Argentina government rattled as Kirchner allies threaten to quit

FILE PHOTO: Kirchner, lawmaker and son of former Argentine President Fernandez de Kirchner, looks on next to colleague de Pedro during session at Congress
FILE PHOTO: Maximo Kirchner (L), lawmaker of the opposition Victory Front and son of former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, looks on next to colleague Eduardo de Pedro as lawmakers debate the approval of a settlement with creditors over the country's defaulted debt at the Lower House of Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci/File Photo

September 15, 2021

By Walter Bianchi and Nicolás Misculin

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -Argentina’s Peronist government was shaken on Wednesday after interior minister Eduardo de Pedro offered his resignation along with several other hard-left officials, signalling a rift within the ruling coalition after a bruising primary election loss.

The government of center-left President Alberto Fernandez was badly beaten on Sunday in an open primary election, seen as a reliable indicator ahead of a midterm congressional vote in November where the ruling party could lose its grip on Congress.

That has stoked tensions in the party as it looks to recover ground, caught between plans to double down on populist measures or take a more moderate approach to attract middle-class Argentines who rallied behind the conservative opposition.

De Pedro, a key ally of powerful Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and part the more radical wing of the ruling Front for All party, said in a letter he was offering to step down to help the government move forward toward the midterm ballot in November and regain voter support.

“Listening to your words on Sunday night where you raised the need to interpret the verdict expressed by the Argentine people, I have considered the best way to help this task is by putting my resignation at your disposal,” he wrote.

President Fernandez is yet to accept the resignation.

Spokesmen for the government and ruling party said that the minister of culture Tristán Bauer, the minister of environment Juan Cabandié and the minister of science and technology Roberto Salvarezza had all also tendered their resignations.

All three ministers are aligned with the more militant wing of the ruling coalition and are allies of Fernández de Kirchner, a divisive but hugely powerful figure who was a two-term president from 2007-2015 and commands a major support base.

Argentina’s markets were jittery on Wednesday, with bonds and the local equities index down slightly.

(Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Pullin)