Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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ARGENTINA | 02-11-2019 11:52

Mauricio Macri mulls next move, likely to lead opposition

Multiple reports suggest that – despite tension among some Cambiemos figures – the president would stay on as leader of the opposition. 2023, however, is a long way away.

President Mauricio Macri took to the stage last Sunday knowing the day was done and that defeat had come. Now, he needs to decide his next move.

Local outlets have been rife with speculation this week about what comes next for the 60-year-old. Will he return to business and depart politics on his own terms? Will he be shunted out of the way by his coalition’s next generation? Or will he continue as leader of the opposition, angrily tearing strips off Peronist officials as they try to drag Argentina back towards growth?

For now, it seems Macri will remain on the frontline. Multiple reports this week in local outlets suggested that – despite tension among some Cambiemos figures – the president would now stay on as leader of the opposition.

Néstor Grindetti, the mayor of Lanús who won re-election for a new term on Sunday, said this week that Macri “will continue to lead Cambiemos.”

“There is a future. PRO, UCR and Civic Coalition dialogue tables will be formed. And Macri will continue to lead, it is his wish. There is a totally new situation but it is not a catastrophe,” he said in statements to Radio Led.

Sources close to the government this week briefed that after the success of his ‘#SiSePuede’ tour and overall electoral performance (clearing 40 percent, winning four provinces and improving on the tally earned in August’s PASO primaries by some two million votes), the president’s mind was now made up.

According to a report in Noticias, Macri has been telling his closest aides that the easiest life would be to go and live overseas, but that he doesn’t want to let down his base, who accompanied him with votes and at marches.

Plus, despite no Argentine president having successfully returned to office after leaving it since 1983, the president has upset the odds before. After all, in 2003 he was told he was finished after losing the run-off vote for Buenos Aires City mayor and in 2015, he was told Daniel Scioli would win the presidential race.

‘LEARNING CURVE’

In his concession speech onsAP tage at his coalition’s bunker in Costa Salguero, Macri played all the right cards, congratulating his rival for their win, talking up his administration’s achievements and pitching the “democratic” and “republican” values of his party.

“We learned a lot these past four years, and especially these past months. What is coming is also going to be a learning curve, and I know it will be a good one,” he concluded.

This week he asked his Cabinet on Thursday to offer Alberto Fernández’s team “maximum collaboration,” as Argentina prepares for the change of government. He will ask his supporters for one last show of support too. Plans were accelerated this week for a huge final farewell rally at the Plaza de Mayo on December 7, an event that would echo the event held by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on December 9, 2015.

But while the crowds at his rallies have been behind him, it’s not clear that his coalition is doing the same.

Macri met with María Eugenia Vidal on Thursday for their first private meeting since the defeat, amid rumours of anger and recriminations in Buenos Aires and La Plata. For what it’s worth, the outgoing Buenos Aires Province governor left the meeting quietly and without smiling, refusing to give comment to the press.

Reports of tension between the two arose during the election, with anger set to have sparked after a clash between Vidal and Marcos Peña, Macri’s Cabinet chief, over whether to hold the region’s gubernatorial election on the same day as the presidential election. The governor was unhappy the votes weren’t allowed to be decoupled, something some analysts believe would have given her more of a fighting chance.

For her part, Vidal promised this week to stay involved in politics, despite her heavy loss to former economy minister Axel Kicillof in the country’s most-populous region, saying she has “a commitment to Buenos Aires.” She will likely run to be a national lawmaker in the 2021 midterms, reports suggested this week. Macri, may do the same, Infobae said.

Governor Vidal lead a meeting earlier this week of Juntos por el Cambio mayors from the province, at which Jorge Macri, the mayor of Vicente López and the president’s cousin, expressed concerns that the movement needed to “strengthen” itself in “a space where there is no longer a governor who represents us all.”

PLAN B?

One of the more colourful suggestions of the week, regarding Macri’s next turn, came from veteran journalist Horacio Verbitsky, who suggested in a radio interview that the president may seek a return to football club management and his beloved Boca Juniors.

“His Plan B is Boca,” said Verbitsky, Gustavo Sylvestre on Radio 10, going on to describe the Macri government as a “catastrophe.”

Verbitsky described the idea that Macri would be the real head of the opposition as an “advertising construction,” suggesting other party figures would stick with him, but only for now. “They will let him run in that direction but they will put a limit on him when he begins to deal with the issue of candidacies for the 2021 election,” he argued.

That’s in line with speculation that figures such as Governor Vidal, Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Mendoza Governor (and soon to be national deputy) Alfredo Cornejo may be in the running as potential leaders come 2023.

“The campaign was not to win the presidency, but for a narrow defeat, with a view to strengthening [numbers of] governors, mayors and legislative representation, and also thinking about their future judicial situation.”

He added: “To think about a Plan B because they knew that Plan A was not going to work out. And Plan B was to present himself as a candidate for the presidency of Boca.”

“What he likes most is football and business, that is his thing,” concluded Verbitsky.

James Grainger

James Grainger

Editor-in-Chief, Buenos Aires Times.

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