Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oh what a circus! Oh what a show!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Instead of government we had a stage
Instead of ideas, a prima donna's rage
Instead of help we were given a crowd
She didn't say much, but she said it loud

-- from Evita


Imagine if Laura were taking over for George. Or if Cherie had stepped in and nudged Gordon out of the way. Or... well, you get the point, I'm sure.

I just wonder if the Argentinians do.


Yes, in Argentina, Kirchner will be taking over for Kirchner, Cristina for Nestor, the first lady for the sitting president:

Argentina's current first lady, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has secured victory in the country's presidential election.

With ballots counted at almost all polling stations, Mrs Kirchner had an unassailable 44.9% lead.

Her nearest rival, former lawmaker Elisa Carrio, has admitted defeat, trailing on 23% of the vote.

Mrs Kirchner will succeed her husband Nestor Kirchner and become Argentina's first elected female president.

All she needed to avoid a second round was at least 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent with a 10-point lead, and she met at least one of those thresholds. She will be sworn in next month.

For more on the election, see here. (For a Q&A, see here.)


Now, to be fair, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is, it would seem, more than just a pretty face. She was involved in the Peronist Youth movement in the 1970s, has practised law, was a deputy in the Santa Cruz provincial legislature from 1989 to 1995, and has been elected to both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies at the national level. And, comparing herself to the current Democratic Party frontrunner, she said this in her defence: "Hillary was able to position herself nationally because her husband was president. She didn't have a political career beforehand and that isn't my case."

In another way, however, she seems to be a combination of Eva Peron and Imelda Marcos. But -- so what? If she's fashionable and sexy, well, who cares? She certainly seems to be saying all the right things -- which is to say, she does not seem to be yet another Argentinian authoritarian. (Well, maybe not.)

A profile is here.

And yet, though she has said the right things, it is not at all clear what she stands for, nor what sort of a president she intends to be. Consider these telling lines from the Q&A linked above: "She does not give news conferences or talk to the Argentine press. What we do know is that she has promised, not surprisingly, to continue with his policies."

Doesn't talk to the press? Doesn't have... policies?

Is it just possible she was elected only because she's a Kirchner, because she'll be just like her husband, because voters want more of the same and the sitting president was barred from running for another term?

Is she the right person to deal with Argentina's economy, with employment and poverty and inflation, with energy and public health and education, with human rights, with the plight of indigenous peoples, with Argentina's deep divisions, with foreign policy, with Argentina's relations with the U.S., with its Latin American neighbours, with the world beyond?

It may not matter, not if Mr. Kirchner is pulling the strings behind her. They may differ in terms of personality, but they do not seem to differ in terms of policy -- what are his... are hers, too. Which means that the next Kirchner presidency will be much like the current one: lefist and anti-neoliberal, more or less, like it or not. And so with the good (environmentalism, corporate accountability) will come the bad (statist economics and industry, autocratic control, friendly relations with Hugo Chavez).

Welcome back, Evita. Even if the whole thing stinks.


Please add your comments here if you live in Argentina, are Argentinian, know something about Argentina and its politics, have an interest in things Argentinian, or otherwise have something useful to say.

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  • Actually, we had that in Alabama in the 1970s, when George Wallace's wife ran for election just after Wallace's terms expired.

    By Blogger Carl, at 10:36 AM  

  • I'm an Argentine living in the U.S.A. for the past 10 years and, frankly, cannot describe the rage I feel about the results of this "election"...
    Needless to say, the K victory was known way before last Sunday "circus."
    When, ten years ago, in my early 20s and right out of college, I left Argentina to come to the States, some people told me "you are brave...I wish I had the guts to do it," I replied, "It's not me the brave one here, but you."
    Apparently, I was right... Argentina has not learned one thing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:24 PM  

  • Yes, you're right, Carl. But I wonder if it was as sketchy as the Argentinian situation. (Was it?)

    Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. I certainly understand your rage.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:56 PM  

  • I don't understand your rage. The same thing happens in the United States. Government office seems to be a family affair nowadays.

    By Blogger A citizen of the world, at 7:27 PM  

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