On Sunday, Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner officially confirmed that she will be running for senator in the upcoming midterm election, which will take place on October 22nd. We were all pretty sure that it was going to happen, but now that it’s official, repercussions are pouring in like an avalanche and have taken the political and media landscape by storm.
Pundits’ analysis around the world and the country was unanimous: the election will be a referendum on the policies implemented by the Mauricio Macri administration and will help to set the tone for the rest of his government, already looking at 2019’s presidential elections. How they feel about it is a whole other subject.
However, there were differences in the angles from which the announcement was analyzed. This doesn’t come as a surprise in Argentina, considering that the majority of the media is has a public political bias.
But there were also differences in the way the different international media outlets covered the news, especially when it came to the importance they gave to the legal immunity a seat in the Senate would grant to the former president — considering she has multiple active cases in court charging her for the misuse of public funds and money laundering for personal enrichment. Some highlighted this at the beginning of their reports, hinting it played an important role at the time of making the decision. Others mentioned it after emphasizing the importance of the political ramifications should she win.
Let’s take a look at the how the media has been covering this.
British Outlet The Guardian published a report that went straight to the point. The race “will determine whether President Mauricio Macri can deepen his free-market reforms,” it argues, before providing some background information about Fernández’s decision to create a new electoral alliance independent of the PJ — called Citizens’ United Front (Frente de Unidad Ciudadana) — her economic policies while in office and yes, the immunity that holding public office would give her, taking into account the numerous charges that have been pressed against her.
The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, focuses on this last issue at the beginning. The campaign could, if elected, give her congressional immunity from federal prosecution for alleged money laundering and racketeering during her presidency,” the report begins.
Same as the other international outlets, it then goes on to indicate that the race could “be considered a referendum both on her legacy and the performance of her successor, Mr. Macri,” and that it “could risk the government’s goal of attracting foreign investment, as many executives say they want proof that President Macri’s pro-business policies will last before they open their wallets.” To illustrate this point, the reporter cites the decision coming from the MSCI Emerging Markets Index to postpone a call to include Argentina in its emerging market stock index.
Bloomberg echoed this last thought, mentioning the fact that Argentina will be considered a “frontier market” at least until next year, and quoting an analyst who argued that “If she returns then uncertainty will skyrocket.” “A win by Fernandez de Kirchner has the potential to scare away investors who are already wary of how the reforms implemented by President Mauricio Macri could be reversed if he loses support in
“A win by Fernandez de Kirchner has the potential to scare away investors who are already wary of how the reforms implemented by President Mauricio Macri could be reversed if he loses support in Congress,” the report says.
The local outlets with obvious anti-CFK leanings explained why this move is detrimental to Argentina’s progress, while those with a less critical view of the former President praised the move. All of them, however, highlighted the importance of the election and explained that both Cambiemos and the former President’s electoral front have a lot at stake in this.
During the weekend there were more op-eds delving into the run’s significance than actual news, so we’ll take a look at the most emblematic ones at each side of the spectrum, and a balanced analysis by the country’s best-known political pundit, Rosendo Fraga.
Journalist Luis Majul has always been one of Fernández’s most staunch critics, and this wasn’t the exception. In his TV show La Cornisa, Majul delivered a monologue asking her to speak out and acknowledge her administration’s flaws, and give explanations about her alleged corruption.
“Since she came down from the Olympus, putting herself at the level of us, mortals, and called citizens to the stage so we all know the bad things that are happening in the country, I have for you an irresistible proposal: why don’t you take advantage of the spotlight and, in your next rally, tell the entire truth and not the one that suits you?” the editorial begins.
Her ties with disgraced Businessman Lázaro Báez, the crisis in Santa Cruz, the numerous cases in which her ex-Vice President Amado Boudou will be tried, the case investigating head of the more radicalized branch of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and a staunch supporter of hers, Hebe de Bonafini for allegedly embezzling AR $200 million her foundation was given to build social housing and the cases of other officials during her administration that are in prison on corruption allegations are some of the subjects Majul mentioned.
The journalist went on to mention Fernández’s decision to describe the stories of different people whose financial situation got worse during the Macri administration — “it was very moving. And it’s good to show it so no one believes the economy is booming and that we are in Disneyland” — but used it as a standpoint to ask her to own her flaws.
“Why don’t you tell the entire story and own your part? Maybe then, madam ex-president, when you tell the entire truth, you might convince more Argentines that you are being honest, and not just a staged lie to avoid going to prison, getting immunity, attacking the government and trying to come back for everything in 2019,” he finished.
On the other side of the divide, Página 12 journalist Mario Wainfeld highlights that Fernández is back at the center of the scene, and says she is facing what might “be her most challenging campaign, amid an unprecedented harassment from the media and the judiciary.”
The article goes on to criticize the judges that are investigating her, saying that it’s the “popular verdict” and not them who should decide the future of political leaders. “An eventual victory would mean, on its own, a severe political defeat for both Cambiemos and the corporations i.e ‘investors’ who ask she be imprisoned as a requisite to do business,” he argues.
Finally, the journalist takes on the former Interior and Transportation Minister during the Fernández administrations and current senatorial candidate Florencio Randazzo, anticipating he will suffer a tough defeat against his former boss. “It would be an unprecedented upset if he gets to come close to Cristina, or even come in third. Regardless of what happens with Cristina, his position within the Peronist leadership won’t be envied by many,” he finishes.
Finally, political analyst Rosendo Fraga provides background information about the previous elections in the Buenos Aires Province and highlights that, for the first time in four midterm elections, “the struggle for the first place won’t happen between two factions of Peronism, but between a non-Peronist one [Cambiemos] and one that does come from Peronism [Citizens’ United Front].”
Fraga indicates that the fact that Peronism is divided is a great advantage for Cambiemos, as it increases its chances of coming in first place. But he says that at the same time “the anti-Kirchnerism also will be divided in three, as it’s represented by Cambiemos, Massa and Stolbizer’s coaltition and Randazzo’s Justicialist Party. Having three offers that confront with the ex-president limits the government’s possibilities of polarizing with Cristina’s votes.”
The analyst goes on to explain that the former president will focus on the “deterioration of the social situation,” while Cambiemos will give more importance to its efforts to “tackle insecurity and corruption.”
Finally, he explains the potential consequences of the different outcomes: “the scenarios will be different if, on October 22 Cambiemos has won or lost by a single vote in the Buenos Aires Province. If it wins, the perception that Macri will govern for eight years will be installed. If they lose it, that it [the administration] will only be a four-year run, even if things end up being different. For Cristina, winning is moving forwards on her presidential candidacy for 2019. If she loses, she will seek to entrench the Senate with a caucus of her own to continue existing.”
The scenario is set and the race will do nothing but get more heated up as the campaigns officially begin. It will be something worth watching.