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04/07/2007 | Election 2007: Argentina's Electoral Suspense Ends as First Lady/Senator Makes Bid for Presidency

Global Insight Staff

President Néstor Kirchner will not bid for a second consecutive term, leaving his almost equally popular wife Senator Cristina Fernández seeking to succeed him to Argentina's top post.

 

Global Insight Perspective

Significance

The die has been cast for the ruling (pro-President Néstor Kirchner) Peronist faction as it has been confirmed that Kirchner's wife, Senator Cristina Fernández, will represent the party at the presidential ballot in October 2007.

Implications

Senator Kirchner will seek to succeed her husband, with current polls placing her as a clear favourite at this stage, even able to secure an outright win and avoid balloting.

Outlook

Recent difficulties faced by the incumbent administration may have tilted the balance in favour of her candidacy, leaving time for the still-popular president to preserve his image and run in the 2011 election, while never, in the meantime, being truly estranged from power under his wife's potential presidency.

President Néstor Kirchner is leaving aside his own presidential re-election ambition to let his wife, SenatorCristina Fernández de Kirchner, run in the presidential race of October 2007. Fernández's candidacy was announced by Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernández this weekend as reported by the government news agency Telam. Formal confirmation from the Kirchners themselves has yet to materialise, however, but the intervention of the Cabinet Chief leaves little space for doubt on the matter. According to Alberto Fernández, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will formalise her bid on 19 July, in her home city of La Plata.

His comments put an end to more than a year of suspense over who will stand for the Kirchnerist banner in the forthcoming vote. Last year Kirchner himself had planted the seeds of speculation by openly declaring that he or his wife would run.

The First Lady and Senator for the province of Buenos Aires, was increasingly seen as an electoral option, however, as she undertook a series of high-profile international tours worthy of a top government official in a move seen as raising her profile ahead of an electoral campaign.

Her popularity and own independent political career make Cristina Fernández a valid option for the Peronist party (or Justicialist Party- PJ). Latest polls suggest that she has around 46- 48% of popular support, giving her the edge to win in the election's first round at this time. Mrs Kirchner more or less directly benefits from the successes of her husband's term in office, namely economic recovery, with the country registering its fourth consecutive year of economic expansion at an8% average.

At the same time, she emerges as more insulated from the current difficulties President Kirchner is facing with potential negative impact on his own approval ratings. The president is having to deal with energy supply issues and recent turmoil in his traditional political bastion and home province of Santa Cruz, and to overcome a series of defeats from his partisans at the ballot box, notably in the capital, Buenos Aires.

The Kirchner marriage is also likely to have calculated that President Kirchner's popularity may suffer in the event of a second consecutive term in office—the Constitution only allows two consecutive terms in office, but one may run for more than two presidencies overall. Fernández's presidency would thus enable her husband to avoid a lame-duck and weakened administration, and allow him to run once again in 2011, reinvigorated and spared from the natural loss of enthusiasm for his leadership. As such her presidential bid opens the way for speculations on the couple's plans for the coming years.

Outlook and Implications

Senator Kirchner is ideologically close to her husband: they share the same political vision for the country. She is nonetheless a stand-alone politician who could be keen to make her own independent mark on the country's political, economic and social trajectories.

As such many predict a more ideologically driven way of ruling, while others believe that she might adopt a more conciliatory and markedly friendlier approach while in power. In any case, Global Insight does not predict any dramatic changes on the economic and social course of the country if she becomes president.

Four months remain before the vote takes place, a lengthy period of time for Argentina's turbulent political landscape and Senator Kirchner could well find herself in a slightly weaker position in the October poll, with a possible second round in sight. However, for now her victory is not questioned. Her campaign is set to be the focus of other contenders as she is undeniably the "one to beat".

Her glamorous look may help her in the media realm, while she actively seeks to assimilate herself with the late iconic First Lady Evita Perón, wife of the equally iconic and several times president Juan Domingo Perón—the founder of the Peronist party. Cristina will run for the Front for Victory alliance, forged by her husband for the last mid-term election, gathering pro-Kirchner Peronist activists and other political individuals, independent or tied to other parties. Other confirmed candidates and/or likely runners include Elisa Carrío (left), Roberto Lavagna (centre-left), Ricardo López Murphy (right), and former president Carlos Menem (from the Peronist party).

Global Insight (Reino Unido)

 


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