The future of Macri’s coalition after Sunday’s defeat

31st October 2019

By Luciana Bertoia

The future of Macri’s coalition after Sunday’s defeat

Mauricio Macri became the first president in Argentine history to seek re-election and fail. But despite the first round defeat, Macri did not get as bad results as predicted by the main pollsters and is on his way to being a key opposition actor to the Peronist government that will take office on December 10.

</p> <p>After an overwhelming loss in the primaries, in which he <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/10/24/can-macri-force-a-runoff-alberto-fernandez-election-argentina">collected</a> 32 percent of the votes against his rival&#8217;s 49, Macri (<em>Juntos por el Cambio</em>) had a significant recovery in Sunday&#8217;s general elections. He rose to 40 percent of the vote and attracted more than 2 million voters who had not picked him in the primaries.</p> <h2><strong>Capturing new voters</strong></h2> <p>He captured votes from Juan José Gómez Centurión (Nos) and José Luis Espert (Despertar), the two right-wing candidates. There was also a migration of Roberto Lavagna&#8217;s voters (Consenso Federal) to Macri&#8217;s ballot. Additionally, he managed to mobilize many who had not gone to the polls in the primaries and who had cast a blank ballot.</p> <p>The recovery can be explained both by having taken measures to control the dollar to curb escalating inflation and by actions tending to favor the middle and popular classes after the August 11 primary defeat. Macri also <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/08/29/pro-macri-rally-brings-short-term-relief-for-cambiemos">led social mobilizations</a>, a strategy he typically rejected since his arrival at the Buenos Aires City Hall in 2007.</p> <p>Aware that Fernandez did not have much more room to grow in the number of votes with respect to the primaries, Macri focused on polarizing with the candidate of the <em>Frente de Todos</em>, highlighting his differences. &#8220;Macri bet everything on the idea of the social rift between them and the others,&#8221; political scientist Sergio De Piero explained to <em>The Essential</em>.</p> <p>For sociologist Paula Canelo, the government&#8217;s campaign proposal was the work of the &#8220;crusaders&#8221; of the coalition, embodied in the figure of Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña, and in the end they lost.</p> <h2><strong>A Defeat and a Bittersweet Victory</strong></h2> <p>Fernandez didn&#8217;t win as many votes as he wanted. Peronism dreamed of repeating the feat of the primaries in the general election, stretching a difference of 16 points to more than 20. Macri regained voters, but it&#8217;s still a heavy defeat for a sitting president who loses his re-election in the first round.</p> <p>&#8220;Being re-elected was not difficult. South American presidents of all political colors did it, but Macri failed because he lacks a project that connects with the majorities of society,&#8221; De Piero says.</p> <p>Canelo agrees. &#8220;In 2017, Cambiemos made an extraordinary mid-term election but in less than two years they consumed that political wealth with almost no opposition,&#8221; she says. Opposition to Macri&#8217;s government began to rearm after the 2017 pension reform and only had a candidate in May when Cristina Fernández de Kirchner <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/05/23/cristina-kirchners-shock-bid-as-vice-president-shakes-up-argentine-political-landscape">announced</a> that she would not compete for the presidency and would accompany her former Cabinet Chief on the presidential ticket.</p> <h2><strong>Fighting for opposition leadership</strong></h2> <p>Officials aligned with Macri say the president will not abandon politics when his term ends. <em>La Nación </em>columnist <a href="https://www.lanacion.com.ar/politica/los-multiples-dilemas-de-un-presidente-pesificado-nid2232803">Carlos Pagni</a> had suggested he could settle in Europe while journalist <a href="https://www.elcohetealaluna.com/macri-abre-el-paraguas/">Horacio Verbitsky</a> wrote that Macri wanted to return to Boca Juniors, the club he presided over between 1995 and 2007.</p> <p>Macri is the father of the defeat within the PRO party, which he founded and which is part of the government coalition Cambiemos together with the Civic Coalition of Elisa Carrió and the Radical Party (UCR). The other big loser in the elections was the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, María Eugenia Vidal, who was even the <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/08/08/argentina-election-primaries-fernandez-kirchner-macri-vidal-kicillof-buenos-aires-province">favorite candidate by business leaders</a> who expected her to run for the Government House. Former Economy Minister Axel Kicillof defeated her by more than fourteen points.</p> <p>Horacio Rodríguez Larreta was the only PRO leader who achieved a convincing result in the elections. He received more than 55 percent of the votes and avoided a run-off for the first time in the history of the district.</p> <p>&#8220;Rodríguez Larreta will have an advantage for the 2023 presidential candidacy,&#8221; political analyst Rosendo Fraga told <em>The Essential</em>. &#8220;Neither Macri nor Vidal will disappear from the political scene, but it will not be easy for either of them, after resounding electoral defeats and without having positions of power, to dispute that candidacy with the BA City mayor,” he added.</p> <p>According to <a href="https://www.clarin.com/politica/pelea-herencia-mauricio-macri-comienza-agitar-cambiemos_0_JdcRb1Ex.html">Clarín</a>, Vidal plans to work for an NGO to promote social development. A historical ally of Rodríguez Larreta, who led her into politics, she seems to have been aligned with her former boss after the general elections.</p> <p>&#8220;Vidal and Rodríguez Larreta can embody the two souls of Cambiemos,&#8221; Canelo says, looking into what can happen next. &#8220;He has a management profile, more linked to political negotiation, and she is more inspiring and can mobilize the so-called crusaders. It can be a good communion”.</p> <p>Meanwhile inside the PRO, post-election bickering is the norm. Vidal accuses Macri and Peña of squandering her promising political career. Peña accuses the governor of having abandoned the campaign after the defeat in the primaries. Rodriguez Larreta blames Macri for the national and provincial defeat. Only time will heal those electoral wounds.</p> <h2><strong>Allies and benches</strong></h2> <p>For Fraga, it is not yet clear whether the UCR party will remain in the coalition. In order to find out, it is key to know who will lead the Lower House caucus: whether Mario Negri, more aligned with Macri&#8217;s PRO, will follow, or whether the former governor of Mendoza, Alfredo Cornejo, who dreams of becoming the leader of the opposition to the <em>Frente de Todos</em> government, will be chosen for that position.</p> <p>Carrió has already presented her resignation to her seat as of March next year, but the Civic Coalition issued a communiqué announcing that it will remain within the coalition with the PRO and the UCR.</p> <p>Peronist Senator Miguel Pichetto also said he would not abandon the space, which he joined in mid-year to accompany Macri on the presidential ballot. Pichetto will leave his bench in the Upper House in December after 18 years in the Senate.</p> <p>In the Lower House, the Frente de Todos will be <a href="https://www.perfil.com/noticias/politica/elecciones2019-peronismo-control-senado-borde-mayoria-diputados.phtml">one vote away from quorum</a> because it has 128 legislators, only eight above Juntos por el Cambio. In the Upper House, Peronism will continue to be a comfortable majority, but it will need the backing of the opposition to appoint a new attorney general &#8211; which requires a two-thirds majority.</p> <p>The smaller margin of defeat meant that Juntos por el Cambio managed to retain some key districts in the province of Buenos Aires such as La Plata, Mar del Plata, Tres de Febrero and Lanús, where her allies had lost in the primaries. Vidal has also called on her legislators to stick together. There she will continue to find a foothold to prepare her return to politics.</p> <p>

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Luciana Bertoia

Luciana Bertoia is a journalist specialized in judicial, political and human rights issues. She has published in Ámbito Financiero, Página/12, the Buenos Aires Herald and the International Justice Tribune.