Argentina’s Two-for-One Presidency

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s victory in Argentina’s presidential election ushers in a political experiment that goes beyond national boundaries: that of “ruling couples.” It’s not that the Kirchners have much global influence. But they precede by a year the power duo that the Clintons may form in the United States, which gives them an aura of importance that extends far beyond Latin America.

Néstor Kirchner, Cristina’s husband and Argentina’s current president, did not want to run for office again, despite being legally permitted to do so and voters’ preference for him over her. According to Kirchner’s inner circle, he wanted to avoid becoming a “lame duck” and losing power at the end of a second term in office.

Here lies a possible inspiration for the early handover to his wife. In Argentina, unlike in the US, re-election is unlimited, as long as the president does not exceed two consecutive periods in office. So, in four years, Cristina, may feel the same way, and pass the baton back to Néstor, who in turn will retire in four years to avoid becoming a “lame duck,” and so on.

“Buy two for the price of one,” Bill Clinton joked about ruling couples when he first ran for president in 1992. Néstor Kirchner doesn’t joke. Instead, he busies himself with organizing a political movement that will structure his project.