Over the last few years, as Argentina has struggled with a sagging economy and its share of political crisis, opinion and policy makers in the English-speaking world have tended to treat its president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as a hot mess, the Paula Abdul of Latin American politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inquired about her mental health (as revealed in a WikiLeaked cable), and The Economist called her presidency a “psychodrama.” The Economist has devoted so much ink to pathologizing Fernández that it has created a new genre: stalking as political commentary. Anonymously written articles (as per the magazine’s house style) describe the Argentine president as a control freak whose “need to control extends to her image” (unlike, say, every other major politician in the Western Hemisphere), cattily noting that “she never appears in public without looking glammed up.” Peronism, of which Fernández is the standard bearer, is less about “ideas,” the magazine says, than a “set of political emotions.”
Just last year, Fernández, who survived brain surgery in 2013, was being written off as an unpopular lame duck. “Her approval-rating languishes at 30%”! Her economic populism is ruinous! She picked a fight with London over the Falklands to divert attention away from her failures! She had a historic naval ship seized by creditors in Ghana! She killed Alberto Nisman! “The Fairy Tale” is ending for “Argentina’s new Evita”! She “lashes out” against critics! She appointed a Marxist Keynesian, or a Keynesian Marxist, as minister of the economy! She’s “out of touch with reality”! She’s “destroying the Argentinian economy”!
Argentina’s economy has been tightening since 2010, largely the result of lowered commodity prices. And Fernández’s clumsy handling of the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman last January sparked widespread protests. But her popularity over the last year has gradually increased, today reaching “unheard of levels for a president in her final term.” More importantly, her handpicked successor, Daniel Scioli–governor of the province of Buenos Aires–is predicted to win the presidency, either in this Sunday’s first-round vote or in a run-off. (To win on Sunday, Scioli will have to garner either 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent with a 10 point margin; if not, a second round takes place on November 22.)