Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Argentina politics: Kirchner death creates void

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on October 28, 2010

by  The Economist Intelligence Unit, October 27th, 2010.

Former President Néstor Kirchner, considered the strongman behind current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, died on the morning of October 27th of a sudden heart attack. This will shake up the country’s political scene and create new uncertainties ahead of next year’s presidential elections. Mr Kirchner was the leader of his party and was expected to run for president again in October 2011. It is not yet clear how the political void left by his death will be filled, but the government’s economic policies are not likely to shift.

Mr Kirchner (60) served as president from 2003 to 2007 and was succeeded by his wife, Ms Fernández, in a strategy that was designed by the “presidential couple” to allow them to alternate in power. He headed the governing Partido Justicialista (PV), and heavily influenced the policies of the Fernández administration. He was also the head of a regional grouping, the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).

Although there had been growing concerns about Mr Kirchner’s death in recent months (he had had two cardiac procedures earlier this year), the shock of his death will reverberate strongly in the days and weeks ahead. He was undoubtedly the most powerful political figure in Argentina during the last seven years—having taken office after the massive financial and economic crisis of 2001-02, and overseen two debt restructurings and, together with his wife, an impressive economic rebound. 

However, the Kirchners have faced major criticism over their heavy-handed economic policies and confrontational style of government, and Ms Fernández’s approval ratings plummeted at one point into the 20s (they have since recovered into the 30s, thanks to strong economic growth). Among the policies that have been attacked have been increased state control of the economy, interventions in the financial and agricultural markets, and maintenance of price freezes in various sectors. The government has also been criticised for taking over private pension funds and using Central Bank reserves for debt repayment. Most recently, the Fernández government has been engaged in a high-profile conflict with several media groups. (continue reading… )

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