President Cristina Kirchner’s party suffered a major setback in the legislative elections that recently took place on October 27th.

Indeed, one half of the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate was up for election. . While Kirchner’s sector, also called “Frente Para La Victoria” (Front for Victory) still maintains a majority in both houses of Congress, it was defeated in the main urban centers of the country, particularly in the province of Buenos Aires where 15 out of 40 million Argentineans live.  This result could have implications for the 2015 presidential elections.

Kirchner, an admirer of Hugo Chavez, most likely lost the election due to the country’s high inflation rates, her semi-authoritarian governing style, her vice-president’s corruption scandal, and the split within the Peronist party.

Kirchner has not only tried to concentrate her power throughout the government but also within her own party. She refused to name a successor that could run in the next presidential election (since according to the constitution she cannot run for a third term) while  also planning to reform the constitution in order to be able to run for a third time.  Although, as we pointed out, Kirchner’s faction still maintains a majority in Congress, that majority is below the two thirds needed for a constitutional reform.  However, the fact remains that she was planning to stay in power for a long-time and blocked the rise of any alternative candidate within her own party.

This split within the Peronist party brought to light the figure of Sergio Massa, a former Mayor of the town of Tigre in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and a former chief of staff  to President Kirchner. Mr. Massa, who founded a new party called Frente Renovador” (The Renewal Front) broke with the traditional intolerant political discourse that has characterized the Peronist Party and adopted a more conciliatory tone.   According to Massa, “This victory does not grant us with any particular right, it only increases our responsibility with the millions of Argentineans who voted for us… A dialogue is possible if we learn how to respect people who think differently and if we put an end to the arrogance and intimidation (soberbia y prepotencia).

This type of discourse breaks with the traditional ways of the Peronist party. If Massa is consistent in theory and practice, he could be an attractive candidate in the presidential elections of 2015. Although there will be other candidates in those elections and some of them already have announced their candidacy, it makes sense that somebody that comes from the Peronist party could be a more serious challenger to Kirchner’s faction.

The defeat Kirchnerism suffered in these elections does not guarantee its defeat in the presidential elections. After all, Kirchnerism suffered a setback in the 2009  legislative elections only to bounce back in the 2011 presidential election.

The possible defeat of Kirchnerism  in the 2015 presidential election is important from both a domestic and a geo-political point of view.

Kirchner’s government has been characterized by the supremacy of the executive power.  Under her direction, the government has tried to control the judiciary and make it into an instrument of the executive branch.  President Kirchner government has also attempted to impose price controls by intimidating the business community: an action openly carried out by her Secretary of Commerce, Guillermo Moreno. There is also excessive and irresponsible government spending aimed at putting in place populist and redistributionist economic polices.  In addition, the current Argentinean government has intimidated the media and has engaged in  public and legal battles to squash any opposing points of view. Likewise, it spreads misinformation on the economic situation of the country making it look better than it really is.

In terms of geo-politics, Kirchner has been a cheerleader for the governments of Venezuela and Cuba. She idolizes Chavez almost in a mystical way. Without being an official member of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), she became one of Chavez’s staunchest supporters and apologists.  As part of that she attempted to normalize relations with Iran by creating a joint Iranian-Argentinean “truth commission” to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, when, in fact, Iran is the main suspect of such bombing.

The Kirchner government has included nefarious personalities such as Luis D’Elia, an anti-Semitic leader of one group within the Piquetero protest movement. D’Elia made a career as developer of violent tactics for a labor organization and later founded an organization for the unemployed. He was also involved in violent acts such as the occupation of a police station. Yet, he served as under-secretary of the Ministry of Land and Social Habitat for President Nestor Kirchner.  D’Elia is a staunch supporter of Mrs. Kirchner and has direct connections with Iran while  becoming  its most ardent defender in Argentina.

Likewise, in a recent event organized by Iranians, Kirchner’s Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Emilio Persico, attended- as did  D’Elia and Roberto Perdia, a former leader of the Argentinean guerilla movement known as the “Montoneros”. That event called for the destruction of the State of Israel “without spilling one drop of Jewish blood” (obviously a cynical contradiction in terms since Israel’s destruction would look more like a second Holocaust than a peaceful dismantlement of a state bureaucracy) . Kirchner never responded to questions regarding the attendance of people who are part of her circles or associated with her.

Massa, on the other hand, has a moderate discourse. When he was part of the Kirchner government he was close to the U.S Embassy in Buenos Aires and represented the main liaison between the government of Kirchner and the U.S.  Massa also rejected the memorandum of understanding with Iran and declared that  “to reject the existence of the State of Israel is like rejecting the history of humanity” and repudiated those who deny the holocaust.

In this article, I am not endorsing Massa above other opposition candidates.  However, what is important about the rise of Massa’s Renewal Front is that it is breaking Kirchner’s base of Peronist support from within.

Whether it is the Peronist Massa or somebody else that defeats Kirchnerism, it is obvious that such a defeat could send a clear message to all those fanatics on the extreme left who believe there is something positive or remotely good in Chavismo, anti-Americanism or Iran. It could be a significant victory that could place the entire Latin American extreme left and Chavismo in retreat.

Luis Fleischman is the author of the book, “Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Security Threat to the United States” and co-editor of the Americas Report

 

 

2 Responses to IS THE DEFEAT OF KIRCHNER’S PARTY A SMALL STEP TOWARDS THE EXTREME LEFT’S GRADUAL RETREAT?

  1. Sammy Eppel says:

    Perfect timing

  2. […] Luis Fleischman: Is the Defeat of Kirchner’s Party a Small Step Towards the Extreme Left’s Gradu… […]

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