How will Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner fare without her political mentor?

1 Nov

As hundreds of mourners took to the streets of Buenos Aires last week to commemorate former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner, the future of Argentine politics lay in the balance. Kirchner’s death amounts to a political vacuum in a country that has been governed since 2001 by a power-sharing couple, criticised in the past for using their alliance to abuse presidential term limits.

Despite undergoing two major operations this year, Kirchner’s death shocked the public as the 60-year-old was widely expected to stand for office again in 2011. With only a weak and fragmented opposition to the Kirchner duo, it was likely they could have alternated the presidency for the foreseeable future.

But not only does the loss of Kirchner highlight the lack of organised opposition; it throws an unwelcome light on the government of his widow and current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Fernández de Kirchner succeeded her husband as President in 2007 in a campaign that many believe he manufactured in order to resume the presidential role the following term. Despite strong economic growth and social progress under her leadership, Fernández de Kirchner has come under criticism from observers who perceive her as nothing more than her husband’s puppet.

One such critic is Sylvina Walger, a prominent Argentine journalist who recently published a biography of the President which presented her as her husband’s mouthpiece and whipping boy. Walger claimed that Néstor Kirchner was a ‘parallel president’ who made his wife’s decisions and became furious if she disobeyed them. Quoted in an article by Matthew Campbell for the Sunday Times, Walger said: “All that’s left of that marriage is the question of how to divide the spoils of power. The real president is Néstor. He is the one taking all the important decisions. She does everything he tells her.”

Walger’s book, From Legislator to Fashion President, descends into a work of scandal as it exposes Fernández de Kirchner’s vanity (she supposedly changes outfit three times a day), describes Kirchner as “mean, petty, vengeful and envious” and alleges that both have had affairs. However, if there is any truth in the balance of the Kirchners’ power-share then not only is Argentina suffering a political void, but their President has lost her chief advisor.

Argentine Foreign Affairs minister, Hector Timerman, recently divulged that he expects Fernández de Kirchner will stand in next year’s election. Since the death of the ‘parallel president’ who, if Walger is to be believed, controlled every aspect of his wife’s presidency, how will Fernández de Kirchner fare without him? Did the show of emotion last Thursday demonstrate the Argentinians’ support for the Kirchner couple, which could see his widow through to a second term next year? Or will Fernández de Kirchner find herself battling with her late husband’s popularity like a puppet that’s lost its master?

It will be interesting to see over the next few months not only how Argentina’s opposition parties manoeuvre to occupy the power vacuum, but also how their President copes with not just the loss of her husband, but her political guide.

Photo 1: bbc

Photo 2: mercopress


2 Responses to “How will Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner fare without her political mentor?”

  1. Lauren Garnham November 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm #

    Excellent writing Katie- it felt like I was reading an article in The TImes. Well done. I will make sure I will follow this story from now on, but I am sure it won’t be as articulate as this.


  1. The best of Latin American Film comes to London « HispanicLondon - November 15, 2010

    […] elected Presidents: Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner (Argentina), as well as her husband and ex-President Nestor Kirchner, Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), […]

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