Argentina’s President Cruises to Victory, But is Economic Boom Sustainable?

BY Larisa Epatko  October 24, 2011 at 4:10 PM EST

Workers in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, voice support for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

After the August primary, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s victory in Sunday’s elections was a foregone conclusion, but now many Argentines are waiting to see what will happen in her next term.

Fernandez won reelection with 54 percent of the vote. Her nearest challenger had 17 percent.

In the final days of the campaign, the opposition candidates were acknowledging that Fernandez was going to win and were asking voters to just not give the Peronist party an absolute majority, said Stephanie Garlow, correspondent in Buenos Aires, who has been covering the elections for GlobalPost. “But that seems to be exactly what the voters did,” said Garlow, by giving the party majorities in both houses of Congress and eight of the nine governorships voted on this cycle. “So she has four more years with very few roadblocks in her way.”

Fernandez hasn’t given a lot of specifics of how she will govern, just “deepening the model” of her government’s general economic vision, and even her critics don’t know what she’ll do, said Garlow. Rather than outlining new policy initiatives, Fernandez ran on her image, the positive state of the economy and sympathy of losing her husband in October 2010 from a heart attack, she said.

Argentina has sustained an 8 percent annual economic growth under Fernandez, and voters at the polls indicated they wanted more of the same, said Garlow. Wages in the second largest South American country have been going up, and there’s a consumption boom with many people having money and wanting to spend it. But critics have said her economic policies are unsustainable and inflation rates are getting higher.

“But right now to most Argentines, the economic situation is pretty good and I think you saw that with how they voted,” Garlow noted. “It’s going to be interesting to see what she actually does now with the majorities in government, but those questions are very much up in the air.”

Fernandez was elected Argentina’s first female president in 2007. Her husband, Nestor Kirchner, preceded her as president from 2003-2007. He stepped aside so that she could run.

Fernandez conjured his memory again during her acceptance speech. “Without him, without his bravery and courage, it would have been impossible to arrive at this point,” she said.

Watch Fernandez’s victory celebrations in this Agence France-Press video:

There have been rumors in the press that Fernandez might try to change the constitution limiting presidents to two terms, but it’s too early to tell if she will actually pursue it, Garlow said.

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