Despite her presidential running mate Amado Boudou insisting yesterday’s primaries “are not a poll,” after the past 10 months that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has had, they have come at the right time — even if they are an ego boost disguised as an electoral dress rehearsal.
Life has been a rollercoaster ride for the Peronist President, professionally and personally since October 2010. But the nationwide primaries have given CFK the perfect opportunity to show some political muscle.
On a professional level, relations remain strained with the powerful agriculture sector, still angry three years after the export duties row, while inflation remains a nagging migraine, hard to shake off.
Another hit was at the Buenos Aires City mayoral elections despite going to a run-off. Her handpicked man, Senator Daniel Filmus, took a pasting from incumbent Mauricio Macri, who took home 64 percent of the vote.
But her biggest blow came last October when her husband and predecessor Néstor Kirchner died of a heart attack. A death which stunned the nation, the new widow’s popularity shot up in polls, topping 60 percent in the immediate aftermath. It might have spelled the end of a matrimonial political dynasty, but there was never any doubt about CFK standing for re-election.
The President was visibly moved by the support shown at her Buenos Aires City headquarters last night as she waved quickly, one hand then the other, at supporters.
Lips curling before she welled up, tears rose to the surface at the chants of endearment. Insisting on wearing black 10 months as a blunt, daily reminder of her husband’s death, Fernández de Kirchner was flanked by Boudou, less elegant in a striped leather jacket, who leapt about enthusiastically next to her.
After thanking “everyone who has trusted in this political project once again,” she summoned young Florencia Kirchner to share the podium, mother and daughter contrasting in their choices of a black dress versus a white coat.
Embracing and kissing, the President looked lovingly at Florencia — who accompanied her mother on an official visit to the Middle East in January and also took centre stage at Government House when Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez visited in April — who she then referred to as “Néstor’s favourite — everyone knew that.”
Notably absent was eldest son Máximo and leader of La Cámpora Kirchnerite youth movement, possibly because his girlfriend had a miscarriage last week. However, Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo foundation, came out to support CFK despite being in the middle of the Schoklender corruption scandal.
As the crowds started chanting “Néstor is alive, Néstor didn’t die,” the two women embraced again, the younger one who resembles the father she lost 10 months ago a poignant reminder that it could have all turned out very differently.
Yesterday’s primaries will prove to CFK that she has made the right decision. The fact she is even standing for re-election is nothing short of a personal victory. The added bonus of 50 percent popularity across the country really cannot hurt.
Flanked by film student Florencia last night, the dynasty may have taken a diversion but it certaainly hasn’t reached the end of the road.
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on August 15, 2011