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A new cycle in Argentina

The legislative elections are pointing to the gradual decline of Kirchnerism

The legislative elections held on Sunday in Argentina, to replace half of the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Senate, have clearly confirmed what had already been suggested by the primaries in August: the decline of Kirchnerism. Her party, the Victory Front (FpV), has been defeated in the principal electoral districts, beginning with the decisive province of Buenos Aires (37 percent of the electoral census), where another Peronist candidate, Sergio Massa of the Renewal Front, won a 12-point lead over the candidate personally designated by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

With the president still convalescent after a delicate operation, the government has opted to advertise the defeat as a victory: their party, they insist, is the most voted in the country as a whole, and retains a majority in both Chambers. With this somewhat forced gesture they are ignoring the fact that Sunday’s vote not only buries Fernández de Kirchner’s aspirations for a third mandate (which would require constitutional reform, for which they do not have the necessary parliamentary seats), but also gives a precise indication of the loss of public support for the Kirchner style of government: down some 20 percentage points in two years, from the 54 percent that she obtained in the 2011 presidential elections, to about 33 percent in the vote on Sunday.

Sunday’s vote buries Fernández de Kirchner’s aspirations for a third mandate

This preference for denying reality — like the related habit of doctoring economic indicators — is intended to prevent the observer from seeing that the Argentinean voter evidently takes a dim view of the “K Cabinet,” several of whose members flaunt an aggressive style, in glaring disproportion to the modest results of their management. It is impossible to disguise the population’s dissatisfaction with inflation, arbitrary economic measures and a rising crime rate.

The same applies to public weariness with the truculent political climate. Hence Massa — a former cabinet chief for Fernández de Kirchner — has picked up the glove and delivered a conciliatory speech, suggestive of presidential ambitions. All eyes are on the 2015 elections, in preparation for which Sunday’s vote has arrayed the chess pieces in their respective positions.

Massa is threatening to divide Kirchnerism into two factions, in whose ranks there are plenty of governors prepared to strike the most advantageous deal in return for their votes. And in the non-Peronist opposition several presidential possibles are emerging, such as the conservative Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires; the socialist Hermes Binner; and the radical Julian Cobos. Meanwhile, the health of Fernández de Kirchner is still an unknown. All of these factors, taken together, seem to augur the end of an era that began 10 years ago with the election of her late husband, Néstor Kirchner.

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