Despite Elite's Opposition, Kirchnerismo Still Has Wide Popular Support in Argentina

Article excerpt

Ten years after former President Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) began his political project, which his wife, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, continued after his death in 2010, and five months before the Oct. 27 legislative elections, the political climate for Argentines continues to be exhaustingly tense, with an opposition that has the backing of all the powers that be.

In addition to the rightist media, agricultural, industrial, and union organizations, and the judiciary, the opposition also has support abroad, from the Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa (SIP) and US TV network CNN to personalities such as 2010 Nobel laureate in literature Mario Vargas Llosa and European dailies such as El Pais (Spain) and Corriere della Sera (Italy). Only the armed forces remain on the sidelines in this dispute, defending democratic institutionality.

Amid a virulent smear campaign, based on unproven daily allegations of corruption, the government continues to enjoy high approval ratings, and the opposition--a collection of parties that range from progressive to various degrees of centrist to the far right--is unable to weave a unifying program that can electorally challenge the continuation of "Kirchnerismo."

While the president continues running the country and sending Congress bills aimed at consolidating the current democratic model--including allowing young people to participate in political life at age 16, enacting rules to reform the questionable judiciary apparatus, and introducing measures to defend the currency--the press and opposition parties and affiliated groups have launched an over-the-top destabilization campaign that often borders on pro-coup positions.

"It is obvious that such a level of confrontation, which some academics call 'pro-overthrow' activities, can only be explained because Kirchnerismo has touched very powerful interests or has implemented inclusive policies that have increased citizen participation in majority sectors of the population that were marginalized before 2003," said sociologist Ignacio Ramirez, an analyst for consulting firm Ibarometro.

Lowering voting age called electoral ploy

Among Kirchnerismo's "mortal sins," Ramirez cites that of having awakened young people's interest in politics. To be able to vote at age 16, adolescents needed to register before April 30. Almost two-thirds of the 780,000 young people eligible to register did so. Since voting is optional for those between 16 and 18 years of age, it is estimated that the new voters will represent no more than 1.5% of those going to the polls in October.

Youth leaders of all parties support expansion of voting rights as an act that strengthens democracy.

The only one opposed was Patricio Isabella, youth leader of the traditional Union Civica Radical (UCR). Isabella voiced a surprising position: "We'll have to see how many registered to vote and how many were registered without their knowledge to use them to carry out electoral fraud in October."

No one responded, but neither did any leader of his party--once the cornerstone of Argentine democracy--remind him that support for lowering the voting age had been a UCR position.

On May 2, Ramirez wrote an interesting analysis in his column in the daily Pagina 12. "The importance of the youth vote must be examined from a symbolic not a numeric perspective," he said.

"Even though the choices that might predominate [among young people] will not have a significant impact on the overall elections results, the number of newly registered voters must not be interpreted as just one more piece of data; many signs support the contention that it represents a sector that wants to participate in the [political] life of the country. Expanding rights promotes political participation and involvement."

Isabella's statements come within a very particular context in which some are calling for the overthrow of the government, others denounce the violation of basic rights such as freedom of speech, and still others spread the most destabilizing rumors. …