Massa Stays in Argentina’s Presidential Race Amid Poll Weakness

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Sergio Massa, the 43-year-old dissident Peronist who was cabinet chief under President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, said Wednesday he plans to continue his run for presidency in spite of speculation he would step down in the face of fading poll numbers.

Massa announced his decision hours before a deadline for parties to announce alliances ahead of primaries in August.

A decision to step down or run for a different post could have handed a first-round victory to Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, the likely candidate for the ruling Victory Front, or FpV, according to pollsters Ricardo Rouvier and Raul Aragon. With his popularity fading in the polls, many of Massa’s supporters would move to Scioli rather than the main opposition candidate, Mauricio Macri, Rouvier said.

“I want to say to those who tried to use their power to remove us from the playing field that we are here,” Massa said in a nine-minute televised speech in Tigre, a town outside Buenos Aires. “I am going to be candidate for president.”

Massa will compete in a primary against Cordoba province Governor Juan Manuel de la Sota. The FpV will send Scioli into a primary against Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo, while Buenos Aires Mayor Macri’s PRO party will compete in a separate group of the Radical and Civic Coalition parties.

Following the Aug. 9 primaries, a first round will be held on Oct. 25 and a candidate needs 45 percent of the votes or more than 40 percent with a 10 percentage point advantage over the runner up to win. If needed, a second round will be held Nov. 22. The next president will be sworn in on Dec. 10.

Massa would garner 18.4 percent of votes compared with 32.1 percent for Scioli and 27.7 percent for Macri, according to a Raul Aragon & Asociados poll taken May 28 to June 3 of 2,200 people with a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

Adding to Massa’s loss of support in polls, a handful of allied mayors in Buenos Aires province have deserted his party to return to the ruling FpV in the past month.

Political parties will have to hand in their election formulas including candidates and vice presidential choices on June 20 and the details will be announced two days later.

President Fernandez and her deceased husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, have governed Argentina since 2003. While the economy is expected to contract this year with annual inflation of at least 20 percent, the pro-government candidate Scioli is leading opinion polls.

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