Is it that time again already? Just hours after the bill to legalize abortion was defeated in Senate, Río Negro Senator Miguel Ángel Pichetto swiftly moved along on to the next order of the day, announcing that he will be running as a candidate for the Presidency next year.
The President of the majority Peronist bloc in Senate made the announcement from the Teatro Metro in La Plata, where he was supported by Peronist and union sector legislators. In doing so, he is the first legislator to publicly announce their intentions for the Presidential Elections taking place on October 27th next year.
He predicted that the election will be a three-horse race between Cambiemos, who will most likely be represented by President Mauricio Macri; Unidad Ciudadana, led by former President Cristina Fernández de Kircher; and Peronismo Federal. He faces competition from within his own party, particularly from Juan Manuel Urtubey, Sergio Uñac and Sergio Massa, who described as important figures in the “renovation” of Peronism.
Prior to his speech in La Plata, Pichetto had announced his attention to run on the television program Animales Sueltos last week, where he labelled the proposal as “central, moderate, and republican,” unrelated to macrismo and kirchnerismo but instead “going toward the future and how we will get out of this process of crisis.”
He continued along this vein in his speech on Thursday: “We are not the middle avenue nor the middle space, we are not a hybrid alternative without direction and without heart, we have ideas and proposals,” he said. He described his political space as “the future and the national project to recover Argentina.”
Pichetto further reinforced the division between the Federal and Kirchnerite factions of the Partido Justicialista. “Today there is a problem of identity. We represent the true Peronism of Perón,” he said, and in a thinly-veiled allusion to the Kirchnerites, added, “We represent Peronism, that historic space that expresses the national center. Our proposal has nothing to do with the sectors of the left, the Trotskyites, who think that in radicalizing and breaking everything there is the possibility of returning to power.”
Pichetto further criticized Kirchnerism by taking a jab at former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s economic policies, particularly in the final years of her mandate. “In the last four years of Cristina’s presidency we had inflation, indiscriminate money emission, an increase in public spending and in the structure of the State, because the only thing that increased was public employment,” he said, adding, that “terrible economic management” made it “impossible for the economy to grow.”
Nor did President Mauricio Macri’s administration did escape his critique. “In the two years and eight months of Macri’s administration, foreign debt has grown, the equality discussion went down, this year devaluation stood at 40 percent and the public parities closed between 15 percent and 17 percent,” he said. “Both economic models failed.”
Economic recovery was the key theme that ran through his speech. After a year filled with economic crises, it is important to remember that it was Federal Peronism’s founder, Eduardo Duhalde, who became President after the economic crash of 2001 and Pichetto is clearly hoping that the Argentine people associate Peronism with economic recovery.
He praised Duhalde’s “economic process and sensitivity” and described him as “the man who reconstructed Argentina at the worst time in the country, with a government of national unity, reconstruction of politics and parliamentary profile.”
Pichetto argued that to improve Argentina’s economy, the next government would have to abandon the political vision and economic managed of Macri’s government. “We have to get out of the logic of adjustment, increase domestic demand and consumption, improve wages and have a proactive activity in generating employment.”
Pichetto is clearly feeling somewhat belligerent towards the Macri and Kirchner. During the Senate’s vote on the decriminalization of abortion just the day before, he criticized Macri for his ambivalence throughout the debate “in a Presidential system like Argentina,” and called out Kirchner for not dealing with this issue as part of the expansion of rights during her governance.
Yesterday, Pichetto panned the possibility of either Macri or Kirchner winning the elections next year. Despite their constant public bickering, he described Cambiemos and Kircherism as two sides of the same coin. “They need each other and they complement each other. Fundamentally, they feed the divide every day.”
He also acknowledged the current controversy over illegal financial contributions in the 2013 election campaign, calling for a more “transparent” system. “This is one of the issues that Argentina has currently. The parties often go to campaign, spend a lot of money and have a hard time surrendering it,” he said.
Pichetto’s proposals included bolstering national industry, repairing the relationship with the Armed Forces and the Police, abandoning Macri’s finance-centric economic model, rebuilding the work culture and defending national interests. As one of the abortion bill’s staunch proponents, if he were to become President this issue would also doubtless return to the table, as well as a re-evaluation of the Church’s influence on the State, which he criticized in no uncertain terms in his speech in Senate the day before.
As previously stated, Pichetto is the first politician to expressly confirm that he will be running next year, although he is clearly aware that others are working towards a similar goal. “I have the will and the conviction to be an alternative and a candidate,” he said. “And to discuss with intelligence in this space how we are going to decide the best candidatures in 2019, to be able to return to power in Argentina.”