October 27, 2015 / 9:55 PM / in 2 years

Argentina presidential challenger Macri seeks common ground with Massa

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s opposition challenger in next month’s presidential run-off vote, said on Tuesday he wanted to find common ground with defeated candidate Sergio Massa and that talks had begun between the two camps.

Mauricio Macri, presidential candidate of Cambiemos (Let's Change) coalition sings after election in Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 25, 2015. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Massa placed third in Sunday’s first round vote with 21.3 percent of support, and both Macri and ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli will need to court the 43-year-old lawmaker and his voters to win the Nov. 22 second round.

Massa is drawing up a policy blueprint to be discussed with either of his rivals still in the presidential race. On Monday, a Massa camp insider told Reuters that while Massa would not explicitly endorse Macri, the document would be a “wink” in his direction.

Asked if messages were being sent between the two campaign teams, the pro-business Macri told local TV channel Telefe: “Yes, we’re talking. There’s a willingness to agree on policies, a willingness to find common ground.”

Outgoing President Cristina Fernandez’s eight years in power have been deeply divisive. The fiery leftist is loved by the lower-class for expanding social welfare programs and protecting Argentine industry but reviled by others for suffocating the economy.

Scioli, a moderate within the broad Peronist movement that dominates Argentine politics, campaigned on a platform of “gradual change” to Fernandez’s model of leftist populism. Macri promises to quickly dismantle her trade and currency controls.

In the run-up to Sunday, centrist Massa said Scioli stood for a continuation of policies that had stunted economic growth, fueled inflation and drained central bank reserves. But he also said Macri could drive the economy into a new crisis by imposing pro-market policies too quickly.

Since the ballot, Scioli has launched a wave of attacks on Macri, branding his policy platform a throwback to neoliberal policies of the 1990s in the run-up to a devastating 2001-2002 depression.

On Tuesday, as he and Macri scrambled for middle-ground voters, Scioli said he was open to hearing Massa’s proposals.

“I will listen to ideas that are good for Argentina, whoever they come from,” Scioli told TV channel TN.

Massa served as Fernandez’ cabinet chief during her first term in office but broke away from the ruling party in 2013. He has accused Scioli of letting Fernandez dictate his campaign, playing on the fears that Scioli would be a Fernandez puppet.

“The people want change,” Massa told Radio Mitre on Tuesday. “If Scioli doesn’t start taking his own decisions then it’s better he is not president.”

Additional reporting and writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Tom Brown

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