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October 1, 2014

Another view

Saturday, May 31, 2014

CFK not dead

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner celebrates the Paris Club agreement on Thursday.
By Nicolás Tereschuk
Guest columnist
The massive celebration on May 25 shows how the president can still garner huge support

Four months after one of the most difficult moments in President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, Plaza de Mayo was packed, once again, for a presidential speech. It is easy to play down the “popular celebration” on May 25. In fact it has been treated mostly that way by the mainstream media. “They’re all paid by the state.” “It’s the electoral machine.” “Only the hardcore Kirchnerite group still listens to Cristina.” And yet.

And yet there are a few points that can explain a more stable situation for the government by mid-year, as well as a more relaxed climate in the huge gathering on May Revolution Day. Why were there sincere smiles in front of the Pink House? Why was it a celebration day for Cristina? Two reasons, one economic and the other political, are extremely important:

— The INDEC statistics bureau has reported that the rate of inflation keeps slowing. Some private estimates show that in the last 30 days price hikes were the smallest since September 2013.

— The Justicialist Party (PJ) has named its new authorities, a picture that showed that most Peronists think Sergio Massa’s party, the Renewal Front (FR), is still an unlikely way to hold on to power. Six hopefuls within the PJ have been blessed to compete for the presidential nomination.

Since dangerous December, with the provincial police strikes, and scary January, with the devaluation of the peso, this news has clearly helped stabilize the Government and if they are added to other signals, most political and economic players could read the situation as: “Cristina is still capable of making a ‘soft landing’ in 2015.”

Some other facts from the last three months are useful to understand this “new” situation:

Argentina is putting things in order in the external front: the settlements with Repsol and the Paris Club and the defrosting of the relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Also, the Obama administration backed Argentina in the case pushed by holdout hedge funds that is before the US Supreme Court.

Cristina met for three hours at the Vatican with Pope Francis who has become a major political player in Argentina.

China confirmed fresh financing for its biggest projects in Latin America: the Néstor Kirchner and Jorge Cepernic dams, which add up to almost five billion dollars. President Xi Jinping will visit Argentina in July. Russian premier Vladimir Putin is also likely to arrive here soon. And they will also meet Argentina in the BRICS group meeting in Brazil, scheduled for July.

The government has introduced some unorthodox measures, more likely to be approved by its followers than the January devaluation: the Progresar welfare plan (for young people who don’t study nor work), the hike in the Universal Child Allowance, the Price Watch programme and a bill against informal employment that was approved by almost all lawmakers, are just some of the examples.

Last but not least, most wage negotiations ended — as it has for many years — above the so-called “ceiling” that the government supposedly wished to apply — and never does. Hugo Moyano’s CGT organized a general strike, but the “social climate” does not seem to be very different from last year’s.

Obviously, these facts don’t mean that Fernández de Kirchner’s administration does not face obstacles along the way. But when put together help explain where all those happy crowds came from and why the president is still an extremely important political part of Argentina’s public landscape.

This strengthening of the Pink House’s position has its impact on the opposition field. Does Massa look as strong as he did in January? Why has a Minister like Florencio Randazzo, who heads the Transport and Interior porfolio, started going up in some polls? Will next year’s campaign be all about “change” or will the candidates promise also to maintain some policies?

Intellectuals like Beatriz Sarlo repeat — she did it once again this week — that it will be difficult for Kirchnerism to continue as a political movement when CFK’s term comes to an end. Maybe Sarlo thinks there is something intrinsically “bad” in Kirchnerism, different from something intrinsically “good” in other parties.

Discussions aside, one thing is for sure: for Fernández de Kirchner and her followers leaving power on December 10, 2015 in a scenario of stability is the first condition to have a political future.

*Nicolás Tereschuk is the editor of the blog artepolitica.com

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