Argentina’s Fernández fuels speculation over election candidacy

Argentina’s Fernández fuels speculation over election candidacy

Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner stormed back into the limelight on Thursday after a long period of silence, stoking speculation over whether she will run for the presidency in October elections.

In a presentation of her best-selling book, Sincerely, Ms Fernández was openly critical of president Mauricio Macri, but refrained from announcing what thousands of ecstatic supporters outside were openly begging her to say — that she would take on the embattled incumbent in the upcoming elections.

“We are living through very difficult times,” Ms Fernández told a packed auditorium which included famous actors, musicians and human rights activists who had been waiting several hours for her arrival. “We need a social contract for all Argentines,” she added.

Although stopping short of openly confirming her candidacy, Ms Fernández’s supporters roared with delight when she greeted them after her speech and, grinning broadly, conducted with her fingers as they chanted “Cristina, president” in front of the cameras.

“The young are my great bet, my great hope,” Ms Fernández said at another point during a speech with strong electoral undertones that was watched attentively on giant screens outside by a youthful crowd that had gathered in torrential rain.

Even though Ms Fernández, 66, is a senator, the event represents her most high-profile public appearance in more than three years, breaking an unprecedented silence that pollsters say may have helped her impressive rise in popularity this year as Mr Macri’s has dwindled as Argentina’s economic recession drags on.

A survey by local pollster Isonomia last month, which showed Ms Fernández beating Mr Macri by nine points in a hypothetical second round run-off vote, was thought by observers to have triggered the latest bout of market volatility that saw the spread between US Treasuries and Argentine bonds widen to more than 10 percentage points, although they have since recovered lost ground.

Since leaving power, Ms Fernández has mostly received media attention for being summoned incessantly to the law courts in Buenos Aires, where she is facing multiple corruption charges including bribery, embezzlement and money laundering.

But her speech on Thursday at the annual book fair in the Argentine capital was aired on all major television channels, after the release of her book caused a sensation in the publishing world at a time when the industry — like the rest of the economy — is suffering.

“[Sincerely] is a phenomenon without precedent in terms of demand,” said Juan Ignacio Boido, Argentina director of Penguin Random House, which published Ms Fernández’s book.

Mr Boido said that the first 20,000 copies were sold within an hour, with 300,000 copies sold in the two weeks since it was published. He said that was as much as the printing presses could handle — adding that they have not stopped since.

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