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Massa Allies Lean Toward Opposition Challenger in Argentina Runoff

  • Reuters

Top opposition presidential candidate Mauricio Macri dances and sings after speaking to supporters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct. 25, 2015.

Top opposition presidential candidate Mauricio Macri dances and sings after speaking to supporters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct. 25, 2015.

Ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli's hunt for swing voters in Argentina's presidential runoff vote suffered a blow Wednesday when two of defeated candidate Sergio Massa's top allies said they would not vote for him.

Jose Manuel De la Sota, the governor of Cordoba province and a senior figure in Massa's alliance, said the leftist government of outgoing leader Cristina Fernandez had been "anti-federal and authoritarian" in style. Roberto Lavagna, a former economy minister, said he wanted to see "change."

As Scioli and his conservative challenger scramble for Massa's 5 million voters, politicians from Massa's New Alternative alliance are meeting in a Buenos Aires hotel to draw up a blueprint of policy priorities.

Massa allies on Monday told Reuters that the document would have more in common with pro-business candidate Mauricio Macri's campaign platform and would be a tacit "wink" in his direction. Massa, though, may not explicitly back one candidate or the other.

"Kirchnerismo has done no good for the country," De la Sota told reporters, referring to the name given to the leftist populism of Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner. "It has gotten drunk on power."

Asked if he would vote for Scioli, De la Sota gave a categoric "no."

Macri's unexpectedly strong showing in Sunday's ballot shocked the ruling Front for Victory party, which had expected to win the election in the first round, or at least go into the second round with a wide lead.

Fernandez, a fiery leftist who often rails against Western excess, will leave behind a divided nation. She is hailed by the poor for expanding social welfare programs and protecting local industry but loathed by others who blame her for strangling the economy.

Massa's camp says the policy blueprint will lean heavily on his first-round campaign pledges: fighting inflation, scrapping the income tax for workers and removing hefty taxes on corn and wheat exports.

Scioli promises to maintain Fernandez's social safety net and talks only of gradual change to her protectionist policies that include trade and capital controls.

Macri promises fast-moving reform to dismantle the controls.

Massa had pitched himself as a middle-way candidate.

"Personally I am in the change camp. We need to have a clear understanding of what change means. But in any case, it is not a vote for the Front for Victory," said Lavagna, who had served under Nestor Kirchner before splitting with him.

Lavagna was touted to return to the Economy Ministry had Massa won.

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