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Argentina favors 'Clintons of the South'

The Baltimore Sun

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- When Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced in July that she would seek to succeed her husband, Nestor Kirchner, as Argentina's president, the power couple said that "change was just beginning."

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's final campaign event Thursday before today's election left little doubt that her likely victory would mean more of the same if she succeeds her husband.

Many refer to the couple as the "Clintons of the South."

Many analysts contend that Nestor Kirchner's decision not to run was a calculated move by the couple to tag-team the presidency for the next 12 years. They say Nestor Kirchner feared a lame-duck second term. And Argentina's election law allows a former president to run again after waiting four years.

Leading up to the election, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a 54-year-old senator from the center-left Peronist party, was leading in polls with more than 40 percent of the vote, about 25 percentage points ahead of her nearest rival.

Kirchner appeared to have enough support to avoid a run-off and be elected outright.

Besides making her the first woman to be elected president in Argentina, a victory would also make her the second woman in two years to be elected president of a Latin American country.

She is apparently striding into the presidency with remarkable ease. She has campaigned lightly in her own country, choosing instead to spend much of the past two months in Europe and the United States, trying to woo international investors and appear presidential beside world leaders.

Unlike populist leaders from humble backgrounds now leading in Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is an intellectual lawyer who is more at home mingling with presidents than with everyday people. But the bulk of support she inherits from her husband comes squarely from Argentina's lower classes.

Kirchner could risk losing that support if she does not adjust her husband's economic policies to stem rising inflation and prevent a looming energy crisis.

Still, Kirchner is already the most powerful Argentine woman since Eva Peron.

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