Analysis; Vigorous Economic Growth Propelled Cristina's Victory

Article excerpt

Byline: VERONICA SARDON

PRESIDENT Nestor Kirchner and his wife and designated successor, centre-left Cristina Fernandez, have a lot of power, but also many powerful critics.

Both rarely give interviews and never hold press conferences, and Argentine media have complained for ages of their "authoritarian" style.

However, the magnitude of Fernandez's expected election victory on Sunday -- with close to 45 percent of the ballots and some 22 percentage points over the second-place candidate, meaning that there will be no runoff -- escaped no one Monday.

And neither does her husband's contribution to the impressive result.

"The president yesterday won a plebiscite on his administration.

His wife would never have won as she won if she had just been the electoral expression of an unpopular, withdrawing government," political analyst Joaquin Morales Sola wrote.

Writing Monday in the conservative daily La Nacion, Morales Sola noted that the South American country's economic growth figures, with annual rates consistently above 8 percent, constitute "the political column that protected Nestor Kirchner even from his own mistakes."

Clarin -- the most popular Argentine daily -- agreed.

"President Nestor Kirchner is a major contributor to the support his wife received at the polls and will get to realize another historic novelty: It will be the first time that a democratically elected president concludes his mandate with high levels of support and leaves power without seeking reelection," an editorial said.

Senator Cristina Fernandez, 54, will be the first elected female president in Argentine history, but she is no newcomer to politics and has a long career as a regional and national legislator.

When her husband became president in 2003 she was quick to change her title from "first lady" to "first citizen." It remains to be seen how Kirchner will now slide into that mold.

"There is no doubt that he will be, like his wife was, an influential figure in the exercise of power. Will he have Cristina (Fernandez's) sensitivity of recent years to exert influence without it showing?" Morales Sola asked.

Kirchner's Chief of Staff Alberto Fernandez -- billed also to be part of the incoming government -- lost no time to jump on the question Monday. …