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Does Sergio Massa Have a Political Strategy?

A year from the elections, he does not seem to be following a clear course.

By | [email protected] | November 5, 2018 12:39pm

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Less than a year away from the presidential elections, the opposition (especially the Peronist opposition) is immersed in a frenetic process of re-organization, with its leaders forming and breaking alliances in their goal of presenting themselves as the most viable alternative to the Cambiemos coalition.

However, within this melting pot – where the most diverse ideologies and stances are trying to live together – there is a particular character who does not seem to be able to find his place, pinballing between different factions: former presidential candidate and Frente Renovador party leader, Sergio Massa.

During the past months, Massa has taken pictures with different members of the opposition spectrum who would probably not form a united front between them, and issuing some statement that contrasted with the positions of potential allies. He has also seen his own party broken, following the recent departure of the deputy who led the Frente Renovador in the Lower House in the last year’s midterm elections in Buenos Aires, Felipe Solá.

So let’s take a look at the somewhat erratic course of action that Massa has followed during the past months, and the different political waters he has tested.

Alternativa Para una Nueva Argentina

In late September, Massa and the three members of the Partido Justicialista (PJ) who have so far announced or hinted at the possibility of running for president next year (senator Miguel Pichetto and Salta and Córdoba governors Juan Manuel Urtubey and Juan Schiaretti) uploaded a pretty cheesy video on social media in which they pretended to debate about politics and show their intention of building a new political space, called Alternativa Argentina (AA).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt9JTptf-V0

“The challenge lies on overcoming the ‘polarization trap’ between [President Mauricio] and [former President] Cristina [Fernández de Kirchner]. Argentines are tired of discussing one and other’s failures,” said Massa when announcing its creation.

The most likely scenario for Alternativa Federal would be a primary election, aimed at having their supporters choose a candidate the rest can rally behind. Before, however, they would need to clear a large hurdle: they need to reach consensus and raise a cohesive political and economic strategy since, so far, their approach as an opposition is contrasting.

For example, while Urtubey, Pichetto and Schiaretti have expressed their willingness to vote for the government’s budget bill, Massa called it “hideous” and “impossible to support.” Moreover, the former presidential candidate said in Washington a few weeks ago that, if he were President in 2019, he would re-negotiate the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Neither of the three others have expressed similar intentions.

Besides facing an uncertain scenario in the building of this political alternative, Massa has been facing turbulence within his own party.

Secession in the Frente Renovador

On October 22, his close ally Felipe Solá (who was a candidate to governor of the Buenos Aires province in 2015 and a national deputy in 2017 representing Massa’s Frente Renovador) officially broke with him and formed a 5-people caucus in the Lower House. Sola’s newfound political ally is Facundo Moyano, the son of powerful teamsters union leader Hugo Moyano, currently immersed in a strong fight with the Macri administration.

The caucus will be called Red por Argentina, and it is still uncertain whether it will continue to be independent or fall under Kirchnerism’s sphere of influence.

Photo via Clarín

Regardless of the new party’s future, this rupture is causing a big dent to the FR, as this not only happened in the Lower House. According to Ámbito, it also happened in at least 37 city councils throughout the Buenos Aires Province, Massa’s stronghold.

Closing in on Socialists

On that same day, Massa changed course. He took a picture with members of Santa Fe’s Partido Socialista – current and former provincial Governors Miguel Lifshitz and Antonio Bonfatti – as well as member of the Unión Cívica Radical Ricardo Alfonsín, and his running mate in the Buenos Aires Province’s Senators ticket in the 2017 midterms, the leader of the Frente Progresista party Margarita Stolbizer. According to the politicians who took part in the meeting, they held “an informal dialogue” aimed at calling all sectors of the opposition to unite.

“Peronistas, Progresistas, Radicales, Socialistas and Renovadores. It does not matter. What matters is the Argentina we all want: one of growth and development, and against austerity measures and the International Monetary Fund,” they stated.

Photo via La Política Online

However, according to Santa Fe newspaper La Capital, the Socialistas, and especially Lifshitz, experienced backlash for their decision.

Joining the ‘Bolsonaro Effect’ as Well

Here’s another recent event that illustrates the ideological differences between Massa and members of this sector of the opposition, and could jeopardize this attempt to conform an alliance. Following the election of Jair Bolsonaro in the Brazilian presidential elections, Massa was one of the politicians who avoided criticizing the president-elect, and in fact praised the fact that – in his eyes – he had defended the interests of the Brazilian people.

“Trump defends the US from a process of globalization that jeopardizes many American jobs; Mexico’s López Obrador stands for Mexicans and Bolsonaro’s policies are aimed at defending the Brazilian people. We have a responsibility to provide Argentines with an alternative that defends the country, instead of continuing to believe that we can ignore the global scenario,” he said, hinting that protectionism would play a significant role in an eventual electoral platform of his in next year’s presidential elections.