Author`s name Alex Naumov

Argentina matrimonial power claims victory: First lady elected president

In an unprecedented case in the history of the world, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and first lady Cristina Fernandez will switch jobs in December, with official results indicating Argentines elected a female president for the first time in Sunday elections. Mrs. Kirchner obtained 44% of the votes followed by another woman, the center-left leader Elisa Carrio, with 23%.

The election was far from being fair according to all the opposition parties, which denounced massive fraud in the poll stations in the surrounding areas of Buenos Aires. According to them and hundreds of denounces made by individual citizens, voters could not elect according to their preferences as ballots were simply not there.

Carrio spokesman Matias Mendez said seven parties had filed a complaint alleging missing or stolen ballots. One representative of the ruling party was arrested on suspicion of trying to vote twice, and a judge extended voting by an hour in the capital because many polling stations opened late.

However, with 50% of the votes counted by 1:30 am local time, Elisa Carrio acknowledged the defeat “despite the massive looting of ballots”. Carrio’s Civic Coalition formed by the Socialist Party and other smaller groups will file a demand on Tuesday to “made clear the situation of thousands that were deprived of their rights”, told a spokesman to Pravda.Ru.

Mrs. Kirchner is a lawyer and senator who followed her husband as he rose from an obscure governorship to the presidency. She became a lawmaker as her husband was elected Governor in the province of Santa Cruz, early in the nineties. Mr. and Mrs. Kirchner backed neoliberal policies introduced by fellow Peronist President Carlos Menem, but later developed good ties with Venezuela’s Chavez. The Kirchners also backed the controversial privatization of key State-run companies as the oil monopoly YPF, but later criticized those who did it.

In her victory speech Sunday night, Fernandez, 54, pledged not to let that happen. "We have won amply," she said. "But this, far from putting us in a position of privilege, puts us instead in a position of greater responsibilities and obligations." With nearly 95 percent of polling places reporting, Mrs. Kirchner had about 44 percent of the vote, compared with 23 percent for Elisa Carrio and 16 percent for former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna. Eleven others split the rest. According to Argentine electoral rules, Fernandez avoids a runoff with at least 40 percent and a margin of 10 percent over the runner-up.

According to observers, Mrs. Kirchner’s victory was not as wide enough for the challenges she will face once in power. A rising inflation, reduction of surplus, poverty, inequality, crime surge and poor institutions claim for a strong leadership many doubt Mrs. Kirchner is capable to show. Many see her husband as the real power in the shadows.

“I am a free citizen of Argentina and I will lead the opposition without any husband”, told Carrio reporters after celebrating a stunning second place for a candidate who lacked of support among businessmen and traditional parties. Carrio said she will no longer run for president (she also did it in 2003), but praised that a member of her Civic Coalition will run the country in 2011.

Mrs. Kirchne will be Argentina's second female president; Isabel Peron — who married Juan Peron after Evita's death — was his vice president when he died in 1974, and served for 20 chaotic months before a military coup ousted her. As for incumbent President Kirchner, he has said he'll be happy as "first gentleman" after he hands his wife the presidential sash and scepter on Dec. 10. But few expect him to fade too far into the background — and some even suspect the couple is plotting to reverse roles again in 2011.

Hernan Etchaleco