Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Successful Handoff

It appears that the dream of the Clintons has been achieved in Argentina as the current President bequeaths the office to his wife. Almost exactly a year before America decides how to handle our power couple, it is worth examining how events emerge and play out to our South. Of course with any comparison, the differences are as important as the similarities.

Argentina: Kirchner after Kirchner: The power-couple's presidential-transfer plan has worked to perfection. … It was widely expected that Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would become the first woman to be elected president of Argentina in the election of 28 October. What was less anticipated was that she would achieve this in the first round by far exceeding the required 10 percent margin of victory over her nearest rival. In the event, her 45 percent share put Kirchner - wife and political ally of the current president, Néstor Kirchner - more than twenty points ahead of the second-placed candidate in a field of fourteen,

Although the result means that there is no need for a second round, and the 20-point-plus difference with Carrió is impressive, a closer look at the results at electoral-district level presents a far from triumphalist picture. … Señora Kirchner lost in all the major urban conglomerates. … If Cristina lost the cities, she won in the traditional bastions of Peronism: remote provinces, often with under half a million inhabitants each, where Peronist governors of various hues unashamedly use state resources to install clientelistic networks that have long proven entrenched and unbreakable.

She shares her husband's hatred of the press, which far exceeds a "normal" politician's reluctance to face those with uncomfortable questions. Her husband has ruled by decree, riding roughshod over congress and exhibiting ignorance of the checks-and-balances guaranteed by the constitution. Cristina too may now rely on a subservient congress, to push legislation through steamroller-like.

So it appears well financed and tightly controlled “clientelistic networks” provide the votes allowing this authoritarian inclined husband and wife team to retain their domination of elective government. One big difference is that in America the control of votes is more an urban rather than a rural tradition. Still it is probably not too soon to be vigilant for signs of vote fraud.