All hail the queen

Sarah Devlin columnist

Sarah Devlin
columnist

Sarah Devlin

On Oct. 28, Cristina Kirchner claimed an historic victory as Argentina’s first female president. Since being nominated by her husband, Nestor, she has evoked countless comparisons to Hillary Clinton, for her powerhouse political marriage and her husband’s popularity owing to a large economic boom, and Evita Peron, with her fabulous campaign outfits and sympathy for the poor.

Cristina also resembles another well-known world leader, however: Vladimir Putin on the eve of his election in 1999. When Putin was appointed by Boris Yeltsin, and again when he ran for president in 2004, he chose to remain above the race, eschewing debates and allowing the pro-Putin parties in the legislature to campaign for him. Cristina Kirchner has shunned most debates and failed to articulate a clear policy platform, relying instead on her husband’s record and the support of the Peronist party to flesh out her agenda.

Most of her time has been spent flying around the world meeting with various heads of state in a series of photo ops that are glamorous but that have little to say about her plans for her term as president beyond a banal commitment to international goodwill. It appears that she is relying on the assumption that she will continue her husband’s policies when she assumes office. Her official slogan, after all, is, “”We know what’s lacking, and we know how to fix it.””

Cristina clearly enjoys working in the foreign policy sphere, evidenced by her world tour during her campaign and her stated desire to improve relations between her country and its former debtors. She has even expressed interest in acting as an intermediary between Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the United States. However, it is easier to command authority as the sole representative of one’s nation in the global arena, rather than wrestle with competing interests and the bureaucratic hurdles that accompany domestic policy-making.

Unfortunately, domestic policy is where Argentina needs her the most. Argentina still faces a huge inflation crisis, made worse by Nestor’s 2005 firing of his finance minister, who was credited with prudent policies that resulted in the encouraging economic growth during Kirchner’s term in office. Curbing wage increases and public works programs, two necessary measures to combat inflation, could potentially cause the Peronist party to withdraw its support.

If her campaign is any indication, the woman who reportedly delights in the nickname “”Queen Cristina”” has displayed an alarming aversion to getting her hands dirty. In a country that’s far from fixed, it is disingenuous and irresponsible to rely on star power and her predecessor’s record to guide her to victory, especially if her husband’s more recent policies pose a danger to the economic growth the country has enjoyed. She also has a responsibility to engage and communicate with those in her party whose interests are at odds with the policies needed to turn the Argentinian economy around, a responsibility she has ignored thus far. It’s clear in this election that the voters knew exactly who they were electing – glamorous wife of Nestor, friend to the poor, symbol of her husband’s successful presidency – but what they’ll get out of their president remains ambiguous: president or queen? Change or more of the same? Her refusal to engage with neither her opposition nor the people who elected her indicates an unwillingness to take on the hardest issues that plague her country, and forecasts a glamorous but toothless term in office that is as superficial in its efficacy as the media’s dissections of Cristina’s latest campaign-trail ensemble.

The first lady’s victory has been imbued with a sense of reverence that is atypical of most transitions to power, as she is the first female head of state in Argentina and joins a short list of global female leaders. NPR quotes an Argentinian psychologist and supporter of Cristina’s as arguing that her victory is a blow to the macho culture that dominates the nation, and Cristina herself has professed to feeling a responsibility to her gender as she assumes the presidency. This all sounds very positive but loses a little bit of its luster when considering how much she has relied on her husband’s record to speak for her.

It’s not every day that a woman is elected to her nation’s highest political office, but if that woman is all but appointed by her husband and has little to say other than vows to continue his work, it hardly seems a victory for feminism – not to mention the disorganized opposition who posed little, if any, credible threat to her victory. “”Nestor: The Remix”” might sound positive to Argentinian voters, but it is definitely not an omen of changes in gender roles or otherwise.

Sarah Devlin is a sophomore majoring in English and political science. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.