A crucial year for the Kirchners in Argentina

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faces a congress led by a fragmented opposition. (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faces a congress led by a fragmented opposition. (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)

By Carlos Orías for Infosurhoy.com – 05/01/2010

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Since the middle of 2003, the letter K has become a symbol for a controversial manner in which the media covers politics.

The media’s detractors claim that until 2009, “K-style” has denoted the attitude of an authoritarian government with the support of a comfortable parliamentary majority. However, the media’s advocates claim the government has kept the country afloat during a worldwide financial crisis.

But the sides do agree on this premise: The letter K stands for Kirchner, surname of the former president Néstor (2003-2007) and his wife and successor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who will govern the country until December 2011 as a representative of the Partido Justicialista (Justicialist Party, PJ, Peronista).

But in 2010, with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s term entering its final two years and her husband reserving his right to run in future elections, the pair faces a key period in determining what happens next to the couple. The Kirchners must refine their political and social alliances in the face of dissident Peronism and the Unión Cívica Radical (Radical Civic Union).

This year, which will be highlighted by the celebration of the bicentenary of Argentina becoming an independent republic, also will be marked by the renewed leadership in congress, which has been dealing with increased social conflict, indicators of consumer inflation and the increasing participation of unions in the political arena.

“The weak recovery of the economy will not improve conditions in the country,” said sociologist Eduardo Fidanza, the director of the consultancy Poliarquía.

In order for that to happen, it would require a strong increase in employment and the levels of consumerism, but with inflation estimated to be between 16% and 20%, according to La Nación.

“This is extremely improbable,” Fidanza said.

According to Clarín, Argentina will be among the countries with the highest inflation in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund’s rankings of 186 countries. Argentina is expected to have the third-highest inflation, after the Democratic Republic of the Congo (31.2%) and Venezuela (28%).

Luis Cigogna, a congressman from the Kirchner’s party, indicated that the government expects economic growth of 6% this year. However, the depreciation of the salaries of Argentines as a result of inflation casts a large shadow on the Kirchners.

It could be in this environment that the presidential elections will take place in August 2011.

Former Peronista president Eduardo Duhalde, along with current Vice President, Julio Cobos; Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires; and Carlos Reutemann, senator and former governor of the province of Santa Fé, are among the candidates who could run for president against Néstor Kirchner should he seek a return to the presidency.

Before the change in the legislature, which took place last December, when the political landscape was more favorable in both chambers, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner succeeded in passing laws that represent the interests of the opposition parties, which makes it difficult at the moment for the legislature to unite as a counterweight, according to Clarín.

The Kirchners will have to “spend political capital” if they want to avoid the final period of their administration being an uphill struggle, according to the Buenos Aires daily newspaper Crítica.

Since the legislative elections of June 2009, the president has seen the approval of the media law, during which she battled major media conglomerates who were criticizing her administration. She’s also ratified an extension of the Economic Emergency Law, which allowed the state to direct funds to social welfare, which appeased the unions. She also approved laws regarding political reform, which impose a process of internal elections on all the parties to select their candidates to run in presidential and congressional elections.

“The Government needs to spend on social welfare programs in order to maintain its political alliances from above, but inflation could erode political support from below,” Aníbal Pérez Liñán, an Argentine political expert who works as a professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh, told La Nación. “This will put the administration in a delicate political balancing act.”

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