Photo via La Nación

The National Deputy Co-founder of the Cambiemos coalition, Elisa “Lilita” Carrió, answered one of the two most relevant questions of October’s mid-term elections yesterday; she confirmed that she will be a National Deputy candidate for the City of Buenos Aires, instead of the province.

The other main question is whether former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will run for senator in the Buenos Aires Province’s elections. Since there’s not even a slight hint that this could be the case, we will instead focus on what Carrió’s candidacy means to the Argentine political landscape.

The announcement by the Civic Coalition (CC) shows her decision to accommodate the requests made by Cambiemos’ leadership, whose highest ranking members are President Mauricio Macri and Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal. They asked her to run in the city for two reasons that complement each other.

On the one hand, Vidal intends to be the visible face of Cambiemos’s campaign in the province, taking advantage of her overwhelmingly positive image in the territory she administers — at least by Argentine standards. Most opinion polls place her approval image around 60 percent.

By not having Carrió in the picture, Vidal continues to be Cambiemos’ undisputed leader in the province, especially if we consider the other prospective candidates — current Education Minister Esteban Bullrich, Neurosurgeon Facundo Manes, who’s starting to make his way into the political world, and Gladys González — don’t even come close to her level of recognition.

Carrió is a political leader who carries her own weight, and wouldn’t have to rely on Vidal by her side every step of the campaign trail in order to stand a chance in what will arguably be the large price in October’s elections.

Following this premise, there would be two downsides for Vidal should Carrió win the elections in the province: Carrió would become a power player in the territory, casting a shadow over Vidal’s reign, and become a powerful figure in Cambiemos’ national structure. Considering  that all of Cambiemos’ main leaders belong to the PRO — Macri’s party — this would threaten their hegemony within the coalition, regardless of the fact that they are all supposed to be on the same side.

Photo via NCN
Photo via NCN

This, predictably, didn’t escape Carrió: “The voters asked me to be a candidate in the province, but that’s the governor’s (Vidal’s) decision and I profoundly respect it,” she said last week in the TV show hosted by Mirtha Legrand.

However, Vidal’s decision could backfire. A defeat in the province would be a big blow for her and her administration, and would boost the winner’s political capital — which is a relevant variable to consider if the rumors of CFK candidacy prove true.

But despite the public jab — a standard move for Carrió — she accepted the request and announced she would run in the city. With this move she crushes Martín Lousteau’s aspirations of gathering political power in the territory, meeting objective number two for the Cambiemos party.

Carrió is the party’s figure who could easily achieve this goal and assure that Cambiemos’s power core in the country will remain uncontested, at least until 2019. Lousteau already gave PRO quite a scare in 2013, when he narrowly lost the city’s mayoral elections to Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.

Lousteau repeatedly offered to be part of the Cambiemos coalition and partake in this election’s primary elections. However, the offer was rejected. The reason? He may want to be a part of Cambiemos now, but he has always made clear his intention to run for mayor again in 2019. Even if he did it as a member of the coalition, the PRO leadership wouldn’t accept someone from outside of the PRO running the City.

Carrió didn’t waste a second to begin her offense against who will now be her main opponent. “When he was a candidate for mayor, even though my party [the CC] was in ECO [Lousteau’s party in the City], I was already in Cambiemos. I will be with Cambiemos, and Lousteau is not part of Cambiemos,” she said yesterday when announcing her candidacy.

Carrió and Lousteau at the short-lived UNEN coalition in 2011.
Carrió and Lousteau the short-lived UNEN coalition in 2011.

Her decision to be a team player has already begun to get picked up by the coalition’s leadership. Carrió will get to include people from her party in the ticket she will lead and will have veto power over other candidates she associates with corruption. She met with Macri today to begin selecting such individuals. Moreover, City Mayor Larreta also showed her his appreciation by guaranteeing her she won’t have to undergo a primary election.

Lousteau didn’t remain indifferent to the news. He knows his chances of winning the elections have dropped drastically, as Carrió is widely liked in the city. In fact, she took the jurisdiction in 2007’s presidential elections, beating Cristina Kirchner. Although the former president won 21 other jurisdictions and accumulated 46 percent of the national vote, that isolated election is quite telling about Carrió’s image in the city.

As a result of this news, Lousteau’s team is analyzing three different alternatives, Infobae reports: abstaining from this election to avoid the political blow a defeat would represent and wait until the 2019 elections, taking his chances and running against her or running for the city Legislature, although this is the option that is probably the least attractive to him. And we can see why. The Legislature doesn’t have nearly as much political weight as the National Congress does, and his relevance in large scale politics would take a clear hit.