Politics

Who’s who in Alberto Fernández’s new ruling coalition

28th November 2019

By Amadeo Gandolfo

Who’s who in Alberto Fernández’s new ruling coalition

In a week in which Peronism continued its march towards unity by forging a coalition in the Senate that will guarantee they hold a majority in the congressional upper chamber, and with Alberto Fernández only days away from taking office, it’s a good time to go over the different members of the variegated coalition that upheld his presidential bid.

Who are the main protagonists of each sector, who do they represent, and what will they be pushing for?

</p> <h2>Kirchnerites</h2> <p>The Kirchnerites are undoubtedly the largest contingent in Fernández’s coalition due in no small part to the gravitating presence of former president 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">whose decision to run as Fernández’s vice-presidential candidate</a> was largely responsible for re-uniting Peronism’s different factions.</p> <p>Kirchnerism also has a major player in the form of Máximo Kirchner, the vice-president elect’s son, who is expected to head the coalition’s caucus in the <a href="https://www.lanacion.com.ar/politica/mantener-la-unidad-e-impulsar-la-agenda-oficial-los-nuevos-desafios-de-maximo-kirchner-nid2309224">House of Representatives</a>. This sector can also count with the support of some governors: Alicia Kirchner in Santa Cruz, Jorge Capitanich in Chaco and, most importantly, <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/11/21/axel-kicillof-buenos-aires-province-cristina-kirchner-alberto-fernandez-peronism-university-economy-minister">Axel Kicillof in the Buenos Aires Province</a>. These can act as a sort of “Kirchnerite governor’s league” to balance the most traditional and conservative Peronist provincial leaders. Alongside them a plethora of kirchnerist politicians are expected to be a part, one way or the other, of the administration: Wado de Pedro, Juan Cabandié, Horacio Pietragalla, Roberto Salvarezza and Tristán Bauer are some of the names that the press is touting for positions in Fernández’s cabinet. They are all deeply loyal to Fernández de Kirchner and what Kirchnerism represents.</p> <p>Kirchnerism also has strong roots in Argentine society. Although it’s impossible to exactly quantify it, one third of the national vote seems to be firmly Kirchnerite. The electorate loyal to Fernández de Kirchner seems to have a strong base in Buenos Aires’ working-class outskirts as well as many backers in Argentina’s urban middle classes. These sectors value state intervention in the economy, a struggle against inequality, industrialization and protectionism. Socially, they are overall liberal, with a strong commitment to human rights that has lately also emphasized the LGBT and women’s movements, while media conglomerates and judiciary power are looked at with strong skepticism. Kirchnerism, it could be argued, is the most progressive part of the coalition.</p> <h2>Provincial governors</h2> <p>This group is composed of most of the Peronist governors of the provinces, whose identification with Kirchnerism has been strained and distant in the four years of Mauricio Macri’s rule. The main figure in this group appears to be Juan Manzur, the governor of Tucumán, a sort of primus inter pares within this crowd. Other crucial figures include Omar Perotti of Santa Fe, Sergio Uñac of San Juan, Gustavo Bordet of Entre Ríos, Gildo Insfrán of Formosa, Alberto Rodriguez Saa of San Luis and Gerardo Zamora of Santiago del Estero.</p> <p>Manzur’s close aide Pablo Yedlin was a strong favorite for the Public Health Ministry, but now seems to have fallen out of favor, with <a href="https://www.lapoliticaonline.com/nota/123182-gines-le-saca-ventaja-a-yedlin-para-encabezar-el-ministerio-de-salud/">Ginés Gonzalez García</a>, Néstor Kirchner’s former man in the position, gaining ground instead. Another potential link with Peronist governors in the future Cabinet could be Córdoba’s Carlos Caserio, the <a href="https://www.lanacion.com.ar/politica/el-senador-cordobes-caserio-sera-el-ministro-de-transporte-nid2310092">frontrunner for the Transportation Ministry</a>, who took over the Peronist caucus in the Senate after Miguel Pichetto’s exit when the latter <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/06/13/macri-pichetto-vicepresident-argentina-presidential-election">joined Mauricio Macri’s presidential campaign</a>.</p> <p>These governors are usually a lot more conservative on social matters than Kirchnerites, in line with the more conservative societies of Argentina’s Northern provinces. Just last year, Manzur was <a href="https://elpais.com/sociedad/2019/03/26/actualidad/1553601793_174624.html">under fire</a> over the case of an 11-year old who was forced to go forward with her pregnancy despite her being a victim of rape.</p> <p>The group is also heavily dependent on the money that the national government bestows on them.  Traditionally, most of the provinces make less money than what they spend. So, governors tend to fall in line with the national administration if they want to survive, as they did during Macri’s term despite struggles in the private sector in many of their regional economies.</p> <p>Often seen as pragmatic and adaptive in terms of economic views and political alliances, this group will be crucial for Fernández, who spent a large part of his campaign courting them, knowing of their power in Congress and in the overall governability of the country during a time of crisis.</p> <h2>Massa’s renegade Peronists</h2> <p>This group is made up of the “renegade Peronists” that joined Sergio Massa in his political adventures of 2013, 2015 and 2017. Amongst them are Daniel Arroyo, the <a href="https://www.perfil.com/noticias/politica/daniel-arroyo-el-plan-contra-el-hambre-sera-la-primera-del-nuevo-gobierno.phtml">likely Minister of Social Development</a>, who will deal with the sensitive issues of poverty and hunger, but also Felipe Solá, who has been confirmed as Foreign Minister.</p> <p>Solá was among the first Massa allies to be critical of Macri and move close to Kirchnerites, and he is likely to <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/11/14/alberto-fernandez-foreign-policy-evo-morales-lula-donald-trump">remain very supportive</a> of the continent’s left-progressive leaders such as Evo Morales in <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/11/21/morales-ousting-bolivia-oas-camacho-mesa-mas-coup-fraud-reelection">Bolivia</a>. But his ties to Massa suggest he will also maintain a pragmatic relationship with Donald Trump’s administration, with whom Massa has been cultivating strong links. Other important names in this group include Malena Galmarini, Massa’s wife, who could fill a newly-created but still unnamed ministry focused on women’s issues.</p> <p>Massa’s voters are seen as having a more aspirational view of the economy than Kirchnerites, a lower-middle class less preoccupied with inequality than with improving their standard of living. They are also more concerned with security and crime than the typical Kirchnerite. Massa was one of the great proponents of the installation of <a href="http://www.telam.com.ar/notas/201510/122633-elecciones-2015-frente-renovador-sergio-massa-propuestas-seguridad.html">security cameras</a> to combat crime in Buenos Aires province.</p> <p>Before his anointment by Fernández de Kirchner, Alberto Fernández was closer to this group, having been campaign chief of Massa’s presidential bid in 2015, and sharing many of the criticisms they had of the former president. Massa was seen as crucial to secure the vote differential needed to win the election, especially in Buenos Aires Province. This is reflected in the number of Massa allies that found room in the coalition’s congressional ticket.</p> <h2>Unions</h2> <p>The unions are composed of the CGT, the traditional umbrella Peronist union, and the CTA, the “rogue union” created in the 1990s by groups who felt excluded by the economic policies of Carlos Menem. Most of its leaders backed Fernández’s presidential bid and have been showing <a href="https://gettheessential.com/economy/2019/11/14/unions-show-goodwill-towards-fernandez-ahead-of-salary-negotiations">signs of goodwill towards Fernández</a> as he prepares his economic program. Recently, talk about a possible merge between both umbrella unions has been gaining strength, with the <a href="https://www.pagina12.com.ar/223378-la-cta-aprobo-avanzar-en-la-unidad-con-la-cgt">CTA fully behind</a> it but some doubts within the CGT.  The CTA is generally seen as more liberal and closer to Kirchnerism than the CGT, which is more traditional and conservative, although it also includes combative groups such as teamsters leader Hugo Moyano. Moyano’s truck drivers and other transportation unions are among the most powerful unions in the country, with teachers and industrial workers also very significant. State workers, construction and commerce are also significant in terms of size.</p> <p>A likely source of conflict with this group could be any attempt at a labor reform, as well as salary negotiations if the economy doesn’t pick up the pace. Few names from the unions have been bandied around for Fernández’s cabinet. Hugo Moyano, however, continues to push for more people close to him on the administration, and is lobbying for his son, Pablo Moyano, to occupy the <a href="https://www.infobae.com/economia/2019/11/24/la-relacion-entre-hugo-moyano-y-alberto-fernandez-un-vinculo-al-cercano-ahora-condicionado-por-un-fuerte-lobby-por-cargos-en-el-gabinete/">Sports Secretariat</a> post, which is significant due to Moyano’s ties to Argentine football clubs.</p> <h2>Social movements</h2> <p>The final group in Fernández’s coalition is comprised by the so-called social movements, a series of organizations representing informal and unemployed workers. This part of the coalition also saw its birth during the 1990s, as unemployment figures skyrocketed following Menem’s liberalization of the economy and the 2001 financial crisis. Since then, then the number of people working in odd, unregistered jobs has only grown and become structural. The most notorious organization within this group is the CTEP (Confederacy of Workers of the Popular Economy) and its main referent is social activist Juan Grabois.</p> <p>The CTEP has been involved in numerous street conflicts over the working rights of street vendors, workers’ cooperatives and other groups who live day-to-day and are often heavily dependent on the national government’s welfare programs. This sector of the coalition is the one closest to the Catholic Church and Pope Francis, of whom Grabois is a privileged interlocutor. Part of the agenda of this group has been on display on one of the first initiatives of Alberto Fernández, the National Council Against <a href="https://www.tiempoar.com.ar/nota/arranco-el-consejo-contra-el-hambre-con-tinelli-carlotto-sindicatos-y-empresarios">Hunger</a>, which aims to orchestrate the actions of several players, amongst them unions, social movements and businessmen to combat the effect of rising food prices.</p> <p>

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Amadeo Gandolfo

Amadeo Gandolfo is an historian, journalist and researcher. He has worked at the CONICET (National Council For Scientific and Technical Research), writes at the Revista Crisis magazine and teaches at the University of Buenos Aires.