Argentina's Scioli wants president's right-hand man on ticket

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 17, 2015 1:12 PM

(This June 16 story corrects name in first, fifth paragraphs to Zannini from Zanini)

By Sarah Marsh and Walter Bianchi

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Daniel Scioli, the front-running candidate for the ruling party in Argentina's presidential election, said on Tuesday he wanted Carlos Zannini, an adviser from President Cristina Fernandez's inner circle, on his ticket as vice president.

Scioli has billed himself as the candidate of "gradual change" against the backdrop of a stagnant economy with double-digit inflation and limited access to global credit markets.

Yet his choice of running-mate for the October presidential elections suggests he might steer a course more in line with Fernandez's unorthodox policies than many supporters had hoped.

Some analysts said it could just be a strategic ploy to win over Fernandez loyalists.

Zannini, legal and technical secretary to the president, rarely makes public appearances but has been broadly described in local media as Fernandez's right-hand man. Fernandez herself is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term.

The 60-year-old lawyer was nominated in 2003 by Fernandez' predecessor and late husband Nestor Kirchner.

"I spoke with Cristina (Fernandez) and gave her my point of view. I had said I wanted someone who would complement me in experience," Scioli told TV broadcaster C5N.

Candidates are required to list a running mate when they register for the August primary by midnight on Saturday.

"(This choice) could cast doubts about Scioli's willingness or ability to change the current economic policy," said Ignacio Labaqui, who analyses Argentina for emerging markets consultancy Medley Global Advisors.

Argentine equity and bond markets have rallied in recent months on the expectation of such change.

Scioli, who has pulled ahead of his two main rivals in recent polls, is walking a tightrope act in order to win the support of both Fernandez loyalists and undecided voters demanding change.

A moderate within the broad Peronist movement that has ruled Argentina for all but eight years since the return of democracy in 1983, Scioli is more pragmatic and pro-market than Fernandez and says policy changes are needed to get the economy moving.

But the jury is out on how much change he will truly bring about. He has mostly been vague about specific policies.

Argentina's next president will inherit a broken economy by most standards: inflation running at 20-25 percent, low foreign reserves, a gaping fiscal deficit fueled by hefty subsidies, negative real interest rates and a debt default.

Alejo Czerwonko, emerging markets economist at UBS Wealth Management, said Scioli's choice of running-mate made sense politically because he needed Fernandez's endorsement and did not necessarily reflect his future policies.

"Scioli's behavior, if and when he sets himself free from Cristina Kirchner and controls central government resources himself, remains anyone's guess," he added.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Walter Bianchi; Editing by Ken Wills)