In spite of the US State Department alleged concerns regarding the mental health of Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (one of the latest 250.000 documents released by WikiLeaks), a month after the death of her husband and political partner Nestor Kirchner the lady is riding on a wave of popularity and has clearly imposed leadership, according to political analysts.
In the thirty days since the disappearance (October 27th) of her husband and the most powerful Argentine politician (admitted by friends and foes) the widow still wearing strict black has managed control of the cabinet, of the ruling fractious Justicialista party, while the opposition is ever more divided, making her a front runner for next year’s presidential election.
Serenely she has supported the opposition charges and has taken the political initiative with important announcements among which the social (non aggression) pact between corporations, unions and the government, and negotiations to pay the Paris Club debt, pending since 2001 and for which she has made an overture to the IMF.
The latest opinion polls show Mrs Kirchner leading vote intention for the October 2011 presidential election, while business lobbies feel certain relief and are more optimistic with her attitude than with the hard-line sometimes threatening style of the late former president Nestor Kirchner.
Some sceptics see her approach towards the IMF requesting support to improve the country discredited inflation data as an effort to blunt the opposition's best weapon against her. But the overture to the IMF also suggests Cristina Fernandez is pushing policies Kirchner would have resisted.
It's a sign Cristina is maybe going to have a slightly more open focus and be a bit more willing to accept the rules of the world, said political analyst Manuel Mora y Araujo. During the Kirchner years, Argentina wanted to play by its own rules.
Nestor Kirchner, who was a leading contender for next year's vote, paid off Argentina's debt to the IMF in 2006 and repeatedly stated there was no way in hell the country would borrow from it again.
However a year is a long time in Argentine politics, and once public sympathy starts to wane, Mrs. Kirchner could be facing increased pressure over high inflation that could inflame tensions between the unions and business over wage demands. No wonder then the social pact she’s strongly promoting.
We need a three-way dialogue, with the state as the guide, she said. Such conciliatory noises strike a chord with many voters who felt alienated by Kirchner.
Furthermore there are those who mistrust official statistics with her leading, and believe it’s a plot to force a divided opposition to decide between the several potential hopefuls roaming the scenario.
Actually the Argentine opposition is having great trouble adapting to the new scenario of pragmatic Cristina and divisions have deepened to the extent that her government in spite of having lost control of Congress in last year’s mid term elections has successfully managed the legislative agenda.
Like Kirchner, Cristina has a combative style and peppers her speeches with criticism of rivals and references to the couple's militant past as members of the Young Peronists -- part of the ruling party to which she belongs.
Such talk goes down well with die-hard K supporters, but alienates moderate, middle-class voters.
While Fernandez so far has not officially said that she plans to run for re-election, political analysts say her greater pragmatism is clearly with an eye to shoring up the minimum 40% of votes she would need to win in a first-round vote next year.
Her approval rating rose to 56% after Kirchner's death from about 35% previously, according to a Management & Fit poll. Other polls have shown similar results
“If she can cool her rhetoric a bit, she's also got a favourable wind from having an opposition on the other side that is unable to come up with anything,” said Mariel Fornoni, a director at the Buenos Aires-based polling firm.
Besides, Argentina's economy is on track to expand 9% this year giving Cristina Fernandez an advantage over potential opposition candidates.
But there’s also the children, Maximo and Florencia who insist that she gives up the idea of going for re-election arguing she’s too exhausted after four years in office and following the death of her husband. Nevertheless Maximo is known to have his own political intentions and mobilizes a strong and militant youth movement which acted in support of her parents’ policies. Florencia is expected to return to New York to continue with her theatrical aspirations.
Finally regarding the WikiLeaks, experts of which were published in some of the world’ leading newspapers in English, French, German and Spanish, apparently it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who requested information regarding the mental health of the Argentine president.
It’s not clear whether Mrs. Clinton received the report on time for her visit to meet Mrs. Kirchner earlier this year.