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ARGENTINA
A 1st-round win for Cristina?
Andrés Gaudin
10/18/2007
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Polls show Fernández set to be Argentina’s next president.

Argentines go to the polls to elect their next president on Oct. 28, and recent surveys show that Sen. Cristina Fernández, wife of outgoing President Néstor Kirchner, will cruise to an easy win as the country’s first elected female president.

Argentina was governed for 20 months by a woman, but María Estela Martínez de Perón, widow of Gen. Juan Domingo Perón (1946-55 and 1973-74), had been elected vice president and took over the office after her husband’s death in 1974. She was later unseated by the 1976 military coup. The bloody dictatorship that followed lasted until 1983.

Pollsters a month before the vote, in which almost 27 million Argentines will go to the polls, showed Fernández winning the election in the first round.

She is trailed by another woman: former lawmaker Elisa Carrió, leader of the Civic Coalition that she formed a few months ago with the intent to convert her platform into a formidable challenger, though she was unsuccessfully. Carrió lost the 2003 election to Kirchner.

The next president will hold a four-year term. Argentines will also elect 24 of 72 national senators and 128 of the 257 deputies in the lower house of Congress. Eight of the 24 provinces will also elect governors and provincial lawmakers.

An easy win
“Cristina will win the presidency with a lead of 32 percentage points, surpassing in the first round all the constitutional requirements for a second round,” said sociologist Analía del Franco, director of the pollster Analogías.
A second round would be necessary only if no candidate won more than 45 percent, or if he or she captures 40 percent of the vote without at least a 10-point lead above the next candidate.

Milka Sosa, a grassroots leader of the hotel and food workers’ union, says that little is known about Fernández’s platform “aside from the slogan: Change is just beginning.”

“But her opponents’ histories are so poor … that it’s enough for her the consensus that her husband’s government enjoys until now,” which is between 54 and 58 percent, Sosa continued.

Political scientist Rosendo Fraga, in a meeting with members of the Christian Executives Association, said that this is the “most extensive” campaign since Argentina returned to democracy in 1983.

But “it also shows the greatest voter apathy, motivated perhaps by the fact that the candidates haven’t offered possibilities of participation, whether in party structures or in public acts,” he said.

The first hints of the candidacy were announced in March, when Kirchner cryptically said that the candidate for the Front for Victory — his grouping within the Justice (Peronist) Party — would be “a penguin,” a nickname given to the president for his origins in the southern Santa Cruz province, home to large colonies of these birds.

Only in July did Kirchner announce that the “penguin” was Fernández.

Varied allies
Since then the government has dedicated its political machinery to the Kirchner family, and also has absorbed political support from various sectors, including the Radical Civic Union, a historical opponent of Peronism, and even the old Socialist Party, a shrinking movement, but an old bastion of democracy.

Fernández’s running mate is Mendoza Gov. Julio Cobos, a Radical Civic Union leader — in one of the two provinces governed by this party — and the government’s deputy Cabinet chief is Jorge Rivas, secretary general of the Socialist Party in Buenos Aires, a district with almost 10 million voters — 38 percent of the electorate.

Other candidates had weak campaigns. Ex-President Carlos Menem (1989-99) tried to run but found he had almost no support even in his native La Rioja province. But analysts agree that the electoral panorama hints at little change for Argentine democracy.

“This disorderly electoral campaign is marked by the deterioration of the political parties,” wrote Julio Blanck in the Clarín newspaper.

In the other popular daily La Nación, Joaquín Morales Solá write: “It’s not crazy to ask oneself if a definitive end to the old political parties is coming.”
Opposition leadership, sunk in ferocious personal fights until the expiration of legal inscription of candidates and electoral alliances, has gone above the self-critical analysis and done a big favor to the presidential marriage: continuing disjointed despite the existence of tickets more or less akin in the progressive movement, the right and the many that represent the left.


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