June 26, 2011 / 12:07 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 4-Argentine leader picks Boudou as running mate

* Gained Fernandez’s trust over pension nationalization

* Boudou’s appointment points to similar policy course

* Analysts say president seeks to highlight economic boom (Adds details, not clear if Boudou will step down)

By Helen Popper and Maximiliano Rizzi

BUENOS AIRES, June 25 (Reuters) - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez picked her economy minister, Amado Boudou, to be her vice presidential running mate as she seeks re-election in October, praising his role in a long economic boom.

Fernandez, who polls suggest could win a second term easily on Oct. 23, pledges to extend the leftist policies begun eight years ago by her late husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, who died last year. [ID:nN1E75K213]

Boudou, appointed as economy minister two years ago, won the president’s trust in his previous job as head of the state pensions body when she nationalized billions of dollars in private retirement funds in 2008.

In announcing her choice, Fernandez cited Boudou’s loyalty — an important concern since an acrimonious split with her current vice president, Julio Cobos, early in her first term.

“I need someone by my side who isn’t scared of corporations ... who isn’t afraid of (challenging) preconceived ideas or the status quo,” the president said in a presidential speech. “The only thing that drives me is to keep changing Argentina, to keep furthering our policies.”

She singled out his role in the pensions take-over, which shook financial markets at the height of the global financial crisis.

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Full election campaign coverage: [ID:nARVOTE]

Political risks in Argentina: [ID:nRISKAR]

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Neither economy ministers nor vice presidents have had much say in policy-making during the governments of Fernandez and Kirchner, and the naming of Boudou as vice presidential candidate points to few policy changes, analysts say.

Boudou has been one of the most vocal defenders of Fernandez’s interventionist economic policies, which include using export curbs to fight inflation, import barriers to boost the trade surplus and tapping foreign reserves to pay debt.

Her decision to pick the 48-year-old economy chief may be aimed at focusing campaigning on a prolonged economic boom in Latin America’s third-biggest economy.

“Boudou represents what’s going well for her,” said Mariel Fornoni, a director at local pollsters Management & Fit. “Boudou is young ... charismatic, he isn’t confrontational and he represents one of the most cherished elements of her policies — the economy.”

Fernandez frequently highlights the country’s recovery from a devastating economic crisis in 2001-02 and current annual growth rates running at about 9 percent.

But despite Argentina’s industrial and agricultural renaissance, many business leaders and farmers are infuriated by her interventionist policies and persistent high inflation estimated privately at above 20 percent.

DEBT SWAP, IMF

Boudou is well-known among foreign investors for leading the exchange of some $12.6 billion in defaulted bonds for new debt last year, seeking to mop up lingering fallout from a record $100 billion default in 2002.

However, any hopes that he would prove a more independent economy minister than his predecessors have faded.

His pledges to restore credibility to the country’s low-balled inflation data have produced few results so far, although he has overseen a thawing in relations with the International Monetary Fund.

Economy Ministry officials are currently negotiating the repayment of an outstanding debt of up to $9 billion with the Paris Club group of creditors, and Boudou has said he aims to seal a deal before the end of the year.

Boudou is unlikely to challenge Fernandez, as Cobos did over her handling of a 2008 farm conflict, turning him into a leading opposition figure.

The government did not say whether Boudou would remain in his current post to dedicate himself to the election campaign.

Several other senior officials are expected to run for legislative positions in October, including Agriculture Minister Julian Dominguez.

Additional reporting by Alejandro Lifschitz and Guido Nejamkis; Editing by Paul Simao helen.popper@thomsonreuters.com; +54 11 4510 2505; Reuters Messaging: helen.popper.reuters.com@reuters.net

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