Ex-Kirchner Ally Betting on Underdog Candidate in Argentine Vote

(Bloomberg) -- A long-time backer of former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is now racing to rally support around an alternative presidential candidate before an upcoming deadline.

Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto, 68, said his goal is to unite moderates in the Peronist party behind former minister Roberto Lavagna before June 22, the legal cutoff date to announce candidates for October’s election. While Kirchner is poised to get about 30 percent of the vote, that percentage is both "a floor and a ceiling" because of her polarizing tactics and deeply loyal base, he said.

Ex-Kirchner Ally Betting on Underdog Candidate in Argentine Vote

"It’s not enough to win," Pichetto, the leader of the Peronist political movement in Argentina’s Congress, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York.

Lavagna is emerging as an alternative to both current President Mauricio Macri and Kirchner though polls show he’s currently lagging behind them. Investors panicked after a recent poll by Argentine consulting firm Isonomia showed Kirchner, who’s drawn scorn for her populist policies, beating the incumbent in a runoff vote. The country’s bonds sunk into distressed territory as market views on the chances of a potential default rose to over 60 percent.

Pichetto, who has been a mainstay of Argentine politics since the 1980s, made his remarks during meetings with officials from banks including Barclays and Morgan Stanley. He said the economy will be the most important factor in determining the outcome of the presidential election.

Ex-Kirchner Ally Betting on Underdog Candidate in Argentine Vote

"Macri’s government failed to manage the economy," Pichetto said. "The government’s measures haven’t been well received by markets."

He also backed more temporary government intervention to stabilize life for common Argentines suffering under 55 percent inflation and the world’s highest interest rates.

"I would freeze public services’ prices and anchor the exchange rate for a while to give some degree of certainty," said Pichetto, who’s held posts from provincial legislator to leader of the Partido Justicialista, one of nation’s most famous parties.

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