Argentine president to seek re-election

Fernandez de Kirchner to seek a second term, ending months of speculation about her political plans.

    The president's plans had been a subject of speculation due to rumoured health issues [AFP]

    Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the Argentine president, has announced she will seek re-election, ending months of speculation about her political plans.

    In a nationally televised address on Tuesday, Kirchner said, "we are once again going to go submit ourselves'' to the vote.

    "I always knew what I had to do because I have always had a high sense of political responsibility and what must be done,'' Kirchner, who succeeded her late husband Nestor Kirchner in 2007, said.

    "How could I give up and not keep going?"

    Tuesday's announcement should end any talk of a rival emerging from inside the Justicialist Party, her centre-left and populist Peronist grouping that has dominated Argentine politics for more than two decades.

    Kirchner's main rival is expected to be lawmaker Ricardo Alfonsin, the son of an ex-president with the Radical Civic Union, another centre-left party that has the second largest showing in the Congress.

    Polls indicate the Argentine president lacks majority support, but might easily win re-election in the October 23 first-round vote against a divided opposition.

    Kirchner's plans have been a subject of speculation due to rumoured health issues and her public silence on her political future.

    Political career

    A lawyer by training, Kirchner started her political career as a lawmaker in Santa Cruz, her husband's home province where they built their side-by-side political careers.

    She became president in October 2007 after winning more than 45 per cent of the vote - almost twice the showing of liberal runner-up Elisa Carrio.

    Nestor Kirchner, her husband and predecessor, would have easily won re-election in 2007 but instead stood aside for his wife to run.

    He was her closest adviser and until his death in October 2010, it was widely believed that he would be the one to run in this year's election.

    Argentine laws allow presidents to serve unlimited, non-consecutive terms. However, the country's law does allow presidents to serve two consecutive terms.

    Interventionist policies

    Kirchner has followed interventionist economic and social policies begun eight years ago by her late husband and predecessor, who is credited to have revived the Argentinian economy after its devastating 2001-02 economic and political crisis.

    Business leaders have often criticised her policies, saying they drive away investment.

    Local financial markets tumbled when Kirchner pushed the nationalisation of private pensions in 2008, and farmers staged months of strikes that year over her attempt to hike taxes on soy exports.

    Her approval ratings sank to lows of about 20 per cent during the messy conflict.

    But Kirchner has enjoyed a steady recovery since 2009 in tandem with an economic rebound and the failure of opponents to gain traction and forge alliances strong enough to mount a convincing challenge.

    The Argentine economy clocked a sizzling 9.2 per cent growth last year, and Kirchner's government will likely work to keep the economy hot in the run-up to the election.

    However, her biggest challenge is to check rising inflation, which is believed to be running at well above the official rate of around 10 per cent.

    Her government has also won support with public aid programmes targeting the country's poorest and its championing of ongoing human rights prosecutions of officials in the country's 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

    Kirchner has also advocated paying off the country's sovereign debts and supported legalising same-sex marriage.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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