December 7, 2013
Between a rock and a hard place
For the Herald
CFK thinks about the primaries
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, William Congreve almost wrote, and as these days Cristina is very angry indeed after being jilted by millions of voters, the rest of us had better watch out. Lesser politicians may react to mock election defeats by promising to mend their ways, but she is not about to be swayed by the knowledge that nearly three quarters of the electorate think she is doing a lousy job.
Why should she? It was not the poor wretches’ fault that they got it all wrong. She knows they are innocents who are easily misled by unscrupulous right-wingers, phony progressives, greedy businessmen, sinister media barons in league with Yankee imperialists and their mendacious political hirelings. But even so, she will have to give them a lesson they will not forget. They simply cannot be allowed to get away with insulting her.
Just what she has in mind is a matter of dispute. Cristina may believe that she and the La Cámpora kids are all that stands between a prosperous present and a return to the dark days of the 1990s when those hateful “neoliberals” were running amok, so voting against the government’s candidates could have disastrous consequences for much of the population, but while dire warnings about the dreadful fate that would await the country were the Kirchnerites to lose power might be appropriate on the eve of a presidential election, it so happens that her term in office is not due to end before December 2015. Unluckily for everyone, but especially for Cristina and her cronies, the political climate is changing far faster than the people responsible for the rigid constitutional timetable foresaw.
Much as the president may dislike the idea, it looks as though she will have to choose between resigning herself to ruling a country that is evidently fed up with her increasingly capricious behaviour by doing her best to keep things calm and preventing the economy from going off the rails, and staging a defiant rearguard action in the hope that the widespread desire to avoid yet another upheaval proves enough to let her not merely stay in power but also to continue ramming through measures that, to judge by the results so far, would only make the situation Argentina finds itself in even worse than it is already.
However, if she starts making concessions, politicians who up to now have backed her will quickly come to the conclusion that she is finished and drift away to what strikes them as being more promising places in the scheme of things. If she sticks to her guns, much of the country could take to the streets in protest.
Cristina and her friends are not exactly democrats. In their ranks are many veterans of the neofascist Montoneros and ex- communists. They may have quietened down a bit since the glory days of the 1970s, but they still take it for granted that they are entitled to mould society into whatever shape they find most appealing without paying much attention to such bourgeois concepts as the rule of law, let alone the constitutional niceties.
They see themselves as revolutionaries who are at war with a host of oligarchs, liberals, coup-mongers, foreign conspirators and other miscreants. They may appreciate that it would be unwise for them to try and apply the traditional methods, but that does not mean they would be averse to a spot of intimidation should they think they might get away with it. That mysterious burglary in which a Navy intelligence agent broke into Sergio Massa’s home and made off with some computer pen-drives, and the torching of a Radical party HQ in a provincial town during the primary campaign, could be just a foretaste of what is to come.
As is fitting in a country that boasts so many shrinks, for several years now people interested in Argentine politics have been obliged to try and make out what is going on in Cristina’s head. She and she alone calls the shots. On occasion she may take into account what some trusted family members, old friends from Patagonia and recent favourites, have to say, but it appears that few of them dare to argue with her for fear of being cast into outer darkness.
This being the case, the country’s future depends in large measure on how she confronts what for her was a most unexpected setback. Less than two years ago, more than half the electorate voted for her; on Sunday, little more than a quarter did the same. To make matters worse, many, perhaps most, turned against her because they disliked not only the impact on their lives of the way the economy is shaping up and the swarms of murderous criminals who infest much of the country, but also her haughty, hectoring, self-righteous and monarchical style, plus the blatantly corrupt practices of so many people associated with her, among them her late husband.
So, what will Cristina do? If she is too aggressive, in October the poll results could be even more catastrophic than they were last Sunday. If she makes an effort to be conciliatory, she would have to begin dismantling her cherished “model”. She could also decide that, seeing the country does not deserve her, she might as well call it quits and let her critics try to sort out the mess that, in any event, sooner or later will be handed to them, in the hope that, after a few chaotic months, voters come to their senses and beg her to return.
That is what Néstor wanted her to do in 2008 when vice-president Julio Cobos torpedoed her farm bill, but Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva persuaded her to stay where she was and give Argentina another chance. As the problems currently facing Cristina are far worse than they were back then, thoughts of a premature retirement must surely be floating about in her mind.