| BUENOS AIRES, Sept 9
BUENOS AIRES, Sept 9 Divisions inside
Argentina's dominant political movement, Peronism, have weakened
its clout in Congress and are helping center-right President
Mauricio Macri push through pro-market reforms aimed at
restoring economic growth.
Publicly, leaders of the ideologically diverse Peronist
factions say they are optimistic about rebuilding alliances but
in private they say divisions are likely to remain in place at
least through next year's congressional elections.
Followers of former leftist President Cristina Fernandez,
allies of moderate leader Sergio Massa, and other senior members
of the movement inspired by populist General Juan Peron in the
1940s are fighting for control of the Peronist agenda.
"A united front will be hard next year," said a high-level
source from the Peronist Justicialist Party, some of whose
members have abandoned Fernandez's Front for Victory faction.
Fernandez's followers, who supported Justicialist Party
candidate Daniel Scioli for president last year, will pursue
their own agenda, said the source, requesting anonymity to speak
Supporters of Massa, who personally clashes with Fernandez
and defected from the Justicialist Party in 2013 to form a new
dissident Peronist party, Renewal Front, do not have plans to
align with other movements within the opposition either.
"Renewal Front will maintain its identity... those who want
to join are welcome," a party source said.
The split helped Macri win the presidency, and continues to
benefit him as his center-right PRO party is well short of a
majority in Congress and needs some Peronists to vote with him
on key reforms.
Since taking over in December, Macri has been able to win
Congress's approval for an agreement to pay hold-out creditors
of defaulted Argentina debt, ending a decade of messy
litigation. He also passed a key tax amnesty plan the government
is counting on to bring in up to $80 billion in revenue.
Macri will need moderate Peronists over the next year to
help him approve budget cuts to lower the deficit and end gas
and electricity subsidies, a tough sell after 12 years of
free-spending populism under Fernandez and her late husband and
former President Nestor Kirchner.
Dissatisfaction with Fernandez, who offered generous
subsidies but fell out of favor with many Argentines because of
her confrontational style and meddling in the economy, helped
generate splits in the Peronist bloc.
Fernandez is a divisive figure with high rejection rates,
and allegations of corruption in her government and her allies'
frequent public appearances have helped split the Peronist
"With fragmented Peronism, governability is not a problem in
Argentina," said Pablo Knopoff, director of the Isonomía
political consultancy. "That could change if the Justicialist
Party achieved some unity."
DIVIDE AND RULE
The government's leader in the Senate, Federico Pinedo, said
Macri allies are not worried about Peronism's strategies and
instead focus only on the final number of votes received.
The Justicialist Party source, however, said Macri
supporters are keenly aware of the divisions and try to exploit
"The government applies the golden law of 'divide and you
will rule,' the source said.
The economic outlook in Argentina is still tough - the
government expects the economy to contract 1 percent this year
before growing 3.5 percent in 2017. Inflation soared when Macri
undid Fernandez's currency controls, though it is expected to
fall to around 17 percent next year.
If Macri, whose approval rating is below 50 percent, loses
more support, a united Peronism could deal a harsh blow to his
PRO party in congressional elections, weakening its chances of
staying in power in 2019. It is not clear if Macri will seek
According to a poll by local consultancy Ricardo Rouvier y
Asociados, 52.8 percent of Argentines view Massa favorably, more
than the 47 percent that view Macri that way and 43.1 percent
who approve of Fernandez.
The Justicialist Party source said alliances were more
important, and probable, at the national level three years from
now when Peronists will seek to challenge Macri for the
In some places, they are in the works already.
Oscar Parrilli, one of Fernandez's closest advisors, said
traditional Justicialist Party members and Fernandez loyalists
could run together in mid-term elections in the province of
Buenos Aires, which circles the capital.
He also said the party has not ruled out backing Fernandez
to run again in 2019.
(Reorting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Caroline Stauffer;
Editing by Kieran Murray)