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Argentina - 1983 Return to Democracy

Democracy returned to Argentina in 1983, with Raul Alfonsin of the country's oldest political party, the Radical Civic Union (UCR), winning the presidency in elections that took place on October 30, 1983. He began a 6-year term of office on December 10, 1983. The UCR-led government took steps to resolve some of the nation's most pressing problems, including accounting for those who disappeared during military rule, establishing civilian control of the armed forces, and consolidating democratic institutions. However, inability to resolve endemic economic problems eventually undermined public confidence in the Alfonsin government, which left office 6 months early after Justicialista Party (PJ) candidate Carlos Saul Menem won the 1989 presidential elections.

President Menem imposed peso-dollar parity (convertibility) in 1992 to break the back of hyperinflation and adopted far-reaching market-based policies. Menem's accomplishments included dismantling a web of protectionist trade and business regulations and reversing a half-century of statism by implementing an ambitious privatization program. These reforms contributed to significant increases in investment and growth with stable prices through most of the 1990s. Unfortunately, persistent allegations of corruption also accompanied many of the reforms, eventually undermining public confidence in the government and economy.

Neither Menem nor his successor President Fernando De la Rua, who won election in 1999 at the head of a UCR-led coalition of center and center-left parties known as the "Alianza", were able to maintain public confidence and the recovery weakened. Also, while convertibility defeated inflation, its permanence undermined Argentina's export competitiveness and created chronic deficits in the current account of the balance of payments, which were financed by massive borrowing. The contagion effect of the Asian financial crisis of 1998 precipitated an outflow of capital that gradually mushroomed into a 4-year depression that culminated in a financial panic in November 2001. In December 2001, amidst bloody riots, President De la Rua resigned.

After a period of political turmoil and several provisional presidents, a legislative assembly elected Eduardo Duhalde (PJ) President on January 1, 2002 to complete the term of former President De la Rua. Duhalde -- differentiating himself from his three predecessors -- quickly abandoned the peso's 10-year-old link with the dollar, a move that was followed by a sharp currency depreciation and rising inflation. In the face of increasing poverty and continued social unrest, Duhalde moved to bolster the government's social programs and to contain inflation. He stabilized the social situation and advanced presidential elections by 6 months in order to pave the way for a new president elected with a popular mandate.

When Nestor Kirchner became president in 2003, Argentina had endured three years of gut-wrenching economic chaos, marked by runs on banks, the collapse of the national currency, default on Argentina's foreign debt, harsh government-imposed economic controls, and massive street riots. To make matters worse, Kirchner arrived in office with a shaky electoral mandate. Having received less than 25 percent of the vote in the general election.

Nestor Kirchner presided over Argentina's recovery from a severe economic crisis and backed those seeking justice for human rights violations committed during military rule. Kirchner belonged to the party of two-time President Juan Domingo Peron. Determined to stabilize a floundering economy, Kirchner heaped scorn on the neo-liberal policies pursued by many Latin American governments in the 1990s with the backing of the International Monetary Fund.

Whatever his governing style, Kirchner's administration seemed to receive the ultimate validation in 2007, when Argentina elected his wife, Cristina Fernandez, to succeed him as president.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner became the first Argentine woman elected to the presidency. "Cristina," as Argentines often refer to her, was sworn into office on December 10, 2007. Fernandez de Kirchner was overwhelmingly re-elected on October 23, 2011, winning 54% of the vote; Santa Fe Governor Hermes Binner (Socialist) received 17%, Ricardo Alfonsin (UCR) earned 11%, San Luis Governor Alberto Rodriguez Saa received 8%, and former president Eduardo Duhalde came in with 6%. Fernandez de Kirchner won the largest share of the vote and the widest margin of victory (37 percentage points) of any presidential candidate since the restoration of democracy in Argentina in 1983. She, Vice President Amado Boudou, and her cabinet were sworn into office on December 10, 2011.

By 2008 many Argentines would be "happy" for the Kirchners to fall except for one factor -- they feared that the government's collapse would risk the country's return to the chaos of 2001-02. This lingering fear was the Kirchners' biggest advantage in the current political crisis.

In the mid-term legislative elections of 2009, there was a left leaning Social and Civic Accord made up of Socialists, Radicals, the GEN and the Civic Coalition which mustered 30% of cast votes. However in the presidential election of 2011, the Social and Civic front split in three, with Socialist Hermes Binner catching 17% of the vote; the Radicals of Ricardo Alfonsn, 10% and the Civic Coalition from Elisa Carri, 2%. In other words adding up to 29%, as two years before, but the division enabled President Cristina Fernandez' re-election victory.

The devastating setback dealt by Argentine voters to the government in the 28 June 2009 mid-term elections restored to respectability past year's fashionable political forecast -- that Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) will not reach the end of her term as President in 2011. Like last year, some of this conjecture was little more than wishful thinking by the government's opponents, but not all of it. The ruling couple's political weakness, erratic behavior, looming economic challenges, and Argentina's history of truncated presidential terms led some serious observers to worry about the government's staying power. A larger group of observers believed that CFK would probably make it to the end of her term, if only by muddling through

Argentina - 2013 Election

In October 2011 voters re-elected President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of the Front for Victory coalition in polling described by media and various NGOs as free and fair. The country held legislative midterm elections on 27 October 2013. Voters elected one-half of the members of the Chamber of Deputies, representing all 23 provinces and the city of Buenos Aires, and one-third of those in the Senate, representing eight provinces. Local observers considered these elections generally free and fair.

President Cristina Fernndez de Kirchner's Victory Front (FV) and its allies remained the largest force in both chambers of the Congress but did not obtain the two-thirds Congressional majority it needed to be able to make constitutional changes. The Constitution barred Ms. Kirchner from seeking a third presidential term in 2015.

The FV won 39 of the 127 seats at stake, and now held a total of 115 seats in the 257-member Chamber of Deputies. It took 11 of the 24 seats at stake in the Senate, for a total of 33 of the 72 seats. The Radical Civic Union (UCR) - Socialist Party and its allies took a total of 54 seats in the Chamber. The Renewal Front (Frente Renovador, FR), a breakaway party from the FV, led by Mr. Sergio Massa, took 16 seats in the Chamber.

The FV ran on the government's record, citing better social benefits. Re-elected in 2011 on promises of increasing state control in Latin America's No. 3 economy, Fernandez's political coattails were trimmed by inflation, clocked by private analysts at 25 percent, while heavy-handed currency controls and falling central bank reserves dented confidence.

The UCR and the FR pledged to tackle high inflation. Candidates sponsored by Argentine opposition leader Sergio Massa won the House of Deputies' midterm by a 10-percentage-point margin in the key province of Buenos Aires, according to exit poll announced on local television. About the size of Italy, Buenos Aires province is home to 40 percent of Argentina's population and most of the country's agricultural output.

Following 2012 legislation on voting rights, voters ages 16 and 17 were added to the electoral register for the first time and participated in the August primary elections. Regulations provide that at least one-third of the candidates on election slates for both houses of congress must be women. There were 28 women in the 72-seat Senate and 90 women in the 257-seat Chamber of Deputies. The president, two of the seven Supreme Court justices, and two cabinet ministers were women. (A third woman cabinet minister moved to a diplomatic post in May.) No known ethnic or racial minorities were in the national legislature. There were no known indigenous, ethnic, or racial minorities in the cabinet or on the Supreme Court.

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