Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Señora Presidente Cristina Fernández (assuming the votes are all there)

Cristina Fernández, the first woman to be elected President of Argentina, is declaring victory in the Sunday balloting. Not all the votes are counted yet. But the early returns show her in a strong lead - she'll need a plurality of 45% - over her two closest competitors.

In Argentina gets set to elect its 'Hillary' by Sara Miller Llana Christian Science Monitor 10/26/07, Llana reports that the support for Fernández reflects a desire for continuity with the current administration headed by her husband, outgoing Presidente Néstor Kirchner. Kirchner is widely credited for leading the country out of a severe economic downturn that began in 2001. (When using their last names, he's called Kirchner, she's called Fernández and together they are referred to as the Kirchners.) Llana writes:

Some have embraced her fight for human rights, her international outlook, the economic policies the Kirchners espouse, and the mere fact that she is a woman, says Agustin Salvia, a sociologist at the Catholic University of Argentina. But the vast majority of her support comes from the poor, many of whom lost their jobs during the crisis and have found their economic foothold again – a turnaround for which they thank the Kirchners. "They have seen their economic situation improve, and they want it to continue," he says. ...

José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch, says that her commitment to fighting impunity and constitutional reform has been obvious since she became a legislator. "Cristina Fernández, in my view, is going to add something new to Argentina," says Mr. Vivanco. On crises both in the region and as far away as Darfur, he expects more participation from Argentina. "In meeting her, it was obvious how interested she was in learning about foreign relations, and how curious intellectually she was about serious problems in this region, as well as others."

Many have drawn comparisons to Eva Peron, Argentina's legendary first lady whom the masses adored, but observers say she has been more enthusiastic about the "Hillary" comparison. While she fights for social justice, she is also a strong advocate of private investment.

Today, she is a senator for the province of Buenos Aires, and likes to point out that, unlike Hillary Clinton, she was a senator before her husband became president.

Since she was also a legislative leader supporting Kirchner's policies, presumably she will provide a great deal of continuity. Including continuing the good realtions Kirchner maintained with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. Her vice president elected with her (assuming the percentages come out right) is Julio Cobs of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR). The Kirchner policies achieved an impressive reduction in the number officially living in poverty or destitution.

Relations with Venezuela could shift, however, since she has indicated her intention to improve Argentine realtions with the US, Brazil and Chile.

Not only is she the first woman to be elected President of Argentina, but Sonia Aparicion reports in El Mundo that this will be the first time ever anywhere that a woman directly succeeded her husband as head of a government through elections. (Isabel Perón succeeded her husband Juan Domingo Perón after he died in his last stint in office; she served as president 1974-1976.) Fernández' party is called Frente para la Victoria (FPV). One advantage she enjoyed in this election is that there has been considerable party turmoil in recent years, weakening the ability of opposition parties to successfully contest this presidential election.

Fernández was heavily favored prior to the election. Her opponents only hope in Sunday's election was to block her from having the percentage she needed to win on the first round. She needed 45% to be elected under Argentine election laws, or 40% if no opponent got as much as 15%.

The second leading candidate is also a woman, Elisa Carrió of the Coalición Cívica. She advocated a conservative program emphasizing low inflation, fighting corruption and criticizing Argentina's current friendly relationship to Venezuela. Oddly, political analysts have been known to characterize her style as similar to that of Hugo Chávez. Carrió in the early returns was polling over 20%.

The third-ranking candidate is Roberto Lavagna of Una Nación Avanzada (UNA) also emphasized controlling inflation and reducing the national debt. He gave particular emphasis to developing the nation's energy industry, including nuclear power. Lavagna had Peronist sympathies, i.e., "populist" but with an authoritarian streak.

Accoring to the reports, Propuestas de candidato: Propuestas de Cristina Fernández, del Frente para la Victoria Yahoo! Noticias Argentina (accessed 10/28/07), Fernández may have a California streak:

Cristina Fernández dice además apostar por una Argentina "diferente", sin represión de las fuerzas de seguridad, "donde nunca más un Presidente se tenga que ir o tenga que adelantar las elecciones". En ese sentido, aboga por la "canalización democrática de la conflictividad social", en la línea en que según opina, se ha movido su marido Néstor Kirchner desde que asumió el poder en 2003. Por último, la candidata presidencial aboga por la "construcción cultural", para que los argentinos recobren la autoestima. Debe implicar la reconstrucción de una cultura del esfuerzo y del trabajo.

[Cristina Fernández says further that she is committed to a "different" Argentina, without repression by the security forces, "where never again will the President have to leave or have to advance the elections". In this sense, she defends the "democratic channeling of the social tendency to conflict," in the direction in which she believes she moved her husband Néstor Kirchner since he assumed power in 2003. In the end, the presiential candidate argues for "cultural construction", through which Argentines will recover their self-esteem. That could mean reconstruction of a culture of strength and labor.]
To quote Jaime the Bionic Woman, "That's sounds awfully New Agey." But if it works, hey, it works.

Fernández' Campaign Web site
Fernández' Senate Web site

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