December 8, 2013
Divided we stand?
Peronist Loyalty Day last Thursday found the movement more fragmented with at least four different main rallies, quite apart from the events in all the provinces around the country, but also more popular than ever. If Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli had dreamed of being the main protagonist in the absence of a convalescent President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at one big rally in a single location, not only were such aspirations to unity frustrated but he could not even celebrate his own fraction of festivities in one place, spending Peronist Loyalty in four different localities and even travelling beyond his own province (to Santa Fe). These four places did not include the Plaza de Mayo — even without a speaker to replace CFK, ultra-Kirchnerites were at pains to keep Scioli at bay and underline to him that the Peronist succession is far from resolved. If many pundits believe that the Peronist succession tussle will eventually pan out in favour of Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa’s, the latter’s way of marking the movement’s red-letter day was somewhat atypical — by inviting former economy minister Roberto Lavagna (a Peronist who both served in the 1983-9 Radical government and ran as the presidential candidate of a Radical-led coalition in 2007) and Santa Fe’s Carlos Reutemann to be his co-stars, Massa was effectively putting out feelers to the middle class and the farming sector respectively, two highly uncharacteristic voting groups for Peronism. Last and probably least, anti-Kirchner CGT chief Hugo Moyano gathered his trade unionist followers (while his pro-government rival Antonio Caló joined Scioli in Avellaneda) — perhaps the closest in spirit if not numbers to the original October 17 when mass working-class demonstrations freed Juan Domingo Perón in 1945.
The odd thing about Peronism is that the more divided it becomes, the higher the total percentage of its various fragments among the electorate. If the Peronist candidate Italo Luder garnered just over 40 percent of the vote at the start of these 30 consecutive days of democracy in 1983, the latest opinion polls in Buenos Aires province show this percentage to have more than doubled to a staggering 84.5 percent for four different Peronist lists.
Undoubtedly CFK’s absence contributed hugely to dispersing the rallies but even if the main event sought by Scioli had been held with a presidential speech, the unity would have been more apparent than real — all the feuding Peronist factions were on the ballot papers long before CFK was taken ill and will still be there on election day next Sunday.