December 5, 2013
Macri shows no hesitationTuesday, October 29, 2013
Too soon to launch PRO campaign?
Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri did not hesitate as he stood before hundreds of PRO supporters and TV cameras at the party election headquarters in Costa Salguero on Sunday and loudly announced his intention to run for president in 2015.
But was he too quick to start the presidential race, emboldened by a “full yellow triumph” in Buenos Aires City for Senate, Lower House and Legislature representation, along with scattered seats in the province?
There are no doubts about Macri’s performance in the territory, where the PRO has grown for a decade. It was founded in the capital as “Commitment for Change,” back when its leader was just a soccer club chairman eager to make his first steps into the political arena.
PRO was then nothing more than a local political force forged out of the 2001 institutional breakdown, with the aim to become a national player.
Ten years later, the PRO has definitely grown. It has won the first three senatorial seats for BA City and Entre Ríos, and managed to defeat its long-time rival, Elisa Carrió.
Carrió, UNEN’s top slot lawmaker candidate, seemingly never foresaw her PRO counterpart Sergio Bergman gaining on his 26 points from August to finally overtake her in the final sprint by a slim difference of two points.
With such results complemented with a solid triumph by the PRO’s Iván Petrella for Buenos Aires City Legislature — 12 out of the 13 seats contested, including allies, will continue under the PRO’s command from December — victory seems overwhelming.
This may have encouraged Macri to step onto the stage on Sunday surrounded by supporters wearing “Macri 2015” T-shirts, as well as destroying any possible accord with Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa for the next two years.
“We believe that people who were part of a national Cabinet in the last decade have already had their chance to contribute. Now it’s time for other people,” he repeated in a news conference yesterday morning.
Newly-elected Congressman Massa rushed to strike back: “If I had my mind set on 2015, citizens would think I have nothing in my head. People are tired of personal projects.”
In the blink of an eye, allies became rivals, as mutual interests were no longer complementary. Some would say the alliance was long undermined. If Macri preferred a subtle message on Sunday, future PRO Senator Gabriela Michetti left no room for ambiguity in her post-election day statement.
“Massa was an ally but now he is an adversary.”
The Tigre mayor is not a rival to underestimate, Macri aides recognize when speaking off the record. But they are confident that the new-Peronist sensation shares a similar challenge — or weakness — ahead of 2015 presidential objective: the lack of a strong candidate in Buenos Aires province for 2015 to gain votes in the Executive.
Buenos Aires province is a key district for anyone serious about a national candidacy. It accounts for 37 percent of the national electorate.
On Sunday, Massa garnered 43.9 percent of votes, beating Kirchnerite lead candidate for the Lower House Martín Insaurralde by 12-points, an overwhelming victory according to analysts and one that may increase the likelihood of a future exodus from the Victory Front (FpV).
On the other hand, the PRO could only manage three seats in Buenos Aires province for the Lower House, including its candidates on Massa’s ticket, opting out of submitting list of its own.
The dilemma for the PRO is augmented when looking at the rest of the national map. The PRO’s candidates in populous provincial districts like Córdoba showed a tepid performance. Although it was true that not everyone trusted former soccer referee Héctor “La Coneja” Baldassi to head the Lower House ticket, the seat he gained is far from considered a success.
Baldassi came fourth, defeated by the dissident Peronist Córdoba Governor’s ticket, Union for Córdoba, Radical Party and Victory Front.
The result in Mendoza wasn’t much better: the PRO couldn’t even muster a seat in former vice-president Julio Cobos’s territory. The PRO-Democrat Party alliance ended fourth behind FpV and the Leftist Workers’ Front (FIT)
At the end, only Santa Fe gave PRO a true reason to celebrate at the national level, with comedian Miguel del Sel leading the party to second place above Kirchnerism, though far behind Hermes Binner’s ruling long-standing UCR-FAP coalition.
Looking ahead to 2015, the PRO will have only 18 lawmakers in a 257-member Lower House while three senators — rural activist Alfredo De Angeli won the minority seat for Entre Ríos — will probably join a united opposition in the 72-member chamber.
In overall terms, the PRO still requires huge electoral engineering in the provinces next year to strengthen Macri’s bid to become the next president. A group of legislators and activists are already on the move with this objective, but the problem is that the Peronist Massa won’t remain idle.