June 20, 2013
Third time unlucky?
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
There is no evidence that Thursday’s pot-bashing outburst has prompted the advocates of a third term for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to reconsider their drive — the more uphill its chances, the more necessary it becomes as a defensive strategy to postpone the problems of succession — but perhaps it should. The most recent precedent of aspiring to a third presidential term was (of course) Carlos Menem around 15 years ago, about whom it could quite fairly be said that he wasted his second term seeking a third — as things now stand, CFK’s second term runs a distinct risk of going exactly the same way and she might well find it wise to study that precedent in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Barring the most extreme extrapolations of Thursday’s protests, she looks likely to follow in Menem’s footsteps by completing her second term without securing a third but various things could happen — one leading journalist has provocatively forecast that CFK could clinch her right to seek a third term, only to lose at the polls. There could be an even more unexpected variation of that scenario — that a constituent assembly be called to amend the constitution in favour of a third term but that a sharp anti-government swing along the lines of last Thursday gives it a solid opposition majority which then proceeds to redefine executive powers (including emergency decrees) and Argentine federalism along completely opposite lines to those now being pursued by the CFK administration (in other words, the parliamentary democracy ostensibly sought as a sugar coating for constitutional reform might end up being the real thing).
Thursday’s hostile protest should serve as a warning that a government acts at its peril if it concentrates exclusively on the 2015 elections while ignoring far more immediate problems such as crime, inflation and corruption (a trap into which the opposition also falls if they ignore these tricky issues in favour of a facile rallying-point against a third CFK term). Nor does CFK advance towards the two-thirds support necessary for constitutional amendment if she embarks upon a far more aggressive and restrictive version of the policies which won her just over half the vote last October — on the contrary, opinion polls show two-thirds against constitutional reform instead of in favour.
Menem’s path to a third term was shrewdly compared by a former economy minister to a highway along which which he would have to pay a toll every 100 metres — is not the CFK machine already paying a toll to too many people to go down the same road?