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Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced her candidacy for vice-president in the Argentina election

22 May 2019 Carla Selman

On 18 May, former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) announced her candidacy for vice-president in the 27 October elections, running with presidential candidate Alberto Fernández. The announcement came as a surprise, as all pollsters were assuming that CFK would run for president herself for the Kirchnerist faction of the opposition Peronist Justicialist Party (Partido Justicialista: PJ), and has been leading in voting intentions in recent weeks. The choice of Alberto Fernández was also a surprise. Despite having served as chief-of-staff under Kirchnerist governments (2003-15), he has become a vocal critic of CFK. Moreover, he does not have political capital of his own or a solid leadership, which means that in reality it is CFK who holds control.

Significance

The move is likely to be an attempt to appeal to moderate Peronists in a highly polarized electoral scenario. Both CFK and President Mauricio Macri have a voting intention in polls of approximately 30% each, with 40% strongly opposed to one or the other. Some Peronist provincial governors have already expressed support for the Fernández-CFK ticket, including those from Catamarca, Tierra del Fuego, Santa Cruz, Chaco, Tucumán, and La Rioja provinces. Macri's electoral strategy consisted of differentiating himself from CFK's state-interventionist administration and capitalizing on her high rejection rates (of approximately 70%) to beat her in a run-off, despite his unpopularity amid economic recession and high inflation. Putting a more moderate figure at the helm, such as Alberto Fernández, is likely to force the ruling coalition Cambiemos (Let's Change) party to re-think their electoral strategy. Macri will be under increased pressure by coalition partners, mainly from the radical party (Unión Cívica Radical: UCR) who would prefer a different candidate, such as the governor of Buenos Aires province, María Eugenia Vidal (from Macri's PRO party), or former economy minister Roberto Lavagna, from the moderate Peronist Federal Alternative (Alternativa Federal: AF), generating deeper divisions within Cambiemos. The outcome of the 27 May UCR convention will indicate if there are increased calls for Macri to step down as candidate. Statements by key AF figures will indicate in what direction that bloc will pivot to. Sergio Massa has expressed willingness to negotiate with Kirchnerists, while others such as Salta governor Juan Manuel Urtubey and Córdoba governor Juan Schiaretti have been more reluctant to do so.

Posted 22 May 2019 by Carla Selman, Senior Research Analyst, Country Risk, IHS Markit

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