With a message of unity, former Argentine President Cristina Fernández and running mate Alberto Fernández kicked off their election campaign Saturday, almost a week after the ex-leader stunned the country by saying she was running for vice president.
Many thought Cristina Fernández, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015, would head any presidential ticket and the news that she would play the undercard to her and her late husband’s one-time Cabinet chief came as a surprise. The ex-president was seen as the main challenger to President Mauricio Macri, who is running again amid a biting recession that has cost him support.
“I felt obliged to do this,” Cristina Fernández said to thousands of supporters in Merlo, a poor area in western Buenos Aires. During her speech, she mentioned the creation of a new “social contract” among political, social and economic leaders to resolve the South American country’s problems.
Fernández, 66, faces a series of corruption trials and her decision to only run as vice president is seen as putting a more moderate challenger at the helm of the Unidad Ciudadana ticket.
Alberto Fernández served as chief of staff from 2003 to 2007 for Fernández’s predecessor and late husband, Néstor Kirchner. He remained in the position during a portion of Fernández’s term as president, but left in 2008 during a conflict with farmers over an increase in export taxes.
“Together we will do what is needed to get Argentina out of the terrible position it has been put in,” said Alberto Fernández in the joint rally, hammering at the country’s economic woes.
Some polls have suggested Cristina Fernández could defeat Macri in a second round of voting, but it is unclear how those prospects will change now that she has thrown her hat in the ring in a lesser capacity.
The former president has been accused of taking bribes in exchange for public work contracts, but denies wrongdoing and says lower courts did not allow her to present more witnesses. In separate cases, she faces several formal investigations into allegations of bribery, money laundering and criminal association during her administration and that of Kirchner.
Still, many voters are frustrated by an inflation rate that reached 47.6% last year, the highest since 1991, and a decision by Macri’s government to slash subsidies on utilities and public transportation. In April, the Argentine peso hit a record low due to growing distrust of the conservative president’s economic management.
Macri says he underestimated the macroeconomic imbalances inherited from his populist predecessor, center-left Fernández.
“Those who are here are Argentines convinced we are the gateway out of this gray moment in Argentina,” said Alberto Fernández.