As President Cristina Kirchner’s power ebbs and Argentina nears next year’s presidential election, talking heads will increasingly look at the prospects of her would-be successors, including Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri.
As mayor of Argentina’s most important city since 2007, Macri has the kind of “executive experience” that many voters say they want in a president candidate. He hopes to capture the votes of millions of Argentines who oppose Kirchner and her policies.
Of the potential presidential contenders for the 2015 race, Macri is arguably the one who has most opposed Kirchner’s approach to power. The two leaders are not even on speaking terms, though that is almost entirely because of Kirchner’s militant antagonism toward political critics, something acknowledged by officials who work for both leaders.
Two other leading potential contenders, or “presidenciables” as they’re called locally, are Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli and Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa. Though both have distanced themselves from Kirchner to varying degrees (Massa much more so), both have also been partners and close allies of the president over the years.
Scioli was vice president early on in Néstor Kirchner’s first term and Massa was Cristina Kirchner’s cabinet chief. (Massa and Néstor Kirchner had a fierce fallout after the former president did relatively poorly in his 2009 congressional campaign.)
If Argenina’s economy worsens and things go badly over the next two years, Kirchner could take much of the blame. But to some extent, she might not be alone in doing so. In theory, at least, Macri could benefit from such a situtation more than Massa or Scioli, who could also get caught up in the blame game because of their previous support for Kirchner. This is a particularly big risk for Scioli, who in recent months has been especially supportive, at least in public, of the president.
But Macri also faces some challenges. A recent poll by Management & Fit indicated that 68% of Argentines want the next president to “keep doing the things” that Kirchner has done well. Only 23% of peopled surveyed said they want the next president to “totally change” government policies.
For now, at least, that means Macri has to walk a fine line between criticizing Kirchner and trying to appeal to those who think Kirchner has done some things well: he’ll have to acknowledge that Kirchner has done some positive things. Polls indicate that Argentines do not want another extremely partisan president. They want someone who is practical and will solve their problems.
Macri faces an uphill fight. The Management & Fit poll indicates that 22% of Argentines believe Massa is “best prepared” to govern the country while 18% think Scioli is most prepared. In contrast, just over 9.4% say Macri is best prepared to run the government. Only Hermes Binner, the former governor of Santa Fe Province, polled worse at 7.6%.
Another obstacle for Macri is that he does not come from the traditional Peronist Party political apparatus. That’s important, in a potentially negative way, because 63% of those polled said they want the next president to have a great deal of support from his political party. To the extent that Macri’s Pro party is small, lacks national recognition and reach, this could pose a problem.
Two years is an eternity in politics, especially in Argentina, where political fortunes and public opinion can swing from one day to the next. But if public sentiment holds through 2015, it seems likely that Argentina’s next winning presidential ticket would include a tag-team combination of either Macri, Massa or Scioli, with one settling for the vice presidency. Scioli has already held that job and he is gunning for No. 1 this time. He feels it’s his time.
*Photo: Macri running against the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt.