Wanted: the right right
There might not seem to be too much connection between last night’s launch of the Broad Front-UNEN centrist alliance and the ongoing Vicente Massot trial in Bahía Blanca but in some ways the balance and health of democratic politics can be seen through the prism of these two developments. Starting with the La Nueva Provincia director Massot, the motley crew springing to his defence — ranging from ADEPA newspaper publishers association through the Moral Science Academy to the eccentric writer Jorge Asis — is bad news for the development of a democratic right. This can be stated categorically without prejudging the Massot trial in any way. This newspaper insists that Massot is innocent until proven guilty (like any defendant under the rule of law) on the specific charges of involvement in the 1976 slayings of two of his printers under the military dictatorship but where Massot is not entitled to any benefit of the doubt lies in his sympathies for a junta applying state terrorism and for the notorious Admiral Emilio Massera in particular (as befits the location of Argentina’s main naval base near Bahía Blanca) — these sympathies emerge all too clearly from the pages of La Nueva Provincia in that period and even since then.
Democratic balance requires a right, left and centre but the right jeopardizes its credentials unless it cuts all links with military dictatorship. The centre-right invariably joins the rest of the opposition in bemoaning the authoritarian tendencies of Peronism in general and the institutional irregularities of Kirchnerism in particular but how credible is that critique if nostalgia for a murderous tyranny can be suspected? Boosting institutions by providing input for the reform of the Penal Code (as PRO centre-right party has done) is exactly the correct way of going about being a democratic right — defending Massot is totally the wrong way.
In order to be both democratic and an alternative, the right needs to steer clear of both Massot and the new Broad Front-UNEN alliance, some of whose leaders seek to include PRO in order to pool all opposition to Kirchnerism’s institutional irregularities (not to mention electoral tactical calculations). But if there is only one democratic alternative, then there are none — democratic alternation requires a two-party system at least. What democratic balance needs is, on the one hand, a centre-left which (unlike last night’s new alliance) does not feel obliged to drop the word “Progressive” from its label in order to widen its net and, on the other hand, a centre-right which is not ashamed to defend a conservative ideology — but is ashamed of Massot.