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The Government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner The 2013 mid-term elections

Fernández’s second term

Argentina: Fernández’s second term

Speculation regarding the 2011 presidential election intensified following the sudden death, in October 2010, of former President Kirchner, who had been widely expected to stand as the FPV candidate. President Fernández did not confirm her intention to seek re-election until a few days before the deadline for registration in June 2011, her popularity having risen in the preceding months. Opposition to Fernández was largely divided. The UCR, the Partido Socialista and the Coalición Cívica did not renew their alliance from the 2009 mid-term elections; instead, the first two joined with more minor parties to form new coalitions, namely the Unión para el Desarrollo Social (Udeso) and the Frente Amplio Progresista (FAP). Ricardo Alfonsín, son of the former President, was the candidate of the UCR-led Udeso, while Hermes Binner, the outgoing Governor of Santa Fe, represented the centre-left FAP, and Elisa Carrió, the leader of the Coalición Cívica, was to stand for a third time. Following a failed attempt by the Peronismo Federal faction of the PJ to select a presidential candidate in a primary election, the two main challengers for the nomination, former President Duhalde and Alberto Rodríguez Saá, the outgoing Governor of San Luis, opted to contest the presidency separately, for two newly formed Peronist coalitions: the Frente Popular and the Alianza Compromiso Federal, respectively.

In accordance with the political reforms adopted in December 2009, mandatory primary elections to select presidential candidates took place on 14 August 2011. Of the 10 candidates in the primary election, Fernández received by far the strongest support.

As expected, Fernández achieved an outright and convincing victory in the presidential election on 23 October 2011, securing re-election with 54% of the valid votes cast, the most emphatic win since the return to civilian rule in 1983. The opposition vote remained split, with Binner in second place with 17% of the vote, followed by Alfonsín, with 11%, Rodríguez Saá, with 8%, and Duhalde, with 6%. In addition to achieving a third consecutive term in presidential office for the PJ, the FPV and its allies also regained control of both legislative chambers in the concurrent congressional elections, increasing their combined representation to some 134 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and to 38 seats in the Senate. The UCR retained its position as the largest opposition party.

President Fernández’s second term Cabinet was largely unchanged, only the three ministers who had left office to contest seats in the general election in October being replaced. Hernán Lorenzino, who as Secretary of Finance had managed the second phase of negotiations to restructure Argentina’s debt in 2009–10, succeeded Amado Boudou, the new Vice-President, as Minister of Economy and Public Finance.

With its congressional majority restored, the Government moved swiftly to secure approval of several bills in a number of special legislative sessions in December 2011. Most controversial was legislation that, deeming the production, sale and distribution of newsprint to be of national interest, granted the Government the power to determine the price of newsprint and the operating capacity of the country’s sole newsprint producer, Papel Prensa. The Clarín and La Nación media groups, which together owned a majority stake in Papel Prensa, strongly opposed the new law, which would allow the Government to seize control of the company if it failed to meet production targets. Also provoking criticism was an anti-terrorism law that some claimed could be used to prosecute participants in social protests and anti-Government demonstrations. Meanwhile, tensions between the Government and trade union leaders, particularly Hugo Moyano, the Secretary-General of the CGT and a former ally of Presidents Kirchner and Fernández, mounted, as the Government sought to reduce state subsidies for utilities and other services and to curb wage rises, despite high inflation (this issue being further complicated by the wide disparity between official inflation figures and private estimates). Moyano resigned from his posts in the PJ in December, and the CGT joined the opposition in condemning the repression by police of protests against open-pit mining in Catamarca province in February 2012, urging the authorities to employ dialogue to resolve social disputes.

Only days after Fernández’s re-election in October 2011 the Government implemented a series of economic measures aimed at stabilizing the exchange rate of the peso and at curbing capital flight, including a control on the purchase of US dollars amid fears of a devaluation of the national currency. However, the Government’s actions prompted concerns regarding the country’s balance of payments position, and restrictions on imports followed in early 2012, leading to tensions with trading partners (see Foreign Affairs ).

A deceleration in the rate of economic growth and the introduction of further measures aimed at stemming capital flight, notably increased restrictions on the purchase of US dollars, contributed to a continued decline in the Fernández administration’s popularity in 2012. At the end of June the CGT organized a 24-hour strike in support of demands for an increase in the tax threshold, amid continued high inflation (estimated at more than 20% by private agencies, compared with an official rate of some 10%). A series of nationwide protests took place in September. Organized by a group of civil society organizations and private citizens rather than by the political opposition, the demonstrations were the largest to be held since the President took office, attended by more than 200,000 people, who expressed discontent at rising inflation, crime levels, the restrictions on the purchase of US dollars and public corruption. The Government also came under external pressure when the IMF criticized Argentina for making insufficient progress in improving the accuracy of its official inflation and growth figures.

At the end of October 2012 the Congress approved legislation lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 years with the stated aim of expanding democratic rights; however, critics claimed that the move was an attempt to improve the ruling party’s performance at the 2013 mid-term elections. Further major anti-Government protests took place in November, with participation exceeding that of the September demonstrations. Again the demands of the protesters were wide-ranging, but the Government claimed that they were mainly middle-class and upper-class citizens who opposed policies supporting the poor. A widely observed 24-hour general strike organized by the CGT and the CTA severely disrupted economic activity in much of the country. In late December a wave of looting in several towns and cities resulted in four deaths and at least 500 arrests.

A further nationwide anti-Government demonstration took place on 18 April 2013, this time mainly in protest at the Government’s proposed reforms to the judiciary, five out of six of which had received senate approval one day earlier. Opponents of the legislation, which, inter alia , would introduce elections to the Council of Magistrates that appoints judges, accused President Fernández of attempting to politicize the judiciary. In June the Supreme Court ruled, by a majority of six to one, that the reforms were unconstitutional.

Citation: Fernández’s second term (Argentina), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. Retrieved 18 December 2017 from http://www.europaworld.com/pub/entry/EE000250

The Government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner The 2013 mid-term elections


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