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ARGENTINA | 22-09-2021 12:10

Opposition presents united front as its eyes PASO repeat in November

Juntos por el Cambio’s candidates for Congress unite for national meeting. Strong criticism of government, especially regarding internal disputes, as opposition eyes 45% of vote in November.

Juntos por el Cambio’s leadership had the image they had been waiting for: all of the opposition coalition’s candidates for national senators and deputies from across the country had come together in one frame, showing a united face ahead of November’s legislative elections.

With the fights in the ruling coalition serving as a useful backdrop, Juntos por el Cambio’s leaders are setting their sights on their objectives: winning the midterms, stripping Kirchnerism of its majority in the Senate and emerging strengthened for the presidential election in two years time.

Nevertheless, the tumultuous scenes seen Tuesday near a hotel in the centre of Buenos Aires served as a wake-up call for the opposition coalition, underlining the difficulties that lie ahead on the road to 2023. Even worse, how challenging it will be to govern once in office.

Thousands of demonstrators from social movements and left-wing groups were milling around the nearby Plaza de Mayo for a massive mobilisation, snarling traffic and delaying the arrival of key coalition leaders. 

City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and his former deputy Diego Santilli, now a candidate for national deputy in Buenos Aires Province, walked in together on foot, camouflaged by hats that prevented some advisers from recognising them. Former president Mauricio Macri entered the hotel with his vehicle, avoiding the streets.

Inside the hotel, around a hundred candidates listened to the leaders of the three parties that make up the coalition: the Radicals, PRO and Coalición Cívica. Photos were taken and there were spaces for everyone to speak.

PRO party leader Patricia Bullrich was one of the most enthusiastic speakers, calling on the opposition to strip the Peronists of their Senate power while aiming directly for 2023.

"In November, we have to get 45 percent of the votes, because that puts us in a position to be able to reach the Presidency without a run-off in 2023," she declared. 

National Deputy and Coalición Cívica ARI Chair Maximiliano Ferraro, seated alongside the former security minister, agreed: “We have to open the gate to political alternation. The government has not listened and has locked itself up in factional coups."

Rodríguez Larreta, who was more measured in his tone, highlighted the value of unity, stressing for “it is the first time that Peronism has governed with a united opposition” since the return of democracy. He said he was convinced that Juntos por el Cambio would win again in November, yet he warned that they must not “underestimate those who are in front of us for a second.”

On that point, Bullrich delivered the day’s only concrete campaign announcement: Juntos por el Cambio will set up an “electoral legal committee” to unify all the complaints that may arise across the country regarding the running of the election.

For now, all the coalition’s leadership disputes are on hold – or at least that’s what Mauricio Macri’s key allies are saying. Candidates requested photographs with Bullrich, Rodríguez Larreta and the former president, while Radical leaders supported their own. Alfredo Cornejo, Gustavo Valdés and Martín Lousteau also worked the crowd, who in the evening enjoyed an asado.

The contrast with tensions in the Frente de Todos coalition is today what unifies the opposition’s discourse even greater. Cornejo raised it in his speech opening the event: "Alberto and Cristina are two hugely irresponsible people, who have shown that they only came together for power, without a plan of basic agreements. They have structural differences, and not nuances like we have."

The same thoughts were reflected in the document released by the coalition at the end of the event. "The economic, health, social and political mismanagement of the government has stripped it of its 'friendly' and 'inclusive' façade," it read, concluding: "The defeat showed them as they are: a disorderly, improvised government, without evidence, with flimsy structures leaning on an archaic and old apparatus and clientele that impede the prosperity of Argentines." 

One of Tuesday’s main objectives was to show unity after the PASO. Candidates who lost in their districts but who have been integrated onto the final lists all shared moments. Facundo Manes sat with Santilli and talked about joint work they can conduct together, while Ricardo López Murphy with María Eugenia Vidal did the same (they had dinner together the night before). 

López Murphy, a former defence minister, won a large applause with his take on the last and next elections. “It seems that now the pandemic is over, showing us that the September 12 vaccine was very effective. Let's work so that the November 14 vaccine ends this nightmare.”

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Gabriel Ziblat

Gabriel Ziblat

Editor de Política - Diario Perfil.

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