Beaming under her campaign slogan, “Change is Just Beginning,” first lady Cristina Fern├?┬índez de Kirchner announced her candidacy for presidency on Thursday, vowing to continue “left-leaning” policies of Argentina’s outgoing president, her husband.
"Argentina has new hopes, so there is now a need to keep carrying this model forward," Fernandez said. Her campaign kicked off in La Plata, Argentina, where she began her senatorial campaign in 2005. Over 1700 people attended the rally.
Fern├?┬índez, senator and wife of Néstor Kirchner, currently leads the polls with 46.2 percent of the vote as a Peronist — the center-left party — candidate.
Political analysts in America and Argentina compare Fern├?┬índez’s campaign to that of Senator Hillary Clinton: both women served as senators and are unabashed in bringing their more-popular husbands out to speak on their behalf.
“Don’t believe that you are a hero, you are not,” Fernandez said to her husband at the rally. “But, you are not a common man either. You are an extraordinary man. Mr. President, Argentines will never forget you. I just hope they won’t miss you too much.”
If Fernandez gets her way, Argentina will have no chance to miss the Fernandez/Kirchner family, since, as “Evita” would say, the truth is she never left them.
Kirchner is hailed as having saved Argentina from the brink of disaster following a nosedive in the stock market in 2001 and 2002, during which Argentina suffered staggering inflation. The subsequent economic crisis, which some estimated included $140 billion in debt, forced many banks to freeze their accounts, and many families lost everything virtually overnight as the peso fell 70 percent against the dollar
In only a ten-day period, five presidents accepted and then quickly resigned from the office.
Perhaps more than her husband, Fern├?┬índez allies herself with the Peronist party, which supports strong nationalists, often leaning heavily on military control. The party has in previous administrations been linked with fascism — Juan Peron himself sent many years in Spain under Franco before returning to Argentina.
Large banner posters of both Eva and Juan Domingo Peron flew high on either side of Fernnadez as she gave her 45 minute official election bid.
Fernandez also spoke in her speech about changing the "Argentines’ cultural paradigms" and working towards a "recovery of our self-esteem, work and jobs, as the axis of the Argentina that is to come."
The First Lady made visits to politicians worldwide in the past few years, including Venezuela, Mexico and Palestine. Some reports said that videos played during Fernandez’s rally featured Senator Clinton and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Right away the First Lady visited Spain, taking time Monday speak with the royal family, and again Tuesday to address Spanish businessmen, who are expected to further increase her campaign’s success.
Throughout her speech, the large crowd — some of whom told reporters they had traveled for hours to attend the rally — cheered and laughed with the first lady, who was dressed in a well-cut white suit, and is already being called “the lady in white.”
Beauty seems an essential part of an Argentine candidate: Carlos Menem, president from 1989 to 1999, is married to a former Miss Universe.
Not that Fern├?┬índez is afraid to appear in anything less than the height of fashion. When meeting First Lady Laura Bush in 2005, Fern├?┬índez appeared in a crimson leather jacket and bold red skirt to match.
“I assure you her government will be far better than the one we have run until now,” President Kirchner said at a political rally for his wife in early July.
Fern├?┬índez, whose popularity ratings fall just behind those of her husband, has served as a senator for Buenos Aires throughout her husband’s administration.
The most recent wrinkle in Kirchner’s popularity came after the president’s Economy Minister Felisa Miceli resigned amid investigations into roughly $60,000 — half in dollars and half in pesos.
"I was naive, clumsy,” Miceli was quoted as saying by Clarin Daily. “there could have been negligence but I am sure I haven’t committed any crime."
As may be inferred, the Peronist Party, or Partido Justicialista takes its name from founder Juan Domingo Peròn, who ruled the country in the 1940s and 1950s. His wife, Eva Peron, is also heavily linked to Fern├?┬índez (both women are renowned for helping their husbands achieve great popularity during periods of economic crisis.)
The first lady’s competition would have to bound ahead more than 30 points. Elisa Carri├?┬│, founder of the Support for an Egalitarian Republic and teen beauty contestant, comes in second in most polls with 12 percent.
Fern├?┬índez’s presidency would leave the door open for Kirchner to run again in 2011, since Argentine law prohibits two consecutive terms. In this fashion, the dynamic duo could proceed trading panic buttons and secret service detail for years.