Fernández seen as president elect in all but name

15th August 2019

By Luciana Bertoia

Fernández seen as president elect in all but name

With two months to go before the general elections and four months to the end of Mauricio Macri’s term, Alberto Fernández was virtually enthroned as the next president of Argentina after beating Macri by more than 15 points in the primaries.

The result was not within the calculations of the country’s main pollsters or Macri’s main advisers, but neither was it within the forecasts of the Frente de Todos, headed by Fernández and former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Fernández never imagined that he would be speaking as the virtual new Argentine president when he appeared on stage on Sunday to celebrate his victory alongside two mothers of Plaza de Mayo.

</p> <p>&#8220;I don&#8217;t have many points of agreement with the president. But we do agree that our present situation should not continue hurting Argentines. The current reality is in his hands. He has to reach December 10 and we have to help him carry out this transition,&#8221; said the candidate of the <em>Frente de Todos</em> in conversation with the press.</p> <p>Fernández intentionally spoke of transition. Since the primaries only elect presidential candidates (and not presidents), he does not have the legitimacy of having won a general election — to be held on October 27 — but he has already surpassed the 45 percent threshold that would allow him to become the new president of Argentina.</p> <p>The two main candidates, President Macri and Alberto Fernández, are at a crossroads: presidential power is eroding, markets have been collapsing since Macri was defeated in the primaries, there is no elected president and four months still need to pass before the end of Macri&#8217;s term —  a long time for a &#8220;lame duck&#8221; period amid worsening economic conditions.</p> <p>Additionally, Macri is haunted by the ghost of non-Peronist presidents who have <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/07/18/mauricio-macri-fernando-de-la-rua-structural-reforms-imf-financial-crisis-argentina-2001">failed to end their terms</a>, and Fernández is haunted by the ghost of Peronism maneuvering against governability.</p> <p><iframe title="El discurso de Alberto Fernandez: &quot;La Argentina finalmente escuchó el mensaje&quot;" width="1778" height="1000" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zLX49uQwMbQ?feature=oembed" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <h2><strong>Markets and Judges</strong></h2> <p>With his eyes set on what will happen after a potential swearing in ceremony on December 10, Fernández seeks to prevent the current government from emptying the country’s reserves to stop the escalation of the peso to the dollar exchange rate. Macri, for his part, eyes agreements on economic matters for two reasons: to calm the markets and the International Monetary Fund, but also to <a href="https://www.lanacion.com.ar/politica/punto-final-para-el-programa-con-el-fmi-nid2277625">avoid legal problems</a>.</p> <p>When Fernández de Kirchner&#8217;s presidency was coming to an end, a group of Cambiemos lawmakers filed a criminal complaint against officials in charge of exchange rate policy for selling dollar futures contracts significantly below their current market price in New York, a move that ended up costing the country billions following Macri&#8217;s late 2015 devaluation.</p> <p>Claudio Bonadio, a federal judge at odds with the Fernández de Kirchner, indicted the former president along with then Economy Minister Axel Kicillof and Central Bank Governor Alejandro Vanoli. Beyond a possible conviction, Bonadio — thanks to the legal filing made by members of <em>Cambiemos</em> — opened the door to the criminalization of economic policy, a move that could now come back to bite them as the government scrambles to contain the exchange rate in its last few months in charge.</p> <p>The government is worried about what could happen in the courts with the cases that have the president and officials as defendants. Fernández&#8217;s victory was celebrated at the Supreme Court, a spokesperson told <em>The Essential</em>. Two of the justices have Peronist roots, Juan Carlos Maqueda and Horacio Rosatti, and two others were nominated for the highest court when Fernández was Néstor Kirchner’s Cabinet chief, Ricardo Lorenzetti and Elena Highton de Nolasco.  Highton, in fact, was Alberto Fernández&#8217;s Law professor. The only justice directly aligned with Macri is Carlos Rosenkrantz, who heads the body and whose power has been ripped off by his colleagues.</p> <p>At the federal courthouse, some estimate that Bonadio, among others, will retire in the coming months.</p> <h2><strong>All the presidential candidate’s men</strong></h2> <p>Although Fernández says he doesn&#8217;t want to appoint a cabinet without winning the elections, the names of potential candidates to join his government are <a href="https://www.infobae.com/politica/2019/08/14/el-equipo-de-alberto-fernandez-quien-es-quien-y-los-posibles-nombres-para-un-gabinete/">already circulating</a>. Fernández’s confidant and driving force behind the Callao Group is political scientist Santiago Cafiero, the grandson of Peronist Antonio Cafiero.</p> <p>There are several economists within Fernández’s inner circle. So far, the only one who came out to speak after the primaries was Matías Kulfas, who said the Frente de Todos has every intention of paying off creditors. Guillermo Nielsen, former Secretary of Finance, is another of Fernández&#8217;s advisers. Massa insists they must repatriate Roberto Lavagna, the presidential candidate of the Federal Consensus ticket and former Eduardo Duhalde and Néstor Kirchner’s Economy minister.</p> <p>Fernández has a long-standing relationship with Eduardo Valdés, former ambassador to the Vatican, former Foreign minister Jorge Taiana and Jorge Argüello, who was ambassador to the United States and representative to the United Nations during the Kirchnerite era. Another former official who was close to the campaign was former Health Minister Ginés González García. Former Labor minister Carlos Tomada is also another with possibilities of joining the government, which could mark the return of several key officials from the governments of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.</p> <h2><strong>A win for Cristina</strong></h2> <p>Fernández de Kirchner <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/05/23/cristina-kirchners-shock-bid-as-vice-president-shakes-up-argentine-political-landscape">surprised everyone</a> on May 18 when she announced that she would not run for the Casa Rosada and that she would second Alberto Fernández, her former Cabinet chief who had left the administration in 2008, in a presidential ticket.</p> <p>Although Fernández was not a candidate who particularly attracted voters, he did provide political structure and brought other politicians to the front who had loyal voters, sociologist Paula Canelo explained to <em>The Essential</em>.</p> <p>Fernández&#8217;s main contribution to the Frente de Todos was to have Sergio Massa repatriated to a Peronist front. Massa represented a third competitive option at the level of the Buenos Aires province and on a national scale. Massa’s reunion with Fernández de Kirchner wasn’t Fernández’s only achievement. He also managed to win the endorsement of Peronist governors — who did not seem to feel comfortable endorsing Fernández de Kirchner’s presidential candidacy.</p> <p>

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Luciana Bertoia

Luciana Bertoia is a journalist specialized in judicial, political and human rights issues. She has published in Ámbito Financiero, Página/12, the Buenos Aires Herald and the International Justice Tribune.