April 1, 2011 / 5:04 PM / 7 years ago

Argentine presidential contender calls for pact

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s splintered political opposition should join forces to fight President Cristina Fernandez in October’s election, center-right presidential contender Mauricio Macri said on Friday.

Fernandez is keeping voters guessing about whether she will seek a second term, but her strong poll lead is raising expectations she will run for re-election as rivals scramble to forge alliances strong enough to mount a convincing challenge.

Macri, 52, who is mayor of the capital Buenos Aires, called for an alliance of opposition parties from across the political spectrum, saying that was the best way to guarantee a change of government.

“This proposal for change represents more than 60 percent of Argentines. More than 60 percent want a change,” Macri told the Reuters Latin America Investment Summit in Buenos Aires.

“This call (to join forces) is totally open and I hope Peronists, Radicals and Socialists will get on board,” he said in some of his most detailed comments yet on the proposal, referring to the country’s leading opposition parties.

Left-wingers would be reluctant to forge a pact with Macri, and center-left Radical party congressman Ricardo Alfonsin -- another presidential hopeful -- has expressed skepticism about electoral alliances with right-leaning politicians.

Macri, a millionaire who used to run one of Argentina’s largest soccer clubs, lags a distant second or third in most opinion polls and his PRO party has little presence beyond Buenos Aires and its outskirts, where he struck an alliance before with dissident members of the ruling Peronist party.

Some political analysts suggest he will quit the election race if his allies look at risk of losing control of the capital, but Macri said he was committed to running in October.

“My proposal is national ... that’s the situation right now and I‘m convinced that it has to be done,” said Macri, who said if elected he would pursue “market-friendly” economic policies focused on boosting infrastructure.

Latin America’s No. 3 economy is growing at a rate of about 9 percent, but inflation estimated privately at about 25 percent is a major concern for voters less than seven months from polling day.

Macri, who is frequently the target of fierce criticism by government ministers, said he would aim to cut inflation to a single digit within his first year in office.

“By the second year, we’d be able to have very low inflation,” he added.

Macri, a civil engineer, said the South American nation’s potential was being hampered by inadequate transport infrastructure.

“The country has the capacity to increase exports five or six times, but infrastructure is completely strangled ... we need roads, trains, energy and ports,” he said.

“All of this requires financial muscle (and) I want to pay the lowest possible (borrowing) rate so that Argentina can pay as little as possible to finance this growth.”

Fernandez’s government has intensified efforts to patch up the country’s ties with creditors and pave the way for a return to global credit markets for the first time since its massive $100 billion debt default in 2002.

However, Argentina’s risk spreads are still far wider than neighbors such as Brazil and Uruguay, and Macri blamed the government’s unorthodox economic policies.

“Our proposal is for Argentina to become part of the rest of the world again,” he said.

He added that his administration hoped to sell $500 million in five- or 10-year global bonds “in the coming weeks,” adding that officials were aiming for a rate of less than 10 percent.

The city government last tapped international credit markets in March 2010, when it sold $475 million in a five-year bond at a yield of 12.5 percent.

Additional reporting by Alejandro Lifschitz, Editing by W Simon

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