Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s second term as Argentina’s president finishes at the end of 2015. After four years of Néstor Kirchner and eight years of Cristina in La Casa Rosada, who will be the next president of Argentina?
Earlier in her second term, it seemed as if Cristina Fernández might try to reform the constitution and stand for a third term. But the poor showing of her supporters in the 2013 Congressional elections, followed by her absence through illness, meant that this idea has been discarded.
‘There is no possibility of ‘Cristina 2015’ for any elective office’, Ms. Fernández told the Telam news agency recently.
Controversial, energetic, Peronist and left-wing, CFK (as the president is known in Argentina) will leave a tremendous political vacuum.
At least seven politicians, four of them members of the ruling Peronist party Partido Justicialista (PJ), have already announced that they will run to take her place in the October 2015 election.
‘The more candidates, the more democracy is strengthened within political parties,’ Daniel Scioli, governor of Buenos Aires province and president of the PJ, recently told a local radio station according to La Nación.
The other Peronist challengers are Sergio Urribarri, Florencio Randazzo, Aníbal Fernández, For the moment at least, Scioli is the frontrunner.
Although he was vice-president under Néstor Kirchner, Scioli does not have a good relationship with Ms. Fernández.
‘Power is his purpose and ideology. Maybe that’s why Peronists feel him to be so Peronist. His Peronism is a Peronism of symbolic liturgy and pragmatism, and a discourse that is appropriate to the times and circumstances,’ according to Julio Blanck editor in chief of the newspaper Clarín.
His main Peronist rival is Sergio Massa, the former mayor of Tigre, a municipality outside Buenos Aires. Massa supported Carlos Menem when Menem was in office, and did the same with Eduardo Duhalde, Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández.
Massa recently launched his own political party, the centre-right Peronist Frente Renovador. He became a serious contender for the presidency after defeating CFK’s candidate Martín Insaurralde in the Buenos Aires province legislative elections of October 2013.
Horacio Verbitsky, director of Página 12, wrote of him: ‘[Massa] has managed to forge the image of a good administrator. This, added to an unremarkable discourse, which could be a good marketing strategy if it didn’t come so naturally to him, make him a contender.’
The current president of Argentina has not declared her preferences yet, but Sergio Urribarri, governor of Entre Ríos province, has already called himself ‘the expression of the continuity of leadership of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’.
La Cámpora, the radical youth organization of Kirchnerismo, could back him as they are desperate to find a candidate different from Scioli.
However, according to some Argentinian analysts, it might be wise for any Peronist candidate to distance themselves from Ms. Fernández, since her popularity ratings have slumped in recent months.
Even so, there are a substantial number of Peronist voters who remain loyal to her, and would probably follow her recommendation. A lot will depend on how her administration deals with the current huge economic challenges of inflation and growth in the months leading up to the elections.
Beyond Peronism, Mauricio Macri, 55, is the strongest candidate and is probably the only one with as real possibility of breaking the political hegemony of Peronism.
President of Propuesta Republicana (PRO), Mr Macri is a conservative politician and businessman. Between 1995 and 2007 he was president of Boca Juniors, one of Argentina’s most famous football clubs. His success there helped him win the election for head of government of the autonomous city of Buenos Aires in 2007, and to renew his mandate in 2011.
‘The progress we have made in Buenos Aires can be repeated in the whole country. I want to ask you not to give up, not to give up our future. I reaffirm my commitment in building a new alternative in 2015; to be the president of change in 2015,’ Mr Macri said in October 2013 when he announced he would run for the presidential elections.
On the left, the socialist governor of Santa Fe province, Hermes Binner, and the Radical congressman and former vice-president Julio Cobos are the main non-Peronist options. Their chances could be improved if they joined forces and presented a common ticket for the presidential elections.
The main challenge all the candidates face will be to offer some way out of Argentina’s difficult economic situation. Some, like Massa and Scioli, are likely to continue CFK’s policies. Mr. Macri is a determined liberal, who has said he will redress the balance of the peso against the US dollar: ‘In a government like ours, with consistent policies and clear rules, the dollar won’t interest anyone. There will be too many dollars, like in Uruguay, because the level of investment in Argentina will be phenomenal.’
For his part, Sergio Binner is stressing production, strengthening Argentina’s regional economies, adding value to exports, and a progressive fiscal reform.
The other chief concern among voters is crime and insecurity. Both Macri and Massa have already promised to take a tough stance on this problem. Massa for example has expressed his opposition to the recent wide-ranging reform of Argentina’s Penal Code, while Macri has announced he will lower the age of criminal responsibility.
Whoever wins in 2015, a kirchnerista, other peronista, or one of the opposition candidates, there is no doubt that Argentina faces the end of an era after twelve years ruled by the Kirchners.