Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner picked Economy minister Amado Boudou to be her running mate in the presidential ticket for the October 23 election praising his loyalty and capacity to understand and accept change.
Cristina Fernandez, CFK, made the announcement on live television Saturday afternoon from the Olivos presidential residence before an audience of a thousand including ministers, top officials, provincial governors, members of Congress, organized labour leaders and organizations that support government plus her two children, Florencia and Maximo.
Boudou, 48, originally from the small conservative orthodox pro-market UCD party, in the nineties worked for former president Carlos Menem and his controversial economy minister Domingo Cavallo.
However he was appointed Economy minister of the Cristina Kirchner administration in July 2009. Previously he was head of the state pensions’ funds and in 2008, in the midst of the world financial crisis he was instrumental in the shock move to nationalize the private pensions’ funds.
“He’s a person who is loyal to this president. He’s a person that in 2008 came up in the middle of the world crisis and told the president the rules of the world economy have changed, we must also change”, said President Cristina Fernandez.
The Argentine president also presented him as the person who has helped the economy recover, grow sustainedly since the 2008 crisis, with a huge emphasis on government intervention to ensure inclusion and social fairness, “a person committed to the model and to the instruments to keep advancing”.
“This president needs someone at my side who isn't afraid of the big unions, big corporations and big business interests” CFK said in her televised address.
But Boudou has other political pluses. He plays the electric guitar, loves rock and motorbikes and is one of the administration's most charismatic ministers, ever smiling. This makes him most palatable to the younger voters that Mrs Kirchner has actively courted in her frequent public appearances and through La Campora, the youth arm of her nationalist-populist movement which is run by her son Maximo Kirchner.
Boudou also has the backing of the powerful organized labour unions, CGT and their leader Hugo Moyano and from the manufacturing sector benefited by the official policy of ‘reindustrialization’ or substitution of imports, which has helped create jobs and promote domestic investment.
During his time as economy minister, Boudou also led the exchange of some 12.6 billion US dollars in defaulted bonds for new debt in 2010, seeking to mop up lingering fallout from a record 100 billion default in 2002.
CFK's decision to name a running mate from the ruling Frente Para La Victoria (Victory Front) coalition follows her disastrous experience of picking a Vice president from the ranks of the opposition. Cristina Kirchner and her outgoing vice president, Julio Cobos, have barely spoken to each other after he voted against the administration's attempt to raise taxes on farmers in 2008.
In Argentina, the vice president acts as the leader of the Senate as well as being prepared to assume the Presidency if the President is unable to perform her duties.
But historically the vice presidency hasn't been used as a spring board into the presidency. Indeed, all of Argentina's presidents since the end of the military dictatorship in 1983 have been provincial governors or legislators.
Argentines will cast their votes in congressional and presidential elections on Oct. 23. CFK is seeking a second, four-year term after succeeding her husband Nestor Kirchner in the presidency in 2007. Mr. Kirchner died in October 2010.
Cristina Fernandez is riding high in the opinion polls thanks to the booming economy that she says might grow as much as 8% this year fuelled by international demand for commodities and domestic consumption.
Argentina's divided opposition has struggled to reduce the president’s lead due in no small part to their inability to field strong candidates. Ricardo Alfonsin, a congressman of Argentina’s biggest opposition party, the Union Civica Radical, has emerged as the top challenger, though he polls a distant second to Kirchner. Alfonsin is handicapped by his lack of executive experience and his party's poor track record in government. His father, Raul Alfonsin, left the presidency before the end of his term in 1989 amid hyperinflation and Fernando de la Rua's administration collapsed in 2001 in the midst of a deep economic crisis.
To win in October, a candidate has to receive at least 45% of the vote or a minimum of 40% and lead the runner-up by a margin greater than 10 percentage points. Otherwise, the two leading candidates will go to a run off election in November.
However despite Argentina's industrial and agricultural renaissance since the 2001/02 crisis and slight decline in 2009, interventionist measures and persistent high inflation have irked farmers and some business leaders. Inflation according to the latest estimates and in spite of the official tailored numbers is running at 25/30% annually.
This can be seen as a problem for the day after October 23. But ahead of the election there’s another challenge: the Victory Front lists to provincial and national congress have significantly reduced the participation of party stalwarts and organized labour representatives to the benefit of younger hopefuls, (and naturally more faithful to Cristina Fernandez), which still has to be swallowed by the ‘old guard’.