Analysis Argentinas Peronists seek rebirth from ashes of economic crisis
Analysis Argentinas Peronists seek rebirth from ashes of economic crisis

Analysis-Argentina’s Peronists seek rebirth from ashes of economic crisis

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Peronism is dead. Long live the Peronists.

Argentina’s main political force for decades, the ruling Peronists only months ago looked down and out. Voters seemed ready to abandon them as inflation soared over 100%, the peso currency plunged and poverty spread.

Now the movement – which dates back to the 1940s, when it was founded by former President Juan Peron and his wife “Evita” – looks like it may yet again rise phoenix-like from the ashes of crisis. It has a new front-man, Sergio Massa, who is in a tight race to win Sunday’s presidential election run-off with anti-establishment outsider Javier Milei.

But in order to secure that win the Peronist movement is being forced to reinvent itself, with a shift towards the center from the leftist bloc of divisive ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Kirchner, a close ally of regional socialists from Bolivia to Cuba, handpicked current President Alberto Fernandez four years ago and ran as his vice president, though the two have since clashed as both have seen their popularity decline.

Economy Minister Massa, a wheeler-dealer with connections across the political divide, is meanwhile pledging a unity government and has looked to win over moderate conservatives.

“If Massa wins, he will build a different leadership. There will be disagreements, but he will maintain the unity of the coalition,” Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, a Fernandez ally, told Reuters.

“Sergio’s strength was to get the politics in order. For a unity list he was the best candidate, because he’s not from any side and he resolved the internal tensions.”

Massa, 51, a lawyer with a wide network of business, union and diplomatic contacts, has looked to distance himself from both Fernandez and Kirchner during the campaign. He says he is offering change from within – although he has regularly dipped into the familiar Peronist play-book of tax cuts and attack-dog politics.

His rival Milei, a right-wing radical who has ridden on a wave of voter anger at the country’s economic crisis, often tries to tag Massa as “Kirchnerista”, though a new term “Massismo” has grown up around him.

Kirchner, who ran the country from 2007 to 2015, remains popular with a significant hardcore base, but has taken a back seat in the election build-up and is under the cloud of a corruption sentence handed down last year.

“The face of Peronism will undoubtedly change if it wins the election. It will readjust to the context as it always did,” said 24-year-old Ignacio Avalos in Buenos Aires.

PERONISM: LEFT OR RIGHT?

Since its founding, the Peronist movement has been nebulous and changing. While it leans to the left, it has included ideologies from the right also. Its defining feature is a focus on social justice.

“Everywhere has a right and a left. But here there is Peronism,” said Julia Saggini in Buenos Aires, a 32-year-old actress, defining it as “a movement giving rights to those who did not have them”.

This ability to be all things to all people has helped Peronism survive over the decades. But it has also created internal tensions and power struggles, the latest being that between the left and center.

The left-wing had backed a presidential candidate allied to Kirchner, but eventually lost out to Massa, who favors close ties with the United States and more fiscal discipline.

“If Massa wins, he will have to betray CFK (Kirchner): in Peronism there is no room for two commanders,” said political analyst Andres Malamud.

A source from the ‘Kirchnerista’ faction said the leftist bloc would stick to its principles but for now had got behind Massa.

“We do not have the same position on all issues, but we do agree on the general guidelines and we have a permanent dialogue with ‘Massismo’ that allows us to make progress,” added the source, asking not to be named.

Such unity would not likely withstand a Massa loss to Milei, however.

“If we lose there’s going to be a real debate within Peronism,” said another source from the ruling coalition, asking not to be named. “I am quite pessimistic unity will be maintained if we lose.”

(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Additional reporting by Candelaria Grimberg; Editing by Lucila Sigal, Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O’Brien)

Sila Baca Juga

Report AI is smarter than a person sometimes

Report: AI is smarter than a person, sometimes

Tens of billions of dollars have poured into AI companies looking to use the technology …