Argentina Political Players
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner: Although an influential political figure in her own right, the former first lady’s 2007 presidential bid was inarguably boosted by the popularity of her husband, Nestor Kirchner, and she has maintained the heterodox economic policy course inherited from her husband. Fernández lacks her husband’s broad appeal and air of authority, and the decline in her approval rating early in her presidency, which was followed by significant losses for the pro-Kirchner FPV at mid-term elections held in June 2009, raised doubts about her ability to keep the first couple’s dynastic plans on track. Kirchner’s unexpected death from a heart attack in 2010 helped to transform Fernández into a tragic figure, and the resulting boost in her popular standing was reinforced by a very strong economic recovery in 2010–2011. She easily won election to a second term in October 2011, but with growth slowing, inflation soaring, and foreign currency reserves being depleted at an alarming pace, Fernandez has come under heavy pressure to adopt a more orthodox policy program. She has displayed no inclination to do so, and her failure to adjust course is likely to cost the government its congressional majority at the 2013 mid-term elections and Fernández any chance of achieving a constitutional amendment that might allow her to stand for a third term in 2015.
Justicialist Party: Despite the handicap arising from divisive factionalism, the party of Perónism remains the country’s dominant political force. The Kirchnerist FPV wing of the PJ is the single largest bloc in both legislative chambers, but the unity of the bloc may not survive the steep and protracted slump in popular support for Fernández since her landslide win in October 2011. If expectations of another bruising defeat for the FPV at the 2013 mid-term elections are borne out, the president could see many of her current allies desert to other factions of the PJ ahead of the 2015 presidential and legislative elections. Among the likely beneficiaries are Sergio Massa’s Perónist Renewal Front (FRP) and the Union Front (FU), a bloc headed by Francisco de Narvaez, a self- proclaimed “welfarist” who nevertheless opposes the Kirchnerists’ interference in private-sector operations.
Sergio Massa: A former top aide to Fernández who parted ways with the president less than two months before the August 2013 primaries, Massa finished comfortably ahead of the FPV candidate for the must-win Buenos Aires seat, and has now positioned himself as the early favorite to succeed Fernández in 2015. Massa, the current mayor of Tigre, served as a Cabinet chief during the president’s first term, but his tenure in that post lasted only a year, a period marked by disagreements with the president on numerous issues, including the nationalization of private pension funds, the handling of allegations of government manipulation of the inflation data issued by the state statistical agency, and significant independent regulatory authority granted to Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno. But Massa did not formally break with the FPV until July 2013, when he formed his own PJ bloc, the FRP, which groups former Kirchnerites who have become disenchanted with Fernández, Perónists who never warmed to the Kirchners, and independents.
Amado Boudou: The vice president was named director of the national social security agency amid a controversy over President Fernández’s move to nationalize the private pension system, and was promoted to the post of minister of economy and public finance following the government’s drubbing at the 2009 mid-term elections. Boudou organized a successful second debt swap with the holders of some $18 billion of defaulted debt in 2010, clearing the way for the country’s full return to the international credit markets. The debt deal was made possible by the government’s very controversial assertion of authority to use central bank reserves for the purpose of debt repayment, and Boudou’s display of loyalty to President Fernández during an ensuing battle with the head of the central bank was rewarded with a nomination as the FPV’s vice presidential candidate, which could indicate that he is being groomed to stand as the faction’s presidential nominee in 2015.
Radical Civic Union: The UCR is the country’s oldest party, and despite the erosion of its support and factional troubles, it remains the largest opposition party in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and would probably be a main player in any government that is not dominated by the FPV. Most members of the pro-Kirchner faction of the party (the so-called “K-Radicals”), including Julio Cobos, who was elected vice president in 2007 on the FPV ticket, broke with the Kirchnerists following Fernandez’s election. The UCR reversed its decision to suspend the party membership of the K-Radicals, a move that may have been crucial to the UCR’s ability to hold its own in the recent elections.
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