Vote gauges ap­petite for Fernandez re­turn

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

BUENOS AIRES — Ar­gen­tines voted on Sun­day in a closely watched midterm pri­mary elec­tion that will test their ap­petite for bring­ing back for­mer pres­i­dent Cristina Fernandez.

Fernandez, who was in­dicted on a charge of cor­rup­tion last year, is vy­ing for a Se­nate seat in Buenos Aires province, home to nearly 40 per­cent of the coun­try’s vot­ers. She is run­ning against busi­ness­friendly Pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri’s for­mer ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter and other can­di­dates from a di­vided op­po­si­tion.

In­vestors and wealthy Ar­gen­tines fear a Fernandez come­back in Congress could pave the way to her run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2019. Her re­turn to power would likely mean the end of Macri’s re­forms and a re­sump­tion of ram­pant spend­ing, pro­tec­tion of in­dus­try and iso­la­tion from trade agree­ments and in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tal mar­kets.

A seat in Congress would give the 64-year-old Fernandez im­mu­nity from ar­rest, though not from trial. She dis­misses the cor­rup­tion ac­cu­sa­tions as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

The com­pul­sory pri­mary vote on Sun­day will es­sen­tially serve as a de­tailed poll ahead of the Oct 22 elec­tion for one-third of the Se­nate and half the lower house of Congress, as no ma­jor can­di­dates are be­ing chal­lenged from within their own par­ties.

Though her cho­sen suc­ces­sor lost to Macri in Buenos Aires province in 2015, Fernandez now ap­peals to many in its strug­gling in­dus­trial belt, where Ar­gentina’s emer­gence from re­ces­sion in the sec­ond half of last year has yet to take hold.

The fi­nal weeks of pri­mary cam­paign­ing were marked by re­peated head­lines high­light­mean­while ing gaffes from Este­ban Bull­rich, Macri’s for­mer ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter. On Wed­nes­day he apol­o­gized for call­ing the jail­ing of young peo­ple “progress”.

Bull­rich had pre­vi­ously sug­gested craft beer as an al­ter­na­tive em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­nity for Ar­gen­tines who had lost their jobs and was crit­i­cized by fem­i­nists for a rad­i­cal an­tiabor­tion stance.

Fernandez, who broke with Ar­gentina’s main op­po­si­tion move­ment of Pero­nism for the elec­tion as some ad­her­ents form more mod­er­ate fac­tions, ran a rel­a­tively sub­dued cam­paign com­pared to her of­ten fiery rhetoric and long speeches as pres­i­dent.

“We weren’t al­ways as hum­ble as we should have been,” she said of her pres­i­dency at her fi­nal rally.

No mat­ter how many seats his “Let’s Change” coali­tion picks up, Macri will still lack a ma­jor­ity in Congress and con­tinue to need to build al­liances to pass re­forms.

An op­po­nent like Fernandez rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try’s most pow­er­ful eco­nomic dis­trict could make that all the more dif­fi­cult.

“If it wins Buenos Aires, the govern­ment will go into these ne­go­ti­a­tions strength­ened, if it loses it will be much weaker,” said an­a­lyst Rosendo Fraga.

of Ar­gentina’s vot­ers live in Buenos Aires province, where Fernandez is run­ning for a seat on the Se­nate.


Pas­sen­gers use their cell­phones to take snaps of the wreck­age of a train crash on the out­skirts of Egypt’s Mediter­ranean city of Alexan­dria. The toll from Satur­day’s ac­ci­dent has risen to 40 dead and 123 wounded, said Health Min­istry spokesman Khaled Mou­ja­hed.

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