Whoever said Argentina’s former president was finished? Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is alive and kicking, as the results of the country’s primary elections on Sunday ahead of October’s mid-terms are likely to show. Most polls put her in the lead in the senatorial race of the all-important province of Buenos Aires by several percentage points.
For some – probably the same ones that thought Fernández would retire from politics after her presidency ended in 2015 to look after her grandchildren and tend to her garden(s) in Patagonia – this is baffling. How could someone who left behind an economy in ruins and is up to the eyeballs in corruption accusations retain such strong support?True, there is no shortage of Argentines whose support for the populist icon transcends the rational (look no further than this viral Youtube videoof a grinning baker crooning along to Marco Antonio Solis’ “No Hay Nada Más Difícil”, which he winkingly dedicates to his “Cris” as he massages rolls of dough).
But the most worrying answer for President Mauricio Macri is that too many Argentines think he is even worse. The fact that Fernández bequeathed a central bank that was running on empty, putting the nation on the brink of a balance of payments crisis, might seem like an extravagant abstraction if your primary concern is to put enough food on the table each day. As for corruption, show me an Argentine politician who isn’t corrupt, they’ll say.
It’s scarcely an issue. What is an issue is that many people are – or feel – worse off today than they did two years ago.That should finally be beginning to change. A barrage of recent economic data support the government’s claims that the economy is at last bouncing back after some painful reforms it deemed necessary to right the listing economy. Perhaps this is not being felt on the street yet, to a strong enough degree. But it is also possible that it will be by October, the vote that really counts.
If so, this could be Macri’s darkest hour. But that is the optimistic reading. The doubters fear that a strong showing for Fernández not just on Sunday but in October too could set off a chain of events that would assure he is a one-term president, rendering him a lame duck. One thing is for sure: regardless of whether Fernández is capable of winning back the presidency – and few really think she can – investors would punish Argentines for their mystifying political choices.
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Quote of the week
“This is an alert. It could be a watershed moment in the city where businesses, civil society and the government come together to say this cannot keep happening in our city” – Humberto Lozano, the director of the Mexico City branch of the business chamber Canaco, after police killed eight narcotraffickers in Mexico City.