After much speculation, two years after completing her term, former President Cristina Fernández is seeking a seat in the Senate. Photo: Reuters

Buenos Aires.–The streets of Argentina herald what’s to come this August 13, the date on which the Open, Simultaneous, Compulsory Primaries (PASO) will be held to define the candidates to the nation’s Congress.

All eyes are set on former president Cristina Fernández, who has returned to the political stage with a new party, Unidad Ciudadana (Citizens’ Unity), with which she seeks to curb the current government’s neoliberal austerity program.

“There’s no work, prices are skyrocketing, the money isn’t enough, rates are unpayable, and businesses and industry are closing. We can’t live like this any longer. We can’t go on like this,” Unidad Ciudadana notes, an alliance of five political blocs that proposes 15 key measures to combat the Cambiemos government’s policies, with which, they stress, “There is no future for anyone.”

After much speculation, two years after completing her term, the former President is seeking a seat in the Senate, a position she held on two previous occasions (2001-2005 and 2005-2007) before arriving to the Presidency, in order to confront the government of Mauricio Macri.

In her first remarks to the electorate during a huge act in the city of Mar del Plata at the beginning of the campaign, Cristina called on the people to cast a vote of hope.

Before a crowded Radio City theater, she left Argentines with a key message: we are not asking you to vote for me, or for those who accompany me, we are asking you to vote for yourselves, in your own defense.

The former President asked of her fellow Unidad Ciudadana candidates just one thing: to take to the streets and listen to what is happening to the people. To tell them that there is a hope, through their votes, to reverse the situation.

The legislative campaign is in full bloom and four names stand out in particular: Cristina Fernández, Esteban Bullrich, Florencio Randazzo, and Sergio Massa; each seeking to reach the Senate in the province of Buenos Aires, the most important in the country.

Bullrich, the Macri administration’s Education minister, stepped down July 14 to participate in the campaign. The former minister, who during his term faced a strong fight by teachers for a wage increase, enjoys the support of the entire Cambiemos coalition, which has accompanied him in different campaign events.

“Here there are two large groups of voters: those who believe we can be better and those who, unfortunately, were told for years that they had to succumb to this reality and believe in this reality. The truth is that you don’t have to give up, nothing is impossible,” Bullrich stated in a recent interview with Infobae.

Another strong competitor in this election is Randazzo, former Interior and Labor minister during Cristina’s government, running with the Cumplir party.

Randazzo has stated that one of his challenges is to build a more just country, and stressed that this will be not be possible until there is a government that guarantees the rights of all Argentines.

Claiming to be ready to “form a serious, firm, broad opposition,” he has also questioned the current government’s policies.

“This is a government that did not fulfill any of its promises. It takes no responsibility for anything... An insensitive government of the rich that governs for the rich,” he stated in one of his campaign speeches.

The other important name in the race for a seat in the Senate representing the province of Buenos Aires is Massa, former presidential candidate in 2015, accompanied on the ballot by Margarita Stolbizer, for the 1País alliance. He has also strongly criticized the Macri government.

At the launch of his campaign, in an act held in the city of Tigre, Massa called on the electorate to vote to build an alternative power. “We must remind this government and the authorities that half of our children are poor, that every day medicine prices increase more than pensions. There are societies that grow with corrupt leaders, but our proposal is to develop the country on a moral basis,” he stressed.

The primaries will take place August 13, and the candidates are taking to the streets to secure votes in an Argentina where the harsh reality is that prices increase daily, many have lost their jobs, social unrest is mounting, and many can’t make it to the end of the month.  

The congressional elections, which this year will renew half the Chamber of Deputies and one-third of the Senate (24 members in eight provinces), will be held on October 22, when those selected on this occasion will face off in a vote to decide whether or not they will make it to Congress. (PL)