Argentina‘s former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has announced her candidacy for vice president in elections later this year, a surprise move by a politician who had been widely expected to be the main challenger to incumbent Mauricio Macri.
In a video posted on Twitter on Saturday, Kirchner said she would run for the deputy position with former cabinet chief, Alberto Fernandez, as the presidential candidate.
“I have asked Alberto Fernandez to head the formula that we will integrate together, he as a presidential candidate and I as a vice presidential candidate,” Kirchner said.
“I am convinced that this formula that we are proposing is the one that best expresses what Argentina needs at this moment to summon the broadest social and political and economic sectors.”
Fernandez served as chief of staff from 2003 to 2007 for Kirchner’s predecessor and late husband, Nestor Kirchner.
He remained in the position during a portion of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s term as president from 2007 to 2015 but left the post after a steep economic crisis took hold.
He is considered a moderate within the broad Peronist political flank and is not related to the former president.
Argentines will head to the polls in October, with Macri increasingly under fire amid a biting recession and inflation that has hurt the market-friendly leader in the polls.
Kirchner, 66, was known for her interventionist and populist policies while in office. Some credit her for leading the country out of an economic crisis, while others blame her for creating its current woes.
Many saw the former leader, who has a strong core following, as the most likely challenger to Macri. Her decision to pursue the position of second-in-command reflects possible doubts over whether she is best positioned to challenge Macri directly in light of a series of looming corruption trials.
Argentina’s Supreme Court has said the first corruption trial against Kirchner could start as early as next week, despite a judicial order that her opponents feared could delay the trial into the presidential campaign season or beyond.
Kirchner has been accused of taking bribes in exchange for public work contracts, but denies wrongdoing and says lower courts did not allow her to present more witnesses.
In separate cases, she faces several formal investigations into allegations of bribery, money laundering and criminal association during her administration and that of her husband.
At a political meeting on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Macri appeared to respond to the announcement by saying that “going back to the past would be self-destruction”.
Mariel Fornoni, director of the political consultancy Management and Fit, said that voters who were somewhat apprehensive of Kirchner could be more willing to vote for the Unidad Ciudadana party with Fernandez as the leader and Kirchner as the vice presidential candidate.
“It seems to me that all this is aimed at a more moderate voter,” Fornoni said, noting that Fernandez is praised by some for his work during Kirchner’s administration.
“Painting him as Nestor’s chief of staff when we left the crisis is associated with having someone with experience.”
Fernandez did not immediately comment on her announcement.