January 20, 2018
Friday, February 14, 2014

Realignment behind the rhetoric?

Perhaps the most interesting feature of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s nationwide broadcast on Wednesday was not so much the latest conspiracy theory (“destabilization” is a facile explanation for post-devaluation problems) as the repeated winks towards the Radicals — a potential redesign of the political chessboard in the making. Using the economic consultant Miguel Bein (who served in both the Radical-led administrations since 1983) as an independent witness for her claims that the money markets sought to “blow her government to smithereens” a fortnight ago might have been an accident but hailing Ignacio Barrios Arrechea (son of a former Radical governor of Misiones) as a price hero within the business community looks like deliberate strategy. Presenting speculation as destabilization could be mere rhetoric — far clearer and bigger speculative attacks elsewhere (as when George Soros pulverized the British and Italian currencies in 1992) have been taken by the target governments as an economic fact of life rather than subversion — but the overture to the Radicals is worth exploring further.

This budding strategy might just be a rapid response to two significant developments this week — Merlo Peronist Mayor Raúl Othacehé’s defection to Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front and UNEN leader Elisa Ca-rrió’s decision to drop her previous weak resistance to the PRO centre-right party’s participation in the primaries of that umbrella opposition grouping. Othacehé seems the tip of a huge iceberg heralding the eventual exit of a traditional Peronist party machine which no longer guarantees triumph, even if loyal, on the basis of last year’s electoral results. Why resist the inevitable and at the same time allow PRO and UNEN to close ranks? The progressive wing of the Peronist movement is surely more ideologically congenial to some sectors of Radicals and Socialists of UNEN than City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s PRO — if PRO is no longer taboo, then why shun Kirchnerism minus the Peronist old guard drifting to Massa (who loses in “renewal”cross-party image what he gains in clout)?

If outreach to the Radicals is the plan, what is the aim? A rerun of the 1993 Olivos Pact between Carlos Menem and Raúl Alfonsín (with the latter’s son) for an extra presidential term would be over-ambitious. Most likely the purpose would be new battle lines for the 2015 elections but if the overtures were to seek a political and social consensus against economic instability (whatever its causes), this would be very welcome maturity.

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