With last Tuesday’s launch of the Sergio Massa presidential candidacy, those voters who do not want either a continuation of the Mauricio Macri presidency, nor a reversion to Kirchnerism (most of the electorate according to some opinion polls), now have a formal alternative – surely a good time to look harder at the various “third ways” on offer instead of delving endlessly into the polarisation between the president and his predecessor. Current political analysis is making it very clear what the electorate does not want – perhaps it is time to start spelling out what it does want, both within and beyond the definitions of the electoral alternatives.
Massa himself (a shadow of his impressive 2015 presidential run with well over five million votes) is far from incarnating that “third way” by his own admission, presenting himself as a hopeful within a pan-Peronist primary. No road map for the “third way” emerged from the 10-point platform accompanying the launch and outlining objectives rather than policies – why should we believe Massa’s “inclusive prosperity” any more than Macri’s “zero poverty?” Nor is his electoral strategy much clearer – for months now he has been concentrating all his fire against Macri while entirely sparing Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner but the antipathy of much of his camp (especially such key female allies as his Lower House caucus leader Graciela Camaño and his 2017 senatorial running-mate Margarita Stolbizer, who loathe the ex-president even more intensely than most Macri supporters) would make any overt coalition with Kirchnerism impossible.
But in any case since summer the big noise among the alternatives has been the former economy minister Roberto Lavagna – a new (if also significantly aged) dark horse strongly pushed by various businessmen disenchanted with Macri, especially those feeling threatened by either globalisation or the anti-corruption crackdowns. Lavagna distanced himself the very next day from Massa by stating that he had a different project based on his magic word “consensus” rather than Peronist infighting. Unlike Massa, Lavagna refuses to submit his candidacy to a primary, insisting that it must be based on consensus and that anything else is “placing the cart before the horse.” Yet it is Lavagna who is placing the cart before the horse if he can only proceed on consensus in such a divided country.
“When I define, I exclude,” said General Juan Perón, and Lavagna would seem a true disciple in sedulously avoiding definitions – not least in his own economic turf where last week a member of his economic team presented a longterm strategy almost identical to the government’s, while Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne compared him in an interview to Kirchnerism’s Axel Kicillof. Aside from the pending policy definitions, politicians are also judged by the company they keep and here Lavagna has some explaining to do – such as the controversial trade unionist Luis Barrionuevo.
Beyond Lavagna few names stand out. Every Peronist president of any duration since 1983 made his career as a provincial governor but the current governors in the running (Salta’s Juan Manuel Urtubey and Córdoba’s Juan Schiaretti) lag behind – Urtubey has discovered that being telegenic, articulate and charismatic is no guarantee of opinion poll clout while Schiaretti, stuck with a provincial agenda for next month’s re-election bid, may lack time to project himself nationally. The 2015 runner-up Daniel Scioli and Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto threw their hats into the ring three weeks ago (with the arrest of two Iranians only two days later giftwrapping the latter’s xenophobia) – apart from blowing an election his to lose at one stage, Scioli cannot afford to submit an already overexposed private life to further scrutiny while Pichetto’s isolation in his own province will doubtless be exposed by tomorrow’s elections in Río Negro. Even further behind are Tucumán ex- governor José Alperovich (whose wife boasted to flood victims of having 10 mansions between holidays in Dubai) and Guillermo Moreno of the heavy-handed and counterproductive price controls. Don’t judge a book by its cover, we are told – perhaps these apparently hopeless hopefuls have hidden virtues which would make them excellent presidents but they should enlighten us.
Nor are the alternatives only Peronist – thus Radical Martín Lousteau and José Luis Espert as primary hopefuls would give valuable information on the respective strengths of social democracy and market fundamentalism within Macri’s complex coalition. All this without mentioning the entertainment world’s Marcelo Tinelli – hardly a serious option but then just look at last weekend’s triumph of his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
To cut a long editorial short, it is not enough to say: “I’m not Macri or Cristina” – some positive identification and constructive alternatives, please!