Who will be Kirchner’s Heir?
2015 will be a crucial year in the Argentine political arena. With the constitutional impossibility of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner being elected for another term as president, supporters of the Frente Para la Victoria (Front for Victory) will decide in the August primaries who will be their candidate for the presidency. Although several important figures of the ruling party have declared their intention to run for the nomination, the reality is that just two of them have real possibilities to achieve it. Both, Daniel Scioli and Florencio Randazzo, will have the difficult task of seducing an electorate that has only known one president since 2007.
Even though the campaigns are still in nascent states some analysts have already predicted that Scioli, the Governor of Buenos Aires Province, will win the primaries. His conciliatory speech is considered by many to be his greatest political capital. Proponents of Scioli’s candidacy argue that, in the general elections of October, the image of the goberenador will be key in attracting the votes of independent citizens. This part of the electorate, while recognizing the social and economic achievements of Kirchnerism, accused the president of fostering division in the society.
While it is true that Cristina Fernadez de Kirchner has hardened her speech over the months, several in the opposition media (commanded by monopolistic Clarin Group) have been devisive for the sole purpose of harming the government. Scioli’s eventual candidacy is welcomed by many Peronist governors. Relegated from the party leadership by Fernadez de Kirchner, a triumph of Daniel Scioli would guarantee them the possibility of recovering some power.
Historically, the Peronist party is governed by a certain logic. When a Peronist president is elected, the party leadership rests on his laurels as long as public opinion positively evaluates his presidency. If the president does not pass messure up, the party leadership turns to the governors again.
However, during the presidencies of the Kirchners, this did not happen. The stumble suffered in the legislative elections of 2009 and 2013 did not prevent both Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernadez from remaining in control, supported by a growing youth militancy and hard core municipal leaders. In 2003, contradicting usual methods, Nestor Kirchner established a system of direct negotiations with the mayors of major cities, leaving aside the provincial governors who, until then, were the intermediaries between the cities and the nation.
However, despite encouraging data for Scioli, the nomination of the current Governor of Buenos Aires is not a sure thing. To the hard core of Kirchnerism, Scioli was always seen as a potential political adversary. For a long time the media speculated that Daniel Scioli would break his link with the Front for Victory to contest the leadership of the Peronist party, but he remained within the ruling party. Those seeking to counteract the momentum of Daniel Scioli, support the nomination of the current Interior Minister, Florencio Randazzo.
Randazzo, who is also in charge of the National Secretary of Transport, currently commands the largest railways renovation in Argentina’s history. This fact, coupled with his good performance as Interior Minister has catapulted him into one of the ministers with a positive image within the cabinet of Fernandez de Kirchner. Randazzo’s candidacy is seen well within the pure core of the Front for Victory and he is considered a clear heir to the political project of CFK.
The greatest difficulty for Florencio Randazzo is the fact that, beyond his good public image, his candidacy is diluted when independent votes are counted.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner faces a dilemma. If she supports the nomination of Daniel Scioli, Peronism ensures the presidency until 2019, but she will lose influence within the party. Whereas, if CFK endorse the nomination of Florencio Randazzo, she will be choosing a candidate who resembles her, ideologically speaking, but with few chances to succeed in the general election in October. The president still has not spoken publicly about this issue, but the fact is that her opinion will be crucial for voters.