Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cristina Fernández in the Argentine political spectrum

Three months into her second term as President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández is doing well in a recent Equis public opinion poll, as Raúl Kollmann reports in Los números acompañan a la Presidenta Página 12 10.03.2012. The poll was done in metropolitan Buenos Aires, where around 40% of the Argentine population lives, with the telephone sample of 800 people used to project national results.

Current polls show her approval rating at 65.3% and 58.2% willing to vote for her again. Currently, the Argentine Constitution prevents her from seeking a third term, but her supporters are seriously considering trying to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow her to do so. She was re-elected in 2011 with 53% of the vote, the highest margin for a Presidential candidate since democracy was restored in Argentina in 1983.

Cristina is head of the Peronist Partido Justicialista (PJ). Her own political orientation is known as "kirchnerism", from the family name of her late husband and predecessor as President, Néstor Kirchner. Her married name is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. She is typically referred to in the press by "Fernández", "CFK", or simply "Cristina", though "Kirchner" is also used. Her policies are often referred to in the press as simply the "K policies". Peronism is a particularly complicated historical and political phenomenon. But the K brand of Peronism could be reasonably described as a combative social-democracy. To add to the terminological complication, Cristina's electoral and parliamentary coalition is called the Frente para la Victoria (FpV), the coalition of the PJ with other small parties that support kirchnerism.

Her most prominent opposition is Mauricio Macri, the mayor/governor of the Federal District of Buenos Aires, which is a province in its own right, not to be confused with the province named Buenos Aires; put another way, the City of Buenos Aires is also the province Federal District; the province Buenos Aires does not include the City of Buenos Aires proper, though it does include the suburbs, aka, Greater Buenos Aires.  Macri's approval rating is 37.8% in the poll discussed in the linked article, and his willing-to-vote-for rating is 13.6%. His electoral coalition is known as the Propuesta Republicana (PRO).

The main opposition party to the PJ is the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) headed by Ricardo Alfonsín. It's probably not too far off to call it the conservative party, though the radical privitization of the 1990s was under the PJ government of Carlos Menem and kirchnerism is direct repudiation of Menemism, rather than of the UCR. The UCR is typically referred to as the "radicals" because of their historical party name. They actually were radicals, you know, 100 years ago. The UCR has been a badly weakened party over the last decade.

To muck things up ever further, both the UCR and the Partido Socialista (PS) are members of the Socialist International. Go figure. (And, no, it's not your imagination: trying to understand this with FOX News categories is literally impossible. You can't get here from there.) The PS is headed by Hermes Binner, and is part of a larger coalition known as the Frente Amplio Progresista (FAP).

Cristina is no Obama. She has no interest in pursuing some will-o-the-wisp of post-partisan harmony. She has confronted Britain diplomatically over their continued illegal occupation of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands. She is pushing the largest private oil company, YSP, to increase its domestic investment, even threatening to take a minority government stake in the company if that's what it takes to get them to do the right thing.

I would think that her status has probably been helped, and Macri's hurt, by a very recent controversy of the devolution of control of the Buenos Aires/Federal District subway system to the Federal District administration. The national government had been previously responsible for it. The devolution was something Macri wanted. And in line with his conservative orientation, he boosted the subway fares by over 100% earlier this year. Now he's balking at the hand-off of the subway responsibility which he formally agreed to. But the Equis report didn't show the effects of that controversy affecting the opinion ratings. The Equis head, Artemio López, speculates that the subway controversy was too specific to Buenos Aires proper to move the national or Greater Buenos Aires ratings.

The recent deadly rail crash in the Once district of Buenos Aires does not seemed to have affected Cristina's ratings one way or the other. So far, she has taken an aggressive public posture of taking responsibility for seeing that the causes of the crash are addressed and corrected.

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