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Monday, July 02, 2007
Perspectives

Kirchner: Nothing Lasts Forever

President Kirchner's closest circle is trying to make sure that Cristina Fernandez doesn't risk the same political fate as Royal in France.
SECOND FIDDLE? President Nestor Kirchner prepares to play second fiddle to his wife, Cristina Fernandez. (Photo: Argentine President's Office)

BY MARIA ZALDIVAR

Exactly four years ago, when Eduardo Duhalde, senator in charge of the national executive branch, chose the presidential candidate of the Peronist party, Néstor Kirchner had between 6 and 7 percent of voting intention. He won the election that year with 22 percent of the vote, thanks to Duhalde’s political machine of patronage, and six months later he had garnered more than 70 percent of popular support. All of which happened in only year.

This blank check that was handed out by the general audience served to fulfil what Peronists invariably fulfil with power: their own will. And this is how the fledgling administration took on special powers typical of the Congress, modified and manipulated national budget allocations at its own will, removed judges, repealed laws which had been approved by the people’s representatives, handed out radio and television frequencies by decree, froze rates, intimidated journalists, and failed to fulfil contracts and recognize debts. This was the work of the same administration that once withdrew, with unknown destination, $500 million from the country’s public funds belonging to the province of Santa Cruz, and to this day, ten years later, it refuses to repatriate them.

LIKE A TEENAGER

The Argentine society behaves like a teenager; it goes from love to hate with amazing speed. When in love, it tolerates even the outrageous, but when its fascination fades away, it acts with no warning. Its mood swings are unpredictable and, all of a sudden, it can remove the red carpet from under anyone’s feet. The same red carpet it once unfolded and on which it usually kneels down before any given authority.

Néstor Kirchner was fast to take advantage of the widespread bout of delight, but life is not a still frame, so the affair ended as nonchalantly as it had begun. Kirchner was not prepared for these twisted logics, and now he can see the change before his sceptical eyes. His notorious rudeness, his confrontational rationale of “them” (the bad guys) versus “us” (the good guys), and his embrace of chosen representatives are not enough to win the support of the people.

His first major setback was back in October, last year, when the province of Misiones turned massively to the polls to vote against the indefinite continuity of the Kirchnerist candidate. [On June 3], in Neuquén, the opposition ticket also won the election. President Kirchner has not been to his home province of Santa Cruz since March, due to the massive protests of unions to the official administration, and he has delayed his sister’s run for governor for the same reason. More recently, the list of setbacks was extended by Tierra del Fuego and Buenos Aires, the strategic district of the capital city.

AVOIDING ROYAL'S FATE

The strategists who prowl around official offices claim that those who do not vote for them are wrong. It is that hard for them to assimilate the message. Their authoritarianism prevents them from understanding that they have gone too far. The new outlook, however, has imposed on Kirchnerism the need to reassess its next steps. (...) In the “century of women”, as Cristina Kirchner said to Segolene Royal, the President’s closest circle is trying for the senator not to risk the same political fate as the French officer, so that the press cannot draw any more similarities between both stories.

María Zaldívar is a TV journalist from Argentina and Bachelor of Political Science (UCA, Catholic University of Argentina). This article was originally published by the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research (HACER). Republished with permission.

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