Argentine President Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner Could Win Second Term

By Gaudin, Andres | NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, May 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner Could Win Second Term


Gaudin, Andres, NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs


Argentines will elect their next president on Oct. 23, 2011, and everything--voter-preference polls, support from sectors that have until now kept a distance from the presidential contest, a fragmented opposition, lack of alternative proposals--indicates that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) will be re-elected for a new four-year term. The country's power groups and the principal media outlets--which have become ideologues and engines of the opposition to the president's progressive program--refuse to accept this. Consequently, Argentina is going through a complex situation.

"Without measuring the consequences of their actions," said Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, "the government's enemies do not waver in their statements or in their actions and employ all the power of the media and their international connections to generate permanent and dangerous conflicts on the foreign front, where the country is positioned as never before, with a recognized and commended democracy, which is thought of in the highest terms."

The head of Argentine diplomacy was referring to two brief but powerful episodes in which relations were jeopardized with two countries with close ties to Argentina: Switzerland and Israel. Meanwhile, the electoral timetable is moving forward with early balloting in several provinces (in all cases, with auspicious results for the governing party), and the government continues governing and making decisions that boost its approval ratings.

The Argentine Constitution requires that the presidential election be held on the same day throughout the country. In legislative or provincial elections, however, each governor is free to choose the date, generally one based on convenience, although the pretext for moving local elections ahead of the presidential balloting is always the same: to prevent mixing major national issues with local issues.

Early voting shows president in good shape

For this reason, voting will take place somewhere in the country each month until October. The first provincial election was on March 13 in Catamarca (northeastern Argentina), followed by Chubut (in the south) and Salta (in the far north). In the first two provinces, candidates allied with the Fernandez administration seemed to have no possibility of winning. The opposition used its apparent lead to present the voting as a plebiscite on the president's future. However, in both cases, the governing party did surprisingly well. It won in Catamarca, where a coalition encompassing all opposition groups has governed for the past 20 years. It lost in Chubut by a mere 320 votes in elections deemed fraudulent in some districts, which must vote again. In Salta, governing-party candidates won with nearly 60% of the vote.

The wide-open situation gave all opposition presidential candidates cause for reflection. Former President Eduardo Duhalde (2001-2003) did not engage in self-criticism but was emphatic. "CFK is running alone," he said. "The opposition has no candidates and nothing structured. We must start over."

Current Vice President Julio Cobos, at odds with the president and a would-be opposition candidate, said, "Catamarca and Chubut are provincial elections, but they had a national impact and sent us a powerful message that one must know how to interpret. We cannot be naive and say that this doesn't oblige us to rethink everything."

After the debacle, the Chubut governor, a member of the president's political party but now estranged from her, withdrew his nomination bid.

Another hopeful, Felipe Sola, former governor of Buenos Aires province--the largest electoral district in the country--was brief but categorical. "There is an overwhelming 'Cristinista' wave," he said, referring to the president.

Ricardo Alfonsin, son of former President Raul Alfonsin (1983-1989) and candidate for the traditional Union Civico Radical (UCR), made a strange analysis, the result perhaps of the impotence with which the opposition sees the future. …

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