BUENOS AIRES – With six months to go before elections in Argentina, supporters of center-left former President Cristina Fernandez are still waiting to learn whether she will challenge conservative incumbent Mauricio Macri’s bid for a second term.
Fernandez, now a senator, governed from 2007-2015. She succeeded her husband, Nestor Kirchner, who died in 2010.
While most political observers say they expect Fernandez to run, analyst Jose Giacobbe told EFE that she will play a key role even if she declines to seek the presidency, given the deep loyalty felt toward her by adherents of what has become known as Kirchnerism.
Fernandez, Giacobbe said, will surely designate someone else to lead the movement into the election and “the Kirchnerist public will get behind what Cristina says.”
The director of public opinion consultants Giacobbe & Asociados said he sees the contest between Kirchnerism and Macri’s Cambiemos movement as evenly matched, with each enjoying support from more than a third of the electorate.
His firm’s polling shows Cambiemos as the choice of 35 percent of likely voters.
“One part thinks Macri is Winston Churchill, the right man for this moment in Argentina, and the other part of that 35 percent wants to use Macri and Cambiemos to stop Cristina,” Giacobbe said.
Fernandez backers, meanwhile, feel a strong personal devotion to a woman they have come to identify with Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, the consultant said.
The Cambiemos partisans and the Kirchnerists are united by mutual fear and loathing, Giacobbe said.
For those seeking a “third way,” the strongest potential candidate appears to be Roberto Lavagna, who registers at around 12 percent in the polls, while 18 percent of survey respondents say they are undecided.
“What we know is that neither of the two grand political camps of Argentina is able to resolve the election in the first round,” Giacobbe said. “Both will have to appeal to that 18 percent that’s left, which is the 18 percent that is most angry with both, most offended, most desperate, but it will that which decides who is president.”
The primaries to choose the presidential candidates are set for Aug. 11 and the registration deadline is June 22.
Time is not on the side of Macri, whose popularity continues to decline amid recession and an inflation rate of 54.7 percent, public opinion expert Mariel Fornoni told EFE.
“Today we have a government with 22 percent approval,” she said.
And 68 percent of Argentines consider the economy the most important issue, the head of Management and Fit said, citing the results of recent surveys.
Fornoni views Fernandez as the opposition’s best option against Macri.
“The rest of the opposition can’t reach agreement and form a sustainable coalition,” she said.