On May 18, Cristina Kirchner caused a major shock when she announced that she is going to run in the next elections as vice president! In an unprecedented way, Kirchner announced her own candidacy and also the one of her presidential candidate. She will share the ticket with Alberto Fernández.
Fernández is an interesting character. Highly unpopular, he has never run for an executive office. The last few years he was a staunch critic of Kirchner himself. He went so far as to call her last term in office “deplorable.” The newly appointed presidential candidate was Néstor Kirchner’s Chief of Staff between 2003 and 2007, though. And he might be perceived by some as less irrational than Cristina Kirchner herself.
In any case, the unique political strategy of Cristina begs the question: wasn’t she ahead in the polls and likely to be the next president? Just a few months ago, Argentina’s stocks and bonds were crashing due to certain polls that indicated Cristina could win. Which candidate who is set to win an election degrades herself to vice president?
What really happened is a sad recognition on the part of Kirchner, namely that she cannot win this election. Therefore, she has to hide behind Fernández and play a game that seems impossible for her to win. On the one hand, to her loyalists she has to portray herself as the real number one who just took a strategic step backwards. On the other, to more centrist voters who tend to despise her, she has to play the role of the magnanimous leader who has stepped aside to let someone more moderate be in charge.
Cristina is pushing the limits of political postmodernism. Her false-flag presidential ticket can only be understood in post-truth terms – everything about it is fake and deceitful. For starters, no veep in the world designates her president. Moreover, no one who truly steps aside takes the position of veep. Hers is a performance, a simulation we are requested to believe.
On these conditions, Fernández can expect that his campaign will be challenging. Argentina has a presidential system similar to the American. Running under the label of being a sock puppet candidate presents many difficulties. He is already referred to as presidenta – the Spanish informal word for a female president.
Fernández’s difficulties do not stop here. The whole point of his candidacy is that he supposedly is a more rational and reliable person than Cristina. In case of being elected, we are told, his presidency will be quite different than the populist extremes witnessed in Venezuela or Nicaragua. Unfortunately for him, spreading this message will be extremely hard due to Kirchner’s hardliners and Cristina herself. Sinceramente (honestly in English), a recently published book by Cristina with her political memoirs, distills hatred, revenge feelings, and the deepening of Chávez-style policies in case of returning to power. What is more, some of Cristina’s most trusted collaborators have been circulating ideas such as reforming the Constitution or abolishing the judiciary.
In case the psychotic campaign Fernández has to run was successful, this would open even more pathological scenarios. There is of course the likelihood that he would become just a figurehead, a fake president – which is bad enough. Another possibility is that he quits or is removed somehow from the presidency clearing the way for Cristina. At worst, a war within the administration could start in order to settle who has the power. None of these alternatives seem very promising for the future of the country.
Cristina’s veep trick may be her last desperate act to return to power. During her second term from 2011 to 2015, her supporters toyed with the idea of an eternal presidency for her. This notion may very well be at the base of Cristina’s reasoning. A mixture of entitlement and inevitability.
However, this would be nothing but self-delusion. As those know who have watched Avengers Endgame (and if you haven’t, stop reading right here), Thanos says rather overconfidently at the end of the movie that “I am inevitable.” A few seconds later he and his army are wiped out by Tony Stark. In October, voters in Argentina can become Iron Man and finally get rid of her for good.
Federico N. Fernández is a Senior Fellow at the Austrian Economics Center and President of the Fundación Internacional Bases.
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