Massa Stays in Argentine Presidential Race Amid Weak Support

Sergio Massa, the 43-year-old dissident Peronist who was cabinet chief under President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, said Wednesday he would push ahead with his bid for the presidency even as his popularity fades.

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. Many of Massa’s supporters would have moved 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.”

Macri, in a radio interview on FM Latina on Thursday, acknowledged he had held talks with Massa and said that while he had ruled out a formal alliance, he may be prepared to team up with candidates from the Renovation Front in certain provincial races.

“We’re working so that Kirchnerism doesn’t govern for four more years,” Macri said in the interview, referring to the governments of Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner. If Scioli wins, “it won’t be because of this decision.”

Party Primaries

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.

As a candidate, Massa has struggled to position himself as a midpoint candidate between Macri, who is pledging to change the government’s economic policies, and Scioli, who promises continuity with gradual adjustments, Eurasia Group’s Daniel Kerner said in a report Thursday.

Under electoral law, political parties will have to decide on their candidates and vice presidential choices by June 20.

President Fernandez and her deceased husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, have governed Argentina since 2003. The economy will contract this year with annual inflation of at least 20 percent, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg.

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