The candidates had been negotiating debate terms since last week. Apparently, even Filmus' willingness to include the candidates for deputy mayor in the debate and sign a "non-aggression agreement" were not enough to placate Macri. An article in today's Clarín included this exchange (with my translation):
"Are you going to attend the debate?," asked Clarín after a campaign stop at café Tortoni.Macri has a point. After the center-right candidate won a near-majority in the first round (46%, more than 20 points ahead of Filmus), President Kirchner quickly moved to openly attack Macri. It is no surprise that the President supports Filmus, whom he hand-selected for the race, but he's also seeing the picture where Macri's strong showing represents a viable threat in the upcoming October presidential election. Barring some kind of catastrophic mistake by the Macri campaign, Filmus and Kirchner realistically can hope for little more than a respectable showing. As such, it is more important to attack Macri and his PRO party by constantly linking them to the disastrous neoliberal open-market policies of the 1990's that led Argentina into crisis.
"In this context of aggression and dirty campaigning, it makes no sense."
"But they have already set the guidelines.."
"We have all seen that there is no change in attitude. Monday after the election, Filmus called me and told me that he was going to have a respectful campaign; two hours later he was at an event with the President insulting us."
The President's negative campaigning and willingness to drudge up these not-so-distant economic ghosts reflects the government's new-found sense of vulnerability, something largely absent since their election in 2003. Kirchnerism once seemed invincible, with the Argentinian president often cited as the "most popular leader in South America" while sporting approval ratings of 75% or higher. However, in light of recent struggles, that rating has dropped to 57% and created a potential opening for presidential challengers. Opposition groups have even begun to discuss unifying against Kirchner in October.
In the meantime, the second round of Buenos Aires mayoral campaigns continue. Filmus has already asked Macri to reconsider debating, but that is unlikely given that one of Macri's advisors was quoted as saying "there is more to lose than gain."
Even if a debate somehow happens, I'm guessing that Kirchner won't be a happy camper anytime soon.
No wonder he's thinking about not running for re-election and letting his wife run for president. After all, history shows that "President of Argentina" is somewhere near the top of the worldwide "impossible jobs" list.