30 June 2009

After the elections

The legislative elections are over, and if you're following the news, you'll be surely aware of the big picture: Néstor Kirchner has lost, the government's power in Congress has been cut down, and several presidenciables (that is, likely presidential candidates) are already lining up (or have been lined up by the media) for the 2011 election.

So I'll just concentrate on the small things and the analysis. First, let's get Kirchner out of the way... Néstor Kirchner lost to Francisco de Narváez by a handful of votes, a lot of votes actually, but only about two-and-a-half percent of the Buenos Aires Province vote. Of course, what happened is that the list of candidates headed by NK got a few votes less than that led by FDN; in formal terms it was a tie, but Kirchner's insistence on the paramount importance of this election worked like a self-fulfilled prophecy: almost everyone assumed positions as if it were the one and final battle of a war, and the election turned into an opportunity to bash the government. And bashed it was: Kirchner, who had achieved record levels of popularity during his term, lost to a group of the strangest bedfellows politics has inflicted on us as of late, led by a right-wing Colombian-born multimillionaire with an image constructed hastily by the media in a matter of months. Many of the so-called "barons" of Greater Buenos Aires, who rule the poorest and most densely populated parts of Argentina as virtual feudal lords and are keen observers of reality, betrayed their alliance with Kirchner, unnanounced.

In any case, after what must have been a very long night and a terrible day, Kirchner dutifully resigned from the presidency of the Justicialist Party. He released a short video accepting the defeat and I swear he looked mildly drugged.

Yesterday in the afternoon, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner gave a press conference. First she started out by reciting highly optimistic figures for the composition of the new Congress, and feigned not to have the exact numbers of her husband's defeat on hand (while, as everyone knows, she probably had the figures down to the least significant digit painfully etched in her short-term memory). Then she tried to turn the whole thing on its head, pointing out how an awful lot of people had still voted for the government's party. When a journalist pointed out that she'd gotten 45% of the vote when she was elected and now her husband got only 31%, she was upset and accused the media of having a double standard because they hadn't gone and asked that to Mauricio Macri and his candidate Gabriela Michetti (in the City of Buenos Aires, Michetti got 30% of the vote, only half of what Macri and her had gotten two years ago). She also resented the petitio principii of a journalist who asked about the manipulation of INDEC's figures of inflation — which did beg the question, of course, because the government has never admitted to that manipulation, although everyone, including some of the president's favorite economists, is certain of it.

At that point, approximately, I stopped watching the press conference. It was pointless. Either Cristina has learned nothing or she needs a few days to let it sink in, but based on previous experience, the latter is unlikely. We're left with the hope that she won't attempt something funny before December, when the new Congressmen will take their seats.

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