In respective interviews in the span of less than a day, two of the most prominent members of Peronismo Federal, Senator Miguel Ángel Pichetto and Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey, assured that former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner intends to run for President in 2019.
Both of them also coincided on the fact that she will compete representing Unidad Ciudadana, the party she created to run in the 2017 midterms and is successor to the Frente Para la Victoria, rather than seeking to form a united front with all factions of the Peronism movement.
This means they are ruling out a big primary in 2019 and present a single candidate backed by the entire Peronist spectrum. Clarín journalist Pablo De León further backed this in an article today, indicating the former President is already talking with potential political allies behind the scenes and planning Unidad Ciudadana’s re-launch.
Kirchner hasn’t made any public appearances in the past months. However, as Pichetto, Urtubey and De León assured, this is far from meaning she isn’t active. Avoiding making statements was in fact a campaign strategy implemented by the former President in the 2017 midterms, as results showed that her approval rating was inversely proportional to the time she spent in front of a camera.
In fact, as President Mauricio Macri’s approval ratings dipped in the past months as a result of the economic turbulence plaguing the country, Kirchner’s approval numbers rose, despite (or perhaps, thanks to) her media silence.
However, in spite of these encouraging numbers for the former President, current polling numbers still indicate that the decision to fly solo provides her with a strong chance of resulting in the outcome she wants the least: Macri’s re-election.
This is the case because Kirchner is a living example of Argentina’s deep political divide: although she is the opposition politician with the highest approval rates, she is also the one with the highest disapproval rates.
According to a survey conducted by pollster Synopsis in late June, if the elections were to take place now, she would probably defeat any member of the opposition. But at the same time, her high levels of rejection would give Macri the highest chances of beating her in a runoff. Synopsis indicates Macri would win by 7.2 points, but if the former President can find a silver lining in this theoretical defeat, it’s the fact that another poll from three months ago assured she would lose by 17 points.
Considering that the economic recovery promised by the government is yet to be seen, conditions are ripe for Cristina to continue to thrive. However, as mentioned, elections are still more than a year off and in Argentine political time, that’s the equivalent of an eternity. The 2019 electoral scenario is still a big question mark, but the evidence indicates that Kirchner will be there, and that right now she has greater chances of winning than three months ago.