| BUENOS AIRES, April 27
BUENOS AIRES, April 27 Argentine President
Cristina Fernandez has a huge lead in the polls six months from
a presidential election in which she is widely expected to seek
a second term in office.
No one has emerged as a strong potential challenger and
opposition efforts are intensifying to forge alliances that
could have a chance of beating her on Oct 23. For a factbox of
leading opposition candidates, click on [ID:nN26275249].
Candidacies are often announced at the last minute in
Argentina, but under a new election law that sets primaries for
August, politicians must register by June 25 to run.
Following are possible scenarios for the coming months of
the electoral race in Latin America's No. 3 economy:
FERNANDEZ ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY
If polls continue to show Fernandez widening her lead in
the run-up to the vote, that could encourage her to announce
her re-election bid before the June deadline. Most political
analysts think she will run, reflecting a commitment to
continue the policies introduced by her late husband and
predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, as of 2003.
Recent polls give her a formidable lead over her closest
rival -- Radical party congressman Ricardo Alfonsin --
suggesting she would easily win a first-round vote, possibly
avoiding a run-off. Under Argentine law, candidates win
outright in the first round if they get at least 40 percent of
the vote with a 10 point lead over the runner-up.
A first-round victory is guaranteed with 45 percent of
ballots, something that looks possible if she avoids
controversy ahead of the vote and if the opposition fails to
forge compelling alliances. With economic growth strong and the
opposition in disarray, the main risk to Fernandez's approval
ratings is an unpopular policy decision or a sudden outbreak of
social or labor-related unrest.
However, she will likely delay any controversial reforms,
such as slashing utility subsidies, until after the election.
Her choice of a running-mate could also prove crucial,
especially as labor leaders such as Hugo Moyano push for her to
pick a unionist to be her vice president. Leftist allies would
likely resist any moves to increase Moyano's influence.
FERNANDEZ DECIDES NOT TO RUN
Six months from election day, this seems the least likely
scenario. However, Fernandez is still mourning the death of her
influential husband last year and some critical local media
have suggested family pressures or health concerns could lead
her to step aside and anoint a successor. She suffers from low
blood pressure and has canceled several recent engagements.
In the days after Kirchner's death, Fernandez vowed to
further his political legacy and so far she has remained true
to the couple's unorthodox mix of state economic intervention
and combative political discourse. Economic analysts, however,
point to a number of brewing problems in Latin America's No. 3
economy, not least double-digit inflation that threatens to
cancel out the benefit of robust economic growth for many
Argentine consumers and exporters. Fear that support for her
government could unravel in a second term might also discourage
her from seeking re-election.
Her choices of a potential successor appear limited. Fewer
still would win resounding approval from all her supporters.
The most obvious choice would be moderate Buenos Aires province
Governor Daniel Scioli, a loyal ally who is popular and
espouses more business-friendly policies. Scioli does not
appeal to Kirchner's leftist supporters, but he is consistently
ranked as one of the country's most popular politicians and
would have a good chance of getting elected.
ALFONSIN LEADS OPPOSITION ALLIANCE
Radical party Congressman Ricardo Alfonsin is the clearest
challenger to Fernandez from the center-left and will likely
lead any alliance strong enough to erode the president's poll
advantage. He has indicated he will not consider forming pacts
with right-leaning politicians such as Buenos Aires Mayor
Mauricio Macri -- another presidential contender who tends to
poll in third place just behind Alfonsin. An alliance with
former President Eduardo Duhalde, a centrist dissident Peronist
might be more acceptable to Alfonsin, but it could be resisted
by smaller leftist parties including the Socialists and GEN.
They have already expressed doubts about allying with popular
congressman Francisco de Narvaez, a dissident Peronist who
plans to run as governor of Buenos Aires province. If Alfonsin
opts for a deal with Peronist figures, the leftists could pull
out and seek an alternative accord with Proyecto Sur, a party
led by left-wing film director and lawmaker Pino Solanas.
On the other hand, Alfonsin could boost his poll ratings if
he confirms a well-known and respected politician as his
running-mate. Socialist Hermes Binner, governor of Santa Fe
province, has been mentioned as a possible option although he
may harbor his own presidential ambitions.
MACRI LEADS OPPOSITION ALLIANCE
Macri, a millionaire who ran leading soccer club Boca
Juniors, has long been seen as the great hope of the
government's right-wing opponents and he could still be a main
player in a center-right pact to tackle Fernandez in October.
However, a power struggle within his PRO party threatens to
hurt his chances of maintaining control over the Buenos Aires
city government in a July election, increasing the likelihood
that he will back out of the presidential race to concentrate
on the mayoral vote. Macri forged a successful alliance with
dissident Peronists during the June 2009 mid-term election,
which dealt Kirchner a stinging defeat in Buenos Aires
province, suggesting a similar pact could be possible. If Macri
were to step aside, he might be willing to yield his
presidential candidacy to one of the dissident Peronists,
though Duhalde would be a tricky choice due to his high
rejection rating among voters. Another possible partner might
be former government ally Felipe Sola, another centrist
Peronist, but a Macri-Sola accord would not be as likely to
pose a serious threat to Fernandez. Sola does not have the same
Peronist party clout as Duhalde and Macri would probably need a
figure with a hefty nationwide support base to build on his
solid base in the capital. The Alfonsin camp's rejection of his
call for a broad opposition alliance could leave Macri isolated
unless he can team up with the dissident Peronists.
(Writing by Helen Popper, editing by Anthony Boadle)