Opposition’s PASO line-up takes shape as Patricia Bullrich steps aside
Rodríguez Larreta wins turf war in City; PRO leader says she’s looking ahead to 2023.
The PASO primaries line-up for Argentina’s main opposition coalition, Juntos por el Cambio, is taking shape after influential politicians Patricia Bullrich and Elisa Carrió confirmed they would not stand as candidates in this year’s midterm elections.
Bullrich, the hardline PRO party leader and former security minister, announced her decision in a letter posted on social networks. She said that while she would not run for office in Buenos Aires City, she would travel the country campaigning for opposition candidates.
Pointedly, the 65-year-old declared that she was looking ahead to the 2023 general elections – a far from subtle reference to her publicly stated aim of running for the presidency.
The news is a major political victory for City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who had pressured Bullrich not to run in the capital. He also appears to have overcome the influence of former president Mauricio Macri, who had supported his former minister’s desire to run for a seat as a national deputy.
Rodríguez Larreta, who is also expected to run for president in two years’ time, wants a more moderate candidate heading the ticket within his jurisdiction. María Eugenia Vidal – who has refused to head the opposition list for the PASO primaries in Buenos Aires Province, where she previously served one term as governor – is his preferred candidate.
Macri had previously called for Vidal to run in the province, but as negotiations between the City mayor and PRO party leaders’ two camps intensified this week, the former president departed for Europe.
Bullrich announced her decision in a four-page letter. She justified the move on two main grounds – in order to avoid a messy internal battle within the party she leads and to be better positioned for a run for the Casa Rosada in 2023.
The former government official expects to exert more influence over lists nationwide, according to reports, and will be deployed as a major asset for Juntos por el Cambio nationwide on the campaign trail.
Rodríguez Larreta reacted swiftly to the news, praising the former security minister for her decision.
“Thank you, @Patobullrich, for your great show of responsibility, commitment and conviction. You are undoubtedly a leader throughout the country,” he wrote on Twitter. “We are going to continue working together to strengthen the unity of @juntoscambioar, and achieve the best electoral offering in the City, the Province of Buenos Aires and in all the provinces of Argentina.”
Vidal also congratulated Bullrich for her “decision in favour of unity in this very important election,” which will see Juntos por el Cambio field a unified coalition list in the capital, drawing in PRO, the UCR and the Coalición Cívica.
While unifying the slate for the PASOS in the City, the decision plays into what is likely to be a feisty battle for the leadership of Juntos por el Cambio in the coming years.
PRO, the coalition’s dominant party, is currently seen as split into two camps, nominally dubbed “hawks” and “moderates,” with Bullrich and Rodríguez Larreta seen as their respective figureheads.
Meanwhile, the Radicals (UCR), who took on more of a backseat role in Macri’s 20152019 government, are seeking greater representation.
In addition to Bullrich, Rodríguez Larreta, Vidal and Macri have all said they want to run for the Casa Rosada in 2023.
In a recent interview, Bullrich said she had dreamt of “being president since I was six years old” and acknowledged that she would face stiff competition from within her own party to win the nomination in 2023. This latest decision, she argued, was for the greater good.
“As president of PRO I decided to set an example, to renounce a candidacy but not the fight,” she told Radio Rivadavia.
For now, both Rodríguez Larreta and Bullrich are on the same page.
“We understand that the force of change is in unity. We need to be together to defend the Republic and end this decadence that robs us of the future. We want to build a country in which progress is the reason for each Argentine,” said Bullrich on Sunday, posting a photo of her and the mayor in conversation.