A demonstration of pragmatism that gives more chances of governability and future to Argentina: who is Mauricio Macri’s new running mate in the forthcoming elections?

 By Alberto Navarro

I am sharing my first impressions on the surprising announcement made last June 11, whereby President Macri made public that well known Peronist Miguel Angel Pichetto is to join him as running mate in the forthcoming national presidential elections to take place next October.

For the Kirchnerists and its allies, Mr. Pichetto -one of the historical chiefs of the Senate- is a bloody traitor; for most others, including some incumbent Peronists, a patriot who thought about the country rather than in personal or partisan interests.

Well-known for being loyal in his convictions, he is a highly educated person of strong personality who always imposes respect. No complaint was ever filed against him for corruption, which is not a minor fact in a country like Argentina.

The truth is that in these almost 3,5 years of President Macri’s government, the now 68 year-old politician –with more than 23 years at the Senate- was key to support, from opposition, significant bills that would have never come to see the light, considering that young Cambiemos government had parliamentary minority, showing himself as a generous key piece for governability.

Surprises apart, the general reaction was of admiration by the political and business establishment, for what is deemed a very clever personal move from President Macri looking forward to being reelected for four more years, the time necessary to consolidate reforms and face the still pending structural ones. To such end, the skillful and influencing Pichetto would cooperate from the Senate’s chair since next December 11 -if they get reelected, of course.

It has nevertheless to be said that Mr. Pichetto is the same who in 2008 led, in the name of the Kirchners, the attempt to highly increase taxes on the agricultural exports, in what was seen at the time as a sort of sodomization against a sector of the economy that former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner always hated, notwithstanding whether large landowners or small producers living for the day. So it could be now said that when farmers vote for President Macri again this year, this will be some sort of double merit from their part.

In addition to serious Peronism, the Pichetto factor contributes more links with many of the provincial governors, which is not a minor issue: as a Senator, he knows them and their needs.

This opening to opposition smart leaders by the government, despite being an answer to the Fernandez-Fernandez formula, also gives Anti-K Peronists a good reason to calm down their minds and justify the voting for President Macri in a country where the gap revealed two fully antagonistic models: modern republican democracy, on the one hand; and the authoritarian cut, on the other: this latter, the let’s get it all Kirchner’s style, whose mere possibility of returning to power placed us in a sort of wait and see that stopped badly needed investment manna from inside and outside the country in the last year.

Mr. Pichetto, whom even Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner seems to fear, made it clear with his first words as running mate, that although it is important to keep and foster good business relations with countries like China and Russia, Argentina must definitely consolidate relations with the West, starting with the USA and Europe, also highlighting the importance of once and for all getting accustomed to honoring commitments undertaken and definitely abide to the rule of law, something rare to be so clearly heard from vintage peronists.

Miguel Pichetto thus represents a relevant part of Peronism that cannot stand more persecutions to the media, businessmen, judges and the knocking down of Republican institutions in general. He spoke on open TV last night about his personal friendly conversations with main Wall Street funds, American senators and other imperialists, about how they see us and their logic concerns regarding a possible return of the Kirchners, doing so with wild spontaneity –self-confidence I would say- something also unprecedented for any ordinary politician. Miguel Pichetto is therefore a factor who adds foreseeability as to where Argentina can head.

Moreover, this designation may not be the only surprise, as other modern referents from same Peronist party –e.g. strong Cordoba and Salta governors- would most likely end up supporting one way or another the Cambiemos government in the almost inevitable ballotage in November, something anticipated till now in view of the technical parity between so different models of country being proposed. Notwithstanding the above, the government so trusts Mr. Pichetto’s good capacity for dragging votes, that the door might be now open to the possibility of even winning in the first round.

Local and global markets also sent a clear positive message, reminding us that they vote and bet for the quality and institutional stability, the result being a sharp rise in local stock markets, Argentina bonds and ADRs, the drop of country risk and setback of the Dollar –the latter traditionally seen as a social humor thermometer for Argentines rather than foreign currency.

It can be finally said that this last incorporation to the official rows could also reach much beyond the possible presidential reelection, since at the same time it implies Mr. Macri’s acknowledgment of his own party political limitations, puts an end to the traditional peronism-antiperonism dichotomy to better face together Latam Leftist Populist movements.

It seems clear, then, that Mauricio Macri, while recovering political initiative and having had his best day for a long time, sent a strong and positive message to the western hemisphere, which in 2015 had welcomed this breath of fresh air that meant his party Cambiemos coming into power.