One year at a time
Hard to say whether or not Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli picked the right time to press home so openly his 2015 presidential candidacy by projecting it to every single member of his provincial administration on Thursday. Given that the current confrontation between the government and the vulture funds finds hardly anybody on the latter’s side, now might seem a splendid time to pose as the future ruling party standard-bearer — in that sense Scioli is onto a winner. Yet given that he hardly ranks among the sternest critics of holdout creditors, this issue does not automatically favour him over his primary rivals — furthermore, many might think that his most constructive contribution there would be unflinching support for an embattled government rather than pressing his own future leadership claims. In Thursday’s harangue Scioli himself said that in order to aspire to running Argentina, he would need to show how he had achieved sustainable growth and taken his own province (a “country within a country”) out of debt — a post-default scenario could easily end up wrong-footing him on both fronts.
In more purely political terms, Scioli’s candidacy also faces challenges from having lost in recent months the monopoly of his “continuity with change” message. If at the start of this year Entre Ríos Governor Sergio Urribarri seemed President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s favoured heir (perhaps the reason why Chaco Governor Jorge Capitanich was given the nod for Cabinet chief over him eight months ago), Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo has gained considerable ground since with a style differing from the ultra-loyalism of Urribarri and Defence Minister Agustín Rossi. While visibly close to CFK, Randazzo is not only extremely harsh toward indicted Vice-President Amado Boudou but has openly expressed the opinion that the next ruling party candidate should be the product of the popular vote in the PASO nationwide primaries rather than CFK’s personal choice (not that he would rule out both things coinciding). Randazzo also identifies with Peronism as much as Kirchnerism while Scioli has roots in neither, having only been introduced to politics by neo-conservative Peronist president Carlos Menem in 1997.
Thus far Scioli has largely based his presidential claim on a mixed message (“continuity with change”) and party colours (his favourite colour of orange is formed by combining a socialist red with the yellow of City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s PRO centre-right party) but the right to lead this country might require something more than that.