When the “gradualist” wing won the brawl at the small table of Cambiemos, the political project was proposed as an eight-year program. The most optimistic were encouraged to even speak of “at least” eight years. In those days, at the beginning of 2016, the public image of Mauricio Macri was solid and only the Kirchnerists posed a radical opposition to a new and well-regarded political force.
But the complicated Kirchnerist legacy, underestimated by a government that also overestimated its capabilities and virtues, took away the humble achievements of Macrismo in its first two years. Since 2018, Argentina has once again fallen into crisis and recession, and the rates of poverty and inflation have now put in check the second term that until recently was taken for granted. Without “Plan B” on the table, the ruling party aspires to mere survival and control of the dollar, to avoid a new run on the currency that would eviscerate the possibilities that it has left.
The statistics received by the government show the complexity of the situation and several high-ranking officials are already presenting themselves with new strategies seeking to reverse the situation. In the day to day, Patricia Bullrich and Marcos Peña made it clear that the ruling party can not continue underestimating the situation and the discontent.
Bullrich, current Minister of Security, is one of the members of Macri’s cabinet with the best image in Cambiemos. Her proactive profile and her frank statements generally find a positive reception with a big chunk of the electorate. In the midst of a washed-out, politically correct, and unkempt officialism, Bullrich manages to stand out more than her fellow ministers. She’s even been suggested as a running mate to accompany Macri on the presidential ticket, but the powerful Radical Civic Union party is maintaining its claim on that spot.
In a meeting this afternoon at the Rotary Club, Bullrich signalled that Macri could lose, and warned of the consequences of a possible fall of Macri and the Cambiemos Party:
“We are in mid-stream,” the official said. “If you do not accompany us, Argentina will return to 70% inflation,” she said.
For the minister, the government has committed “many unforced errors, like any good athlete.” She also acknowledged that “there are more and more poor and fewer middle class people,” and acknowledged that Cambiemos can not apply the economic plan it wants, because “it is colliding with mafia interests every day.”
Peña, in Congress, for television cameras
Peña, Macri’s Head of Cabinet, spoke in front of the Chamber of Deputies and took advantage of shouts from the Kirchnerist bloc to exploit the strongest strategy left at their disposal: taking advantage of the polarization within Cristina Kirchner’s followers, who have broken with their formy party.
“I think we will still be here come December; the Argentines do not want to go back, they want to continue with the change,” Peña said euphorically, in the midst of his discussion with the Kirchner legislators. When the deputy Gabriela Cerruti expressed her outrage at the economic situation, the official of the ruling party rebuked her and told her that she did not believe him. “Of what outrage do they speak? The only cynics are you, because you said there were fewer poor people than Germany. You encouraged clientelism,” he said, exalted.
Us, or disaster, but what does Cambiemos offer?
Confidence in re-election has given rise to nervousness and aggressive strategy. In Argentina, for a few years, this style has been dubbed the “fear campaign.” This was exactly the same thing that the Kirchnerists did when they threatened total collapse if Macri won in 2015. The ruling party asks for a vote of confidence, but at the same time asks for a blank check. Macrismo has already admitted that the situation is perilous; they recognize that they have made several mistakes and realize that they could lose the elections. Given this circumstance, they ask that society accompany them, in order to “cross the river” and “not change horses mid-stream.” But although they acknowledge mistakes, they have failed to argue that they have the better political program. Therefore, nobody knows if they do indeed.
Mario Vargas Llosa bothered his friend Mauricio Macri with a complicated question recently: “Do you plan to do the same if you win the elections? Is something going to change?” The Argentine president, nervous, gave an answer that left much to be desired: he said that they plan to do “the same thing”, but “faster.”
The situation is not simple for the Argentine voter this year. While the opposition proposes more demagogy, populism, and irresponsibility, the ruling party asks to renew a vote of confidence, without saying a word about what they intend to do if they succeed.