” in his speech after the results, lays bare the fact that Milei intends to hammer home the same reading Mauricio Macri reached after the PASO primaries: combining the votes of La Libertad Avanza and Juntos por el Cambio, “over half the country voted for change.”
The Unión Cívica Radical, who govern more territories than PRO and who contributed more votes nationwide to the opposition coalition, don’t think the same way. And if a year ago, when Milei was a less relevant competitor than today, they had joined up with Coalición Cívica and forced Juntos por el Cambio to sign an official document anticipating that they would not construct any electoral alliances with Milei, things would be different. A schism now looks closer than ever in the face of the run-off.
The same applies to current UCR party chairman Gerardo Morales, a figure who is dead set against Milei, and his more conservative predecessor Alfredo Cornejo, Mendoza Province’s once and future governor Alfredo Cornejo who had to fight off a pro-Milei local electoral adversary Omar de Marchi. Santa Fe governor-elect Maximiliano Pullaro, from the Evolución Radical wing of the party, is in the same position. It goes too for PRO moderates beginning with Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, whom Milei called a “shitty Communist,” often insulting him more than any other political party leader.
PRO is adrift with the possibility of reverting to being a Buenos Aires municipal party because it is worth remembering that the man who will be governing the other territory won by PRO, Entre Ríos, Rogelio Frigerio, was considered by Mauricio Macri to be part of the ‘fifth column’ of his party together with Emilio Monzó.
Obligation to change
Milei astutely used Macri in the same way the Peronists skilfully used Milei. With less than 37 percent of the vote, quantitatively one of the worst elections in their history, they still came out on top.
But now that the libertarian leader no longer has the tactical support of Peronism, he is obliged to change his discourse. He was was already doing when he spoke after the publication of results – instead of confronting the “ political caste,” he confronted Kirchnerism – the same strategy which led Bullrich to defeat (because Kirchnerism today is only a shadow of what it was and Massa has antibodies not to be considered Kirchnerite, starting with his Deputy Economy Minister Gabriel Rubinstein, a bitter critic of Kirchnerism just like his mentor Roberto Lavagna).
With 27 days to go for the run-off, Massa is less than 14 points short and Milei a bit more than 20. It remains to divide the three-percent that went to leftists, the seven percent of Córdoba’s Juan Schiaretti and the 24 percent won by Juntos por el Cambio.
The left is hardly going to go for Milei. Schiaretti, another of Sunday night’s winners (because he almost doubled his votes from the PASO primaries thanks to the two debates which made him known nationwide), opened his speech after the results became known by honouring one of the late Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and he himself suffered the persecution of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, which makes him less compatible with the negationist discourse of La Libertad Avanza. The big doubt will be over how the 24 percent of Juntos por el Cambio is going to be divided up.
A new era begins
In a post-PASO column I mused about Milei’s teleology, about what role he has come to play in the arrow of history according to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, where each body finds the bodies to incarnate its conditions of logical possibilities.
The emergence of La Libertad Avanza has probably come along to illustrate the inconsistency of the union of more or less progressive parties like the UCR Radicals and the Coalición Cívica with PRO, which was tamed by Jaime Durán Barba towards electoral goals but ideologically more to the right.
The consultant from Ecuador has been writing in Perfil for the past year that elections are not won by proposing austerity. Another of Durán Barba’s warnings is that PRO is ageing, which is somehow corroborated by the loss of young voters to Milei with the higher average age of Juntos por el Cambio voters and its leadership who are all 16 years older than when Mauricio Macri first won the mayoral election in Buenos Aires City in 2007.
The Radicals, Coalición Cívica and the Socialists could confirm a parliamentary alliance similar to Grupo A in 2010, adopting a position far removed from Milei. PRO could join forces in Congress with the representatives of La Libertad Avanza while the Córdoba Peronists perform a balancing act between them and Massa’s Peronists.
Re-elected Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof – definitely Sunday night’s winner – also contributes to the reconfiguration of the political map but, over and above, his praise for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner stands out. He is the great antagonist of Máximo Kirchner and far from being considered one of La Campora.
Part of the reconfiguration of the political map includes a new Peronism. A new era is beginning.