March 12, 2014
Early days yet
Leadership gurus recommend delegating responsibilities. But surely President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is already learning that delegating is an art form in itself that not every leader necessarily gets right immediately. Indeed, in the president’s case, she has now been in office since 2007 and has reshuffled the Cabinet a number of times even when the basic Kirchnerite dictum of not changing ministers too often still holds true. Consider that the president in 2008 named then-Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa as her Cabinet chief. Massa, who won the midterm elections last year in Buenos Aires province against the Kirchnerite machine in Buenos Aires province leading a rebel centre-right Peronist ticket, was swiftly shown the door a year later in 2009 when it was all too clear that he was not about to swear blind loyalty to the head of state and her late husband Néstor Kirchner. Kirchnerites will gladly admit, now that the former Tigre mayor became a potential opposition presidential candidate in 2015, that Massa’s ascent was a mistake from their perspective. Voters handed Fernández de Kirchner huge clout when she was re-elected in 2011 and the president chose to name an ultra-Kirchnerite, the political scientist Juan Manuel Abal Medina, as her Cabinet chief (in replacement of the now-Senator Aníbal Fernández). But Abal Medina’s performance as Cabinet chief was lacklustre, even when he carried the advantage of being personally groomed into an ultra-Kirchnerite by the president’s late husband. Now all eyes are on the performance of the new Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich, former Chaco governor, ushered in after October’s electoral defeat.
Some pundits are already trying to judge whether the president’s november Cabinet reshuffle, which included the promotion of the Kenynesian theorist Axel Kicillof to Economy minister, was the right call. The early speculation has included talk of nascent infighting in the reshuffled Cabinet. Capitanich and Kicillof are possibly trying to out-talk each other (though such a contest has been denied). Yet, with the president still following doctor’s orders to avoid stress, the new ministers have changed the ways of the national government at least when it comes to talking to the press. Capitanich holds a daily press conference in the morning. Kicillof used an interview with an non Kirchnerite radio journalist on Wednesday to deny any plans to increase the personal wealth tax.
Perhaps this is what should be reported: the style is changing. But will the substance, especially when it comes to issues like measuring inflation? Admit it: it’s too early to say.