In an interview published by Infobae on Sunday, Sergio Massa confirmed he will go for a new presidential run. “I will be a candidate,” he said. Massa also hurled some predictable criticism against the Macri administration and floated some political and economic proposals. But above all, the leader of the Frente Renovador sought to make clear what his ideological approach will be at the time of hitting the campaign trail.
That is, he flatly rejected the possibility of reaching an agreement with former President Cristina Kirchner, and cemented his willingness to be the main representative of Alternativa Federal, the newly-formed party comprised of moderate Peronists who aspire to break with the polarization between the former and current president that is likely to dominate October’s general elections.
“I have been going down a different path for three elections now. I have been clear. Not with my words, but my actions. Having an alternative means supporting a candidate who beats Macri in a runoff, not one who loses. The Argentina of the future is not built with nostalgia or a spirit of vengeance,” said Massa when pressured about whether he included the former president in a group of people able to unify the Argentine political landscape.
However, not all in the Frente Renovador shared this thought. Two of the party’s most prominent members, Deputies Felipe Solá and Facundo Moyano, broke with Massa in late 2018 and – along with another group of legislators – former a new party called Red x Argentina, which stands much closer to the party led by Cristina Kirchner.
Moreover, Julio Zamora, Mayor of the district of Tigre, Massa’s historical stronghold, said in an interview that he “aspired for Massa and Cristina to come close and form an electoral proposal.” Zamora went on to vaguely speculate with the possibility that Massa run for governor in the Buenos Aires Province and Kirchner for the presidency in the same ticket, saying “Massa has all the qualities to be candidate to governor and to president.” This hypothesis had already been floated by union leader Pablo Moyano, who said “it could be a strong ticket.”
Massa completely rejected the possibility. Instead, he chose to praise the former economy minister between 2003 and 2005, Roberto Lavagna, a figure whose profile several peronists have been trying to raise during the past month, hinting he will play an important role in their alliance.
Although Lavagna might not be known by all, considering that he left the political world more than a decade ago, he is remembered by many as someone who did not engage in partisan rifts and did a good job at a time when Argentina was recovering from one of the worst crises in its history.
“[Lavagna] is extremely important. He is putting his prestige at stake to show that Argentina has an alternative. He is one of those Argentines who believe that national unity will result in economic development,” Massa said.
Other moderates flocked to Lavagna’s summer house in Cariló during the summer, with the goal of indicating that he is a figure around which they can rally, and who has the ability of unifying the non-Kirchnerite opposition. The fact that asides from members of Alternativa Federal, Lavagna met with Santa Fe Governor, Socialist Miguel Lifschitz, illustrates this thesis.
“We need a project that pulls the country out of this crisis. We are talking about that with different leaders. Lavagna is a prestigious figure. He is a person who has proven his abilities in the face of a crisis, and has already helped us out of a strong crisis like the one from 2001. He is respected by all sectors of the political landscape. I think he has the willingness to be at the helm of a project of national unity,” said Lifschitz in a radio interview.
However, a poll recently released by Synopsis consultancy firm shows that this eventual candidacy poses a problem for Massa and, at the same time, continues to fail the opposition’s great problem if Cristina Kirchner decides to run: Lavagna would beat him in a primary, but he would still be unable to muster enough support to beat the former president in the general elections.
The poll indicates that Lavagna would get 13.1 percent of the vote, almost twice as much as Massa’s 6.7 percent, and 10 points more than Juan Manuel Urtubey’s – the other candidate of Alternativa Federal who has announced his candidacy – 2.8 percent. However, the sum of their support is still more than five points below the 27.6 percent of the vote the President would have.
However, the scenario is completely different if the former president decides not to run. In this case, Alternativa Federal, still led by Lavagna, would get 26.6 percent of the vote, against the Kirchnerite party’s 18.7 percent. Therefore, the political landscape will collectively hold its breath until the former president makes her announcement.
As for Massa, the poll’s figures will surely raise an important question, considering he has a personal relationship with Lavagna: lobby to make him his running mate or his eventual economy minister to strengthen his candidacy? Or run against him, knowing the odds are not in his favor, and bid farewell to his presidential run in a primary?
In an interview in December, Massa indicated that he would not reject being a secondary figure in the alliance: “If I have to lead, I will lead, but I have to follow, I will follow,” he said. For now, we know that Massa will run at the top of his ticket, in the same way he has done in the last three elections. What will happen in the Alternativa Federal primary, however, remains a big question. Many times, personal ambition derailed something that otherwise could have been a victory, and Massa has never hidden his obsession with controlling the Casa Rosada. We will see.