2017 Argentine Midterms: Dilemma of the Right-Wing

A wide range of left-wing parties and a single right-wing liberal coalition make up the Argentine Political Spectrum. At the far left of the spectrum lies the major pseudo-communist party, Partido Obrero (PO), and other satellite parties that portray themselves as alternatives within the same ideology (PC, etc.). The main post-material progressive party, led by Stolbizer, lies closer to the centre of the political spectrum. Finally, the party that captures the median left-wing voter is the left-wing Peronist front, Frente Para la Victoria, which is part of the Peronist Partido Justicialista (PJ). Conversely, towards the right end of the spectrum, political options are scarce. There is but one right-wing neoliberal coalition: Cambiemos, which is made up of the neo-liberal and socially centre-right party PRO, and the centrist Union Civica Radical. I have, however, deliberately missed out one last coalition that will be determinant in 2018-2019 political interaction: Unidos por una Nueva Alternativa (UNA) made up of Democracia Cristiana (DC) and Frente Renovador (FR), a peronist front.

The main candidate for DC is Jose Manuel De la Sota, while Sergio Massa (lower-chamber congressman) is the leader of FR. De la Sota, having been Cordoba’s governor for three mandates (1999-2003, 2003-2007, 2011-2015) can more easily be placed in the continuum, and seems to be the last representative of Catholic Peronist nationalism. Meanwhile, Massa is now considered to be the most effective opposition to the ruling Cambiemos coalition, thanks to his veto power, which has proven to be more powerful than the additional congress seats FPV has. However, owing to his changing political career – he was once member of the right-wing and economically liberal Union del Centro Democratico (UceDe), then becoming chief of staff of the left-wing Kirchner administration to finally leave and oppose Kirchnerism – and his present pendular movement in congress, he is much harder to pinpoint as a candidate. Towards the end of 2016, he joined FPV and passed a bill on income-tax cuts, showing a movement to the centre-left, but he never broke his strong relationship with the more right-leaning De la Sota, and has even showed some tendency to corporatism and immigration reduction. He is treading a delicate path: the “third way”. This is underlined by the fact that he has consistently avoided taking a stance on more controversial issues such as abortion, euthanasia and even divorce.

Massa`s dilemma arises from this same issue. The right-wing Peronist nationalism is underrepresented in parliament and in elections. It would not be far-fetched to say that the party closest to Peronist Nationalism is the far-right Bandera Vecinal, although this party has never had a strong presence in national elections. To make Massa’s position even more complex, he has apparently been discussing a coalition with Stolbizer`s progressive party for the 2017 legislative elections, which would leave right-wing Peronism totally unrepresented. To be sure, last week, the newspaper Clarín showed Massa in a meeting with “Rudy” Giuliani, future member of Trump’s cabinet, in Washington. Days later he attended Trump’s inauguration, a clear hint at the Argentine right.

This last consideration leads to the conclusion that the international context will play a key role in the decisions cunning Mr Massa will make. The world is shifting from a progressive left leadership to a clear right-wing, nationalist leadership (evident after Brexit and Trump’s victory). Massa must seek international support from the new leaders in order to be a strong candidate in 2017 and ultimately in 2019. Therefore, what will definitely knock Massa – and the world – off the fence, will be the French Elections. But even in the event of a Le Pen victory, it is not surefire whether Massa will shift to a Nationalist right or return to his old neoliberal roots while garnering some support from the Nationalists. Right-wing Peronism can only wait and wish for Le Pen’s victory in May.

El Restaurador – The voice of the right

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