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Kirchnerismo Fernández’s second term

The Government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Argentina: The Government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Factional division in both the PJ and the UCR characterized the elections of October 2007. Following several months of speculation concerning Kirchner’s intention to seek re-election, in July it was announced that his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a senator for the Province of Buenos Aires, would instead stand as the FPV candidate. Her bid was supported by a significant section of the UCR, known as the K Radicals, whereas another faction of that party—the so-called L Radicals—endorsed the candidacy of former economy minister Roberto Lavagna. Alberto Rodríguez Saá (brother of Adolfo) represented another anti-Kirchner faction of the PJ. Fernández’s campaign was damaged to some extent by allegations of corruption against the Government in 2007, including Felisa Miceli’s resignation as Minister of Economy and Production in July following judicial investigations into the discovery of a large quantity of cash in her office. (Miceli was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in 2012.) In August 2007 a further scandal surrounded the discovery of nearly US $800,000 in the suitcase of a Venezuelan businessman travelling to Argentina. Opposition parties accused the Government of illegally importing the money to fund Fernández’s election campaign.

Nevertheless, Fernández won a decisive victory in the presidential election held on 28 October 2007, securing 42% of the votes cast. No candidate succeeded in unifying the opposition: Elisa Carrió of the Afirmación para una República Igualitaria, who stood as part of the Coalición Cívica alliance, obtained 21% of the vote, while Lavagna received 16% of votes cast and Rodríguez Saá took just 7%. Following the concurrent partial elections to the Congress, the FPV legislative bloc emerged with 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and an overall majority in the Senate, at the expense of the UCR. President Fernández was sworn in on 10 December. Her Cabinet retained seven members of the outgoing administration.

In March 2008 the four main agricultural unions began strike action in protest at sharp increases in tariffs on the export of soybeans, sunflower products and other foodstuffs. Despite causing serious food shortages, the protests attracted widespread popular support. The Government defended the tax rises as necessary to control inflation resulting from substantial rises in grain prices on international markets, as well as to guarantee domestic supplies. A 30-day truce was called by the unions in April to allow for negotiations with the Government; however, strikes resumed in May. The Congress ratified the tariff increases in June; the ensuing draft legislation was narrowly approved by the Chamber of Deputies, but was defeated in the Senate in July by the casting vote of Vice-President Julio Cobos, also the chamber’s President. The decree that had introduced the tariff increases was subsequently revoked. The Government’s defeat in the legislature, which occurred despite the FPV’s dominance of both chambers, resulted in the resignation of the Cabinet Chief, Alberto Fernández. He was replaced by Sergio Massa.

In October 2008 the Government announced plans to assume state control of Argentina’s 10 private pension funds (Administradoras de Fondos de Jubilaciones y Pensiones—AFJPs). President Fernández declared that nationalization would protect workers’ investments from the decline in the value of the funds caused by turmoil in worldwide financial markets, but the opposition claimed that the Government intended to use the AFJPs’ assets (worth some US $30,000m.) to meet its rising debt servicing obligations. None the less, the take-over received congressional approval in November and took effect in January 2009.

The Government performed badly in mid-term congressional elections in June 2009 (four months early), losing its majority in both houses. Nevertheless, the fragmented nature of the opposition meant that the FPV remained the largest congressional bloc. Following the elections, both Carlos Fernández, the Minister of Economy and Public Finance, and Cabinet Chief Massa resigned. Amado Boudou, who had presided over the nationalization of the AFJPs in 2008, was appointed to the public finance ministry, while Aníbal Domingo Fernández, hitherto justice and security minister, became Cabinet Chief. In August 2009 the Congress approved a further year’s extension to the law allowing certain legislative powers to be delegated to the executive. The original legislation, which notably allowed the Government to set the agricultural export tariffs, the raising of which had prompted the ongoing dispute with the farming unions, had been approved during the 2001–02 financial crisis. In the same month Fernández used her presidential veto to overturn another law temporarily suspending grain export duties and granting emergency aid to the agricultural sector. The Government claimed that income from the tariffs would fund anti-poverty initiatives.

The Government succeeded in gaining legislative approval for a controversial reform of the media in October 2009. The new law provided for a reduction in the number of television or radio licences that broadcasting companies were allowed to own, and the establishment of a federal body to oversee the broadcast media. Critics of the legislation claimed that it gave the Government too much control over the sector. In December the Government also secured congressional approval for major political reforms, forcing political parties to hold simultaneous open primaries to select their presidential candidates, banning the private financing of radio and television advertising in electoral campaigns, reducing the length of political campaigns and establishing a minimum level of membership for parties. A legal challenge against the media law, initiated by the Clarín media group, had some success in October 2010, when the Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court that, pending a final verdict on the constitutionality of the legislation, suspended the requirement that companies with more than 10 broadcast licences should sell off their excess operations within one year of the law’s enactment. In May 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that the injunction suspending this requirement would expire on 7 December. On 6 December, however, a court granted a last-minute extension of the injunction preventing the full enforcement of the media law, pending judgment on its constitutionality. A week later Clarín’s legal challenge against the legislation was rejected, but the group lodged an appeal; the injunction was to remain in force until this appeal had been considered. Finally, on 29 October 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that all clauses of the legislation were constitutional and should come into effect immediately. Clarín acknowledged the ruling and on 4 November announced plans to break up the company into six separate units, although its directors pledged to pursue international legal avenues to overturn the decision.

A presidential decree providing for the use of some US $6,600m. of central bank reserves to guarantee debt payments provoked tensions between the Government and other state institutions in early 2010. Opposition figures maintained that the use of the reserves required congressional authorization, while the refusal of the Governor of the Central Bank, Martín Redrado, to disburse the funds led to his dismissal by President Fernández on 7 January. Redrado insisted that only the legislature was empowered to remove him from office, a stance supported by a federal court judge, who reinstated Redrado to his post and suspended the decree on the proposed use of federal reserves. However, Redrado resigned in late January, a few days before a specially convened congressional commission voted in support of his dismissal. The commission also recommended the continued suspension of the decree on the use of the reserves, pending the consideration of its legitimacy. When the Congress returned from recess in March, however, Fernández announced the annulment of this decree and the introduction of two new ones establishing funds to which central bank reserves would be transferred to service debt payments to multilateral lending institutions and to repay private creditors. Subsequent opposition attempts to challenge the new decrees ultimately failed.

Héctor Timerman, ambassador to the USA, was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship in June 2010, following the resignation of the incumbent Jorge Taiana, reportedly over policy differences regarding efforts to resolve the pulp mill dispute between Argentina and Uruguay (see Foreign Affairs ).

Citation: The Government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. Retrieved 18 December 2017 from http://www.europaworld.com/pub/entry/EE000249

Kirchnerismo Fernández’s second term


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