Argentina: The Plot Thickens in Presidential Election as Lavagna Announces Independent Bid

Influential economist Roberto Lavagna has shaken up Argentina's heated presidential race by announcing his own bid for the presidency; thereby presenting Kirchner and Macri with two centrist challengers for the October 2019 election.

Economist Roberto Lavagna is launching his own bid for the presidency, further complicating the outlook (Twitter).

First, Cristina Kirchner shocked Argentina by declaring that she would run as the vice presidential nominee in this year’s upcoming elections, with Alberto Fernandez at the top of the ticket. Now, the plot thickens, with two credible candidacies emerging to compete for middle of the road voters. Roberto Lavagna, a key economist and politician, with decades on the Argentine political stage, is at the heart of this new phenomenon.

It seems that the romance between Federal Alternative (non-Kirchner peronism) and Roberto Lavagna is over. This morning the influential ex-president and Minister of Economy of Eduardo Duhalde said he will not participate in the Pernoist primary, and is willing to run for the presidency on his own platform “Consensus 19.”

All bets are now off, as Macri and Kirchner face two centrist challengers.

On the eve of the convention of the Radical Civic Union (UCR), which will decide if it is going to continue in its current alliance with the President Mauricio Macri, under the slogan “Let’s change” (Cambiemos), Lavagna has issued a call to arms to “radicals and socialists” to join him in his presidential aspirations. The center-left Socialist Party is currently governing in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina’s third largest, and needs a competitive candidate for national elections, so the proposal will surely fall on receptive ears.

The situation is more complex on the side of radicalism. Lavagna will surely win the support of some leaders who are disenchanted with the current national government, but the party organically has more interest in beating Mauricio Macri in the internal struggle than looking for another destination. The UCR will seek to increase its bargaining power vis-a-vis macrismo, and even dreams of forcing out the current president at the top of the ticket, to go with another candidate (possibly María Eugenia Vidal), and naming a vice president of its own. Launching its own candidacy (as in 2015) is another option. But if the party continues with Macri, or his placeholder, surely some amongst the ranks of the disillusioned will seek to hitch their wagon to Lavagna’s star.

The person who is not at all happy with the decision of the famed economist is Peronist Senator Miguel Ángel Pichetto, who did everything possible to keep Lavagna within the ranks of the Federal Alternative. “Roberto, if we run separately we get 8 points each,” the legislator warned yesterday afternoon. But the negative aspects of contesting a primary were significant, and the opportunity to be part of a broader front, proved a more appealing opporunity.

Now, both Lavagna and “Peronism not K” (Peronists who oppose the candidacy of former president Cristina Kirchner), will be charging out the gates to compete for second place. If either of the two candidates reaches a second round against Macrismo or Kirchnerism, they have a great chance of reaching the Casa Rosada. But getting to that second place is what today seems very difficult…the paradoxes of politics.

The latest news is good for Macri and Cristina. They can already count on a certain segment of the electorate (in the case of Cristina Kirchner her militant working class followers, and in the case of Macri, the hard current of “antikirchnerismo”). The sector that seeks “the great avenue of the middle”, that is to say, the one that looks for the Argentines fed up with the “crack”, is the one that is now divided by Lavagna’s decision. On social media the economist has already been accused of “toying” with Macri with this most recent decision.

For now, there are four credible candidates contesting the presidency of Argentina: the Alberto Fernandez/Cristina Kirchner ticket, Macri’s ruling party, Federal Alternative, and “Consensus 19.”

Economic factors over the course of the year, including inflation and the value of the Argentine peso, will likely determine if Macri has a real chance at serving a second term.

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