On January 13th, the day of his 62nd birthday, former Vice-President and two-time Governor of the Buenos Aires Province, Daniel Scioli, presented a book called “The Other Way” (El otro camino).
At the event, which took place in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, where practically all Peronists move their political activities during the summer, Scioli strongly indicated that he is planning to be a contender for the presidency in this year’s elections.
“We want to propose another way,” he said, joined by former president of the Lower House during the second Cristina Kirchner administration, Julián Domínguez, and former Security Secretary – also during the second Kirchner administration – Sergio Berni.
In a fragmented Peronist landscape, Scioli probably considers that he can be a candidate around which others can leave their differences aside and rally behind.
lukewarm, ahem, diplomatic statements and his reluctance to adopt a confrontational rhetoric, as well as the fact that he was the candidate of the Kirchnerista Frente Para la Victoria (now Unidad Ciudadana) in 2015, feed into the image of a politician able to unify a landscape inhabited by politicians with extremely dissimilar views. Cristina Kirchner, Sergio Massa, and Juan Manuel Urtubey, for example. “Imagine if altogether we [the opposition] had 52 percent of the vote, but go to the polls and lose because we were divided,” he said.
“The most important thing is that Argentina has an electoral option, one able to reverse these [Macri’s] policies. More than the aspiration of any leader, we need to know things can go down another path. The main goal is re-activating the economy,” Scioli added.
However, this idyllic scenario Scioli envisions faces two challenges, one much more important than the other.
Firstly, he has to find a way to crawl back from the hole of political irrelevance in which he’s found himself since losing the elections. For the past three years, Scioli has not been a relevant player in politics, refraining from engaging in the issues that dominated the public conversation during the Macri administration, or doing it in a limited, testimonial manner.
Other politicians – whether they are Peronists or Kirchnerite – have become much more present figures, and, for now, are better positioned to rise as the leaders of the opposition.
The political caliber of his companions in the book presentation illustrates this. Julián Domínguez was briefly associated with former candidate to senator Florencio Randazzo – who famously rejected Cristina Kirchner’s request to run for governor instead of president and broke with the former president – but has largely maintained a low profile ever since. And Berni is a Peronist pariah who is trying to find figures behind whom he can rally, and potentially get a post.
But second, and above all, Scioli has to defend himself against a grave accusation from his ex-partner and mother of his last child, Gisela Berger. Last week, Berger announced she would separate from Scioli, with whom he had been together since May 2016, when news broke that they would have a child together.
Shortly after, Berger gave an interview in which she accused Scioli of being behind threats that were made against her, and assured that he mistreated her during the relationship.
“They [Scioli’s team] had been asking things of me for a while, for me to behave in a certain way during the campaign. And those are things I didn’t share. They were not going to force me to. So, it got to a point when the thing started to get tense,” Berger said in an interview.
Berger went on to say that she is “scared,” indicating that “it is not like they told me they were going to kill me, but when they did, they told me to ‘not mess with the Scioli name.'”
“After we had the baby, there were some moments when I told him I did not want to continue the relationship, that we had to separate. And he would tel me ‘OK, you do it then.’ He would leave me alone with the baby at home and would not come back for a month,” she recalled.
When specifically asked if Scioli was physically violent with her, she said: “I can tell you that the psychological violence he exerted on me was terrible. All he did when I had the child was leave the hospital with me. I did not say anything because he made me. If he hit me? He mistreated me.”
Daniel Scioli, dice que va por el brazo.. mientras la gente se muere de hambre, MIENTE ! Vacaciones en COURCEVEL FRANCIA ?? !! Donde esta la plata del país ? !! @muy @eldoce @revistalatecla pic.twitter.com/y9RmczLM53
— Gisela Berger (@gise_berger) January 9, 2019
“Daniel Scioli says he goes [to Europe] to get his [prosthetic] arm treated. While people starve to death, he LIES! Holidays in COURCEVEL FRANCE!! Where is the people’s money?!!” reads the tweet Berger published after breaking up with Scioli.
When repeatedly asked about the accusations during an interview after the presentation of the book, Scioli rejected to answer: “I say again, my visit is strictly for work purposes. I don’t want to be repetitive,” he said, exasperated.
The turbulent end of the relationship goes in line with its beginning, and pretty much destroys the persona that Scioli intended to build during his political career: that of an eternally optimistic family man, and a devoted catholic.
Let’s recall that in May 2016, a jubilant Scioli announced he would become a father at the age of 60 as his ex, Gisela Berger, was pregnant. However, immediately after he broke the news, Berger came out to call him a hypocrite, claiming he had in fact privately hinted that he wanted her to have an abortion.
“When I found out I was pregnant I told him about it and his reaction was ‘No. This is a mess! This is a mess! Isn’t there anything we can do?’,” she added. “Anything we can do” is, of course, dog whistle for you-know-what.
Predictably, many came out to criticize Scioli for historically being a staunch detractor of the legalization of abortion, in line with his religious views. However, during last year’s debate for the legalization of abortion, he came out to say that his views were different, and ended up voting in favor of the bill.
“When you look at the countries that have moved forward to implement decriminalization, you see that child-maternal mortality rates have dropped sharply,” he said back then.
A few days after announcing the separation, Berger posted the following tweet.
— Gisela Berger (@gise_berger) January 4, 2019
“People don’t change, they only behave well when they want to get something in return.”
Although this premise applies to practically all politicians, Berger is the live reminder that Scioli is not the exception to the rule. And she seems to be eager to remind the Argentine electorate of it.