December 5, 2013
The presidential illness would create problems for governability in any context but the timing is especially cruel in this electoral month. Until the blood clot sidelined President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last weekend, the need to ensure governability in the 30th anniversary of continuous democratic rule had been shaping up as one of the most promising ways for the government to bounce back from its crushing August 11 primary defeat. The argument here could run somewhat along these lines (even if perhaps overestimating the capacity for self-criticism): “Democracy is always premised on the people being right and the citizenry had their reasons to use a pre-electoral vote last August both to lodge a protest and to close the door on a constitutional reform widely criticized as threatening democratic balance and the separation of powers. But precisely because that door was closed, the electorate needs to attach much more importance in this month’s voting to ensuring governability in the last two years of CFK’s constitutional term and that aim would not be served by boosting a fragmented opposition distinctly short on constructive alternatives.”
Such logic still basically stands but the problem posed by the presidential illness is what face to give governability, if not the head of state within such a centralized and personalized decision-making system as Kirchnerism. Within this first week there have been some rather evident problems in making Acting President Amado Boudou anything more than a formal substitute. Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli is a rather more serious prospect for ensuring governability and continuity in this emergency period, given his projection into the 2015 presidential elections (if both Scioli and Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa have a similar core message of combining continuity and change, Scioli has been stressing continuity far more in recent weeks while Massa has been much heavier on change). Yet although the presidential health crisis plays into Scioli’s hands, he would be rash to believe that he is “condemned to success” any more than a previous two-term Buenos Aires governor authoring that phrase, namely Eduardo Duhalde — he should not underestimate either the Massa upsurge or the residual hardcore of Kirchnerite support (not to mention sympathy for the ailing leader) in eroding any political basis for his statesmanlike pose.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking with the elections just a fortnight away. If Peronism has always been a movement defying analysis, perhaps Peronist Loyalty Day this Thursday will present more conundrums than ever.