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Ex-President Kirchner won’t make a challenge Argentina president; she’s running for VP

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Argentina’s Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said she will run as vice president in October’s elections, surprising her followers and prompting some sighs of relief from nervous investors.

Former cabinet chief Alberto Fernández, a longtime operative, will take top spot on the ticket as the presidential candidate competing against President Mauricio Macri. Cristina Fernández, a divisive figure in the third-biggest economy in Latin America, announced the move at the weekend in a video posted on social media. The two candidates are not related.

The announcement shakes up an election race many thought would be a choice between Macri’s painful market reforms and the fiery populism of Cristina Fernández, who supported high social subsidies when she ran the country between 2007 and 2015.

“It’s not a move anyone thought would happen,” said Carlos Fara, a Buenos Aires-based political consultant, noting that Cristina Fernández would be very influential if her running mate won the Oct. 27 election.

“Nobody will imagine they are voting for Alberto without thinking that it’s a vote for Cristina. In the eyes of the public, it will be Alberto governing, but Cristina in power.”

The move nonetheless propels Alberto Fernández, not previously on the radar as a presidential hopeful, into an election race expected to be tightly fought between Macri and rivals lining up from among the broad Peronist opposition.

Macri is increasingly under fire amid a biting recession and inflation that has hurt the market friendly leader in the polls.

“The situation of the people and the country is dramatic, and I’m convinced this arrangement we’re proposing best reflects what is needed in Argentina at this time,” said in a nearly 13-minute video on her official Twitter account.

“I have asked Alberto Fernández to lead a team that includes both of us, him as the presidential candidate and me as a candidate for the vice position,” she added.

The surprise presidential candidate said on Saturday he wanted to “restore dignity to millions of Argentines that this government has plunged into marginality and poverty.”

While Cristina Fernández has a strong core following, many voters are wary of her record of currency controls and tax increases on farm exports when she was president.

She is also facing the start of a trial next week on charges of corruption, which have cast a shadow over her political ambitions. She denies the allegations and as a sitting senator has immunity from arrest. Her own accountant has confirmed that she and her husband has stolen at least 6 billion USD. She is also facing more serious crimes connected with the murder of a prosecutor called Nisman who was killed the day before he was due to bring charges against her re the Iranian bombing of two Jewish owned buildings in Buenos Aires.

Reuters reported in March the former leader was trying to build support in talks with moderate Peronists but was struggling to gain traction, threatening her ability to beat Macri head-to-head. Alberto Fernández had been involved in those discussions on her behalf.

Alberto Fernández was the centrist former chief of staff of President Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández’s late husband, and he could make inroads with the moderate wing of the party.

Putting Alberto Fernández, a 60-year-old lawyer, at the top of the ticket is aimed at improving chances of victory for the Peronist party and in keeping with his long service as a mostly loyal party operative, analysts said.

Alberto Fernández, a moderate Peronist seen in political circles as a consensus builder, must unite a fractured opposition to take on centre-right Macri whose popularity in the polls has tumbled amid an ongoing economic crisis.

“Alberto Fernández is a negotiator, pluralist, and dialogist,” said political analyst Ricardo Rouvier,

“It is a strategic decision of Cristina to make a final push to try to build a winning electoral alliance and show herself in a more moderate and softened way.”

Alberto Fernández has worked for much of his political career alongside Cristina Fernández and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, who also held the presidency.

Well connected in the powerful Peronist movement, Alberto Fernández helped an almost unknown Kirchner when he was governor of Santa Cruz province to expand his political support and take the presidency in 2003.

Kirchner made him chief of staff for his 2003-2007 term, and he continued in that role for the first months of Cristina Fernández’s administration, which ran from 2007 to 2015.

Alberto Fernández resigned in 2008 after the government suffered a legislative defeat in a confrontation with the powerful farming sector that kept the country and the markets in suspense for months.

Source: Reuters

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