In My Opinion

Andres Oppenheimer: Four top scenarios for Argentine leader

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s head surgery this week, which according to government officials will force her to rest until after key Oct. 27 congressional elections, has fueled all kinds of speculation about her country’s — and her own — future.

Already before her apparently successful surgery Tuesday to remove a blood clot from her head, Fernández’s ruling party was expected to lose badly in the congressional elections. That would thwart Fernández’s chances to change the constitution and seek reelection in 2015.

Now, speculation ranges from her recovering politically and finishing her term to her possibly choosing — for medical and political reasons — to step down and call early presidential elections. Among the possible scenarios:

•  The “Fernández recovers” scenario: According to this theory, Fernández’s ruling party does better than expected in the Oct. 27 elections, thanks to a “compassion effect’’ toward the ailing president. And her four-week-long medical rest period would save her from the embarrassment of losing the congressional elections, since she won’t be able to campaign for ruling party candidates.

Under this scenario, Fernández could win enough seats in Congress to remain a strong president until the end of her term, and perhaps become a powerful political figure beyond 2015, even if she can’t get reelected.

Skeptics say, however, that Fernández won’t benefit from a compassion vote, as she did after her late husband Nestor Kirchner died in 2010. The economy is doing much worse now, and Vice President Amado Boudou — who is acting as interim-president — is one of Argentina’s most unpopular politicians.

A poll of voters in Buenos Aires by the daily Clarín on the day of Fernández’s surgery showed that 61 percent of those surveyed said the president’s medical leave will have no impact on the congressional vote, while 15 percent said it will benefit the government, and 12 percent said it will benefit the opposition.

•  The “nothing happens” scenario: Fernández’s party loses the Oct. 27 elections, as most polls anticipate, and Fernández will muddle through the end of her term. She may try to continue strangling the private sector, and blaming business leaders and the media for the country’s steady downward course despite having benefitted from the biggest commodity export bonanza during her period.

“If she recovers, we’ll most likely see continuity, with growing government controls over the economy,” says Daniel Kerner, of the Eurasia Group consulting firm in Washington D.C.

•  The “constitutional succession” scenario: Fernández’s medical and political problems grow, and — perhaps under pressure from her children, or not wanting to defy her doctors’ orders like her late husband did before his death — she decides to step down. She would try to leave a close ally in charge, but that person would most likely not be Boudou. In addition to being unpopular, he faces several investigations for corruption scandals, and would thus have a hard time running the country. Fernández would ask Boudou to resign in favor of some other politician down the constitutional succession line.

•  The “early elections” scenario: Fernández’s health fails to improve, the country’s economic woes keep worsening, and she doesn’t have the physical energy to fight on. She decides to call early elections, hoping to help one of her own party’s politicians win.

“The market seems to be anticipating a regime change,” says Alberto Bernal, of Bulltick Capital Markets, noting that the Buenos Aires stock exchange has risen 6 percent since the August primary elections in which Fernández’s party did badly, and more than one percent since Fernández’s head surgery.

“If the president’s convalescence lingers longer than expected, Boudou would not be able to succeed her, and any change would be in a direction of a more business-friendly government,” Bernal says.

My opinion: The most likely scenario will be the “nothing happens” one, followed by the “constitutional succession” one.

Either way, Argentina has a hyper-presidential political system, and the outcome of its latest drama will depend more on medical and psychological factors, than political ones. More than ever in recent times, the country’s future will depend on what goes on in its president’s head.

The best possible outcome would be what an Argentine follower responded when I asked on Twitter what is likely to happen next in the country: “Nothing. I hope she recovers, ends her term peacefully, and allows us not to make another mistake,” the message said.

Read more Andres Oppenheimer stories from the Miami Herald

  • In My Opinion

    Andres Oppenheimer: Mexico’s education ‘abuse-meter’: a great idea!

    A Mexican group advocating for better education standards has done something that should be copied throughout Latin America — it erected an “abuse-meter” in one of Mexico City’s busiest avenues to inform passersby how much money from the country’s education budget is unaccounted for, or is being stolen, every minute.

  • In My Opinion

    Andres Oppenheimer: U.N. chief is half-right on Venezuela’s crisis

    United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon spends most of his time talking about the Middle East, Ukraine and global warming. So when I interviewed him last week, I wanted to hear his views on the political crisis in Venezuela and other issues in Latin America.

  • In My Opinion

    Andres Oppenheimer: Mexico’s big oil reform gamble

    Mexico’s historic energy rules passed into law earlier this week were hailed by President Enrique Peña Nieto as the beginning of a new era of prosperity, but — if they fail to produce quick results — they could also lead to an equally historic leftist victory in the 2018 elections.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category