Argentina, in "Intensive Care"

09/10/2013

Guillermo Hirschfeld, coordinator for Latin American Programs, FAES Foundation


Less than a month before the elections, crucial for the future of the political project that has been leading Argentina for a decade, no one could foresee an imponderable as the one that has actually taken place. Cristina Fernandez's health has been seriously affected by a health problem: a "chronic subdural hematoma" of which she has been successfully operated, according to the medical report. Something that would inevitably lead her to rest and spend some time away from their duties.

It is not possible to accurately assess the political impact of this disease in the results of the elections and in Argentina's political development in the two-year presidential term that still remain.

A first analysis might suggest a "sympathy" effect, i.e. commiseration for the President would generate a rise in Kirchner's popularity across the country. Those who hold this view say that this phenomenon would especially take place if Cristina Fernandez could manage to return with signs of recovery days before the parliamentary elections. However, both the Argentinean rejection of her country model and the economic crisis already pollute the whole project, and probably just the single figure of a pitiful President will no longer be sufficient to mobilize the Argentinean electorate; although it must be remembered that the her husband's death changed the whole political board. In this case, however, the conditions are different, because a collapse of the regime had already started before surgery.

A second argument would lead us to conclude that the disease and the power vacuum could lead to an acceleration of the collapse of Kirchner's political narrative and to the beginning of a transition. The weakness of the acting President, Cristina's fragile health, the serious economic problems, coupled with the many issues yet pending, both internal and external, and the crushing defeat of last August,--when her party only won 25% of the votes and lost in the top five constituencies--may be sufficient evidence to predict that the change would now be irreversible.

Some questions still remain: could Kirchner's project resurface? If not: is an orderly transition possible? Or, the worst-case scenario, could Argentina suffer an institutional breakdown as has happened before? Hopefully the will of the opponents will be to rise to the occasion and face the uncertain future with sense of responsibility.