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A first lady becomes president
The election victory of Argentina
W
hat happened
The election victory of Argentina’s first lady, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was confirmed by near-final results on Monday, setting her up to become the South American country’s first elected female chief of state. The president-elect sailed to an easy victory thanks to the success of the economic policies of her husband, President Nestor Kirchner, in sparking a recovery after a financial meltdown. But rising inflation and a looming energy crisis are raising the prospect of problems ahead. “The president-elect won't have a honeymoon," Fernando Gonzalez wrote in the daily Clarin.

What the columnists said
Americans should watch what happens next, said Roberto Guareschi in The Miami Herald (free registration). Argentina is launching “a political experiment” that might catch on—that of “ruling couples.” The Kirchners aren’t exactly global power brokers, but they’ve taken on “an aura of importance” because their electoral success precedes “by a year the power duo that the Clintons may form in the United States.”

Congratulations are in order, said the Buenos Aires Herald in an editorial, but let’s not get carried away. Senator Kirchner’s victory was the “weakest win of any direct victory since 1983.” And the “modesty” of her mandate won’t be the president-elect’s only challenge. She didn’t offer “a road map for the next four years” during the campaign or in her victory speech. Oh, well. Maybe she’ll say something at her inauguration.

The new government will face challenges, said Mark Weisbrot in the Los Angeles Times (free registration), “but these problems are manageable.” When Argentina defaulted on $100 billion in debt in 2001, economists everywhere predicted disaster. Instead, the Argentine economy grew by 8.5 percent a year—more than twice the average for Latin America. It just goes to show what you can do when you pay attention to a country’s needs, instead of “the conventional wisdom of the economics profession” and “powerful international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.”

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