President Alberto Fernández has kickstarted the election year once and for all over the past 24 hours. In an interview on Monday morning on Urbana Play FM, he didn’t rule out competing in the Frente de Todos primaries, to seek another term in office. He also refused to discuss divisions with the kirchnerist sectors within his coalition and said that inflation will take a long time to solve.
Fernández hinted that he expects the Frente de Todos general election candidate to be defined during primary elections. “The idea is that all of us in the Front will participate,” he said. His remarks suggested that he could run in presidential primaries against rivals within his own government, an unprecedented situation for a sitting president in Argentina.
As journalist María O’Donnell highlighted the oddity of his claims, he responded: “In its 40th anniversary, I’m here to deepen the democratic process.”
Additionally, he said that the top priority is to win against Juntos por el Cambio and believes that the best candidate to lead the campaign should be defined through primary elections.
Argentina’s electoral calendar starts with August primaries known as the PASO (Compulsory, Simultaneous, and Open Primary Elections), which define which parties and candidates will take part in October’s general election. All coalitions that reach 1.5% of total votes are qualified to run in the following stage, and each is led by the candidate who gained the most votes.
On Sunday, the president announced that Frente de Todos will convene a political working group this week to discuss 2023 campaign organization.
This happened after other Frente de Todos political leaders, like Máximo Kirchner, called for discussions on how the election would be carried out within their coalition. The president complied with the request after last week, when several high-profile members of his coalition met without him to discuss the future of the party in Buenos Aires Province. Guests included Sergio Massa, Axel Kicillof, Mayra Mendoza, and Máximo Kirchner.
The president said he would “not waste a second talking” about infighting in his coalition. Last week, Frente de Todos officials including Social Development Minister Victoria Tolosa Paz and Security Minister Aníbal Fernández, criticized Interior Minister Wado de Pedro, an ally of Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, for allegedly ranting against Alberto Fernández in off-the-record statements. “I know who I can govern with, I don’t care about anything else,” he said about the controversy.
“Cristina and I have our differences, but I know we both want the same,” added Fernández, whose relationship with his VP has been frosty, at least publicly, for months now. “But there’s one thing we can’t do, which is to fall apart.”
The external struggles
Fernández defended his decision to pursue the impeachment of the four Supreme Court justices, although it is unclear whether the Frente de Todos will reach the two-thirds needed for the claim to pass from the Lower House to the Senate.
Fernández believes that what was said in the impeachment commission was very serious, and could alter the confidence that the Justices have that they will not be affected by the impeachment. He also referred to the tax share ruling, which triggered the current process, by saying that the judges “overstepped” their power capability.
Last week, human rights activists spoke before the impeachment commission, arguing that Supreme Court president Horacio Rosatti did not demonstrate a commitment to human rights even before joining the tribunal in 2015.
Regarding inflation, he said he wanted to be honest with Argentines, by stating that it’s not something that gets fixed overnight. He criticized ‘the smaller price makers’, as agents who boost inflation, and said that consumers are ‘victims’ of the situation.
“I hate INDEC’s reports, but they are the reality,” he said, referring to the statistics that show inflation each month, although he stated he trusts the work of its director Marco Lavagna and his team. The next inflation index, pertaining to January, will be released on February 14.
He highlighted that his government has achieved economic growth in spite of the challenges – the pandemic, and the impact of the war in Ukraine – and that it continues to do so. Fernández defended his government’s agreement with the IMF. “Argentina grew by 5% after I signed it,” he said. “We created more than one and a half million jobs, health spending expanded, housing also expanded. We invested 100 million dollars in science and technology for the first time in Argentina’s history. Where is the austerity? I don’t know, I can’t find it.”