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30/10/2007 | Election 2007: First Lady Triumphs in Argentine Vote

Global Insight Staff

Senator and First Lady Cristina Fernández de Kirchner became Argentina's first elected female president yesterday, as she secured widespread support and avoided a second-round run-off.

 

Global Insight Perspective

Significance

As the formal vote count continues in Argentina, the partial result has given an undeniable first-round victory to the glamorous and energetic first lady, Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, with all opponents admitting their defeat.

Implications

The overall performance of Fernández and her allies in the concurrent presidential, legislative, and gubernatorial races gives a sense of legitimacy and clear domination to the president-elect and the ruling Front for Victory alliance on the eve on the 2007-2011 term, which starts on 10 December 2007.

Outlook

President-elect Fernández will face immediate challenges in her presidency with ongoing double-digit inflation, pressures for higher wages, and problems with the country's power supply, which will be tested by the forthcoming summer season.

Argentina's First Elected Female President

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, wife of incumbent president Néstor Kirchner, triumphed in Argentina's presidential race yesterday, amassing 43% of the votes in early partial—yet formal—results. The extent of her lead over Elisa Carrió from the Civic Coalition (CC), of nearly 23 percentage points, was deemed unassailable by electoral authorities, and Carrió conceded defeat in the early hours of the morning. The vote count has continued since then; the latest results published by the national electoral body confirm the earlier tendencies. With 90.65% of polling stations reviewed Fernández has garnered 44.34% of the votes, Carrió stands at 23.21% and former economy minister Roberto Lavagna at 17.09%. Fernández made her first appearance as Argentina's president-elect in the evening, to the applause of her husband, the whole Cabinet and a cheering crowd, positively glowing with the achievement and signalling "V" for "Victory" to her supporters. She was quick to reiterate her promises to continue the poverty- and unemployment-reduction effort, while maintaining the growth model enacted under the leadership of her husband. The election was not incident-free, however, with claims of irregularities mushrooming over the course of the voting yesterday. However, all presidential candidates have formalised their acceptance of her clear-cut triumph, tempering the significance of the allegations.

Ruling Coalition Wins on (Almost) All Fronts

President-elect Fernández drew support from most provinces, but one of her key victories took place in the province of Buenos Aires where she secured 46% of the vote. Being the largest electoral district in the country, her performance there was decisive in helping to secure a first-round win. In some other less-populated provinces, her support reached record highs—for example, 80% in Formosa province. Her impressive score is mirrored by the performance of government-backed candidates in the gubernatorial elections held concomitantly in eight provinces. All of them were won by the Front for Victory/Justicialist Party (FV/PJ) coalition or its allies. Argentina will thus have, from 10 December onwards, a total of 19 provinces under the control of pro-Fernández/Kirchner governors. As for the legislative election, Fernández is confirmed to be in charge, with control over both the lower and upper houses. The overall positive electoral panorama for the new presidency should not, however, obscure some of the weaker points, or the rise of Carrió as a strong opposition figure. Indeed, Carrió inflicted a key defeat on Fernández in the capital, Buenos Aires, in Rosario, and the other major city of Córdoba. The now-president-elect appeared unable to coax support from the urban middle classes. The results came as a warning to the ruling coalition of a need to change tactics to strike a chord with the more populated and urban sectors of the population, who are more sensitive to rising crime, inflation, and transparency concerns. Carrió's performance in the capital and most cities pits her against the right-of-centre Mauricio Macri, Buenos Aires's mayor-elect whose win in that local election earlier this year depicted him as a strong rising opposition figure to watch out for in the 2011 presidential race. Carrió is thus seen to be a contender for support in the capital, and the backing she was able to secure at the national level is a powerful warning for both Macri and the Kirchner couple for the 2011 elections.

Outlook and Implications

"Cristina" has secured a powerful start for her presidential term, officially starting on 10 December 2007 and ending in 2011, securing a strong mandate at the polls—despite the lowest turnout since 1928, with around 70% participation. She will enjoy control over Congress and boast co-operative governorship in the majority of provinces. As highlighted in the past, her presidency will be geared to deepen the positive achievements of her husband.

Yet it will face major challenges, notably: dealing with demands for wage increases; tackling double-digit inflation; stimulating foreign direct investment; guaranteeing a soft landing for the economy; rectifying the country's power-supply deficit; addressing the issue of crime in urban areas; renegotiating the debt with the Paris Club; and ensuring that her key electoral promises of instigating a tripartite "Social Pact" materialise.

The most immediate challenges are likely to come in the form of unions intensifying their demands for enhanced remuneration, while the coming Southern hemisphere summer will once again put the power grid to the test. Investors will be keen to see evidence of her much-vaunted intentions of greater conciliation in her handling of the private sector.

Fernández's ties to the incumbent administration will mean that the traditional post-vote "honeymoon period" with the electorate will be harder to maintain in the short term.

Global Insight (Reino Unido)

 


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