Argentina's Kirchner launches reelection bid

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner evoked the loss of her hugely popular late husband on Tuesday as she announced her reelection bid against the backdrop of sky-high inflation.
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Updated on Jun 23, 2011 02:04 PM IST
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AFP | By, Buenos Aires

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner evoked the loss of her hugely popular late husband on Tuesday as she announced her reelection bid against the backdrop of sky-high inflation.

At a televised event at the Casa Rosada (Pink House), the official seat of government in Buenos Aires, Kirchner shrugged off concerns over her health as she rallied supporters to give her a second term in this October's election.

"Whenever I have served the public, it has been because the will of the people put me there," the 58-year-old widow said, echoing the political playbook of her late husband Nestor Kirchner.

US diplomatic cables revealed by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks late last year questioned how Kirchner was coping psychologically in office after the death of her husband on October 27, 2010.

Concerns over her health had been fueled by bouts of low blood pressure that had forced her intermittently off work as well as by her prior reluctance to confirm she would seek reelection.

Tuesday's announcement should quash any talk of a rival emerging from inside the Justicialist Party, her center-left and populist Peronist grouping that has dominated Argentine politics for more than two decades.

"I have always known what I had to do, and what it was my duty to do. I even knew it back on October 28 right in this very spot," Kirchner said, alluding to the massive memorial service for her husband on that day that brought Argentina to a standstill.

"I didn't know because I am smart or ambitious; I knew it when thousands and thousands of people passed through here to say goodbye to him for the last time, and they shouted to me 'Be strong Cristina!'"

Kirchner, who has dressed in black ever since her husband's death, will be the candidate of the Front for Victory, a social democratic wing of the Peronist party.

Her main rival is expected to be lawmaker Ricardo Alfonsin, the son of an ex-president with the Radical Civic Union, another center-left party that has the second largest showing in Congress.

A lawyer by training, Kirchner started her political career as a lawmaker in Santa Cruz, her husband's quiet home province where they built their side-by-side political careers.

She became president in October 2007, succeeding her husband after winning more than 45% of the vote -- almost twice the showing of liberal runner-up Elisa Carrio.

Kirchner, who made her announcement during an event called to give special consumer credits to Argentines to buy flat-screen televisions, has an approval rating of about 60%, analysts say.

Under her presidency, resource and farm rich Argentina has seen significant economic growth.

But poverty remains an embarrassing constant for a country that was among the world's richest in 1930, and inflation has soared to almost 25%.

As president, the former first lady, a fiery orator able to match her husband as a campaigner, at first copied her late husband's extremely confrontational behavior with the opposition.

But Kirchner was dealt a major setback when she lost control of Congress in June 2009 and was forced to embrace more practical dealings with opposition lawmakers.

If she wins reelection and serves out a second four-year term, through 2016, the Kirchners will have held power in Argentina for 13 years, ever since Nestor was sworn in on May 25, 2003.

There is a two-term presidential limit in Argentina.

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