Plaza de Mayo, the square in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires, was filled on Thursday with people lining up to pay their last respects to former president Nestor Kirchner. His death has altered Argentina’s political scene. Cristina Kirchner stood silently in front of her husband’s coffin, but behind her, all the political operators that have surrounded the Kirchner couple have already started thinking of the presidential elections in 2011.
For many, Nestor Kirchner would have become the candidate to succeed his wife. But there is an ongoing power struggle within the Justicialist Party (also known as the Peronist Party because of Argentina’s late leader, Juan Peron), and there are many who would love to run for the presidential seat.
Who the candidate will be depends on what the president does next. The enormous support from Argentina’s all-too-powerful labour unions shows that Cristina could have the backing to run again. Thousands of people in Plaza de Mayo gave her their support.
Yet things could change fast in this country, where a dramatic display of support by this country’s political groups can easily change as soon as the president shows a sign of weakness. An analyst told me that Kirchner’s approval rating, which currently stands at around 38 per cent, will probably increase in the coming months. But it could drop once again if the government continues to alienate itself instead of finding allies.
A sector of Argentina’s society supports many government policies and measures. But the presidential couple’s confrontational style has also divided Argentinean society and around 60 per cent of the population, as things stand now, would not vote for them again. Even though many support some of their policies, they are also tired of the permanent confrontation that has existed here in the last years.