President Alberto Fernández will not run for a second term as president, he announced in a video posted to social media this morning.
In an eight-minute message titled “My Decision” published just before 10 a.m, the head of state said: “The next 10 December 2023 is the exact day our democracy turns 40. That day, I will give the presidential sash to whoever has been legitimately elected at the ballot box by popular vote.”
The president’s decision comes after months of evasiveness, during which he indicated that he would be willing to run in primary elections against his own coalition, but refused to give a direct answer about a second run for the Casa Rosada.
The announcement raises questions about who ruling Frente de Todos coalition will field as its presidential candidate.
He highlighted challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic situation inherited from his predecessor Mauricio Macri, and the drought this year that he says will reduce export income by around 20 billion dollars, before announcing his decision.
“Once again, we’re in an extreme situation,” he said, referring to Argentina’s present social and economic circumstances. “We all know that these years haven’t been easy times. That in 2019 we received a country that was indebted, in recession, in default, with high poverty and inflation, and we had to confront a global pandemic, a war, and in this minute, the consequences of a brutal drought.”
He then highlighted public projects such as housing and the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline, which is due to be completed in June, and his government’s women’s and gender policy, but added:
“It’s clear we didn’t achieve everything we set out to do. It hurts us that families are in poverty. It hurts us that income is low. It hurts that there are dreams and projects that couldn’t be fulfilled. But despite so many difficulties, I have one certainty: I did not take a single decision against the people.”
Fernández triumphed in the first round against right-wing incumbent President Mauricio Macri in the 2019 election following a mandate marred by recession, a series of runs on the peso, and the signing of a controversial agreement with the IMF – the deal, the largest in the lender’s history, was originally for US$57 billion, although that figure was reduced to US$44 billion after Fernández took office and announced that he would stop drawing on the funds.
But the economic woes have persisted under his leadership: by March inter-annual inflation was running at 104%, which led to a situation in which poverty grew despite GDP growing in the second half of 2022.
He has also been facing a major split in his coalition, and his relationship with Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been frosty in the second half of his mandate.
In a surprise announcement in May 2019, powerful two-term former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that Alberto Fernández (to whom she is not related) would be the Peronist presidential candidate for that year’s general elections, and that she would stand as his Vice President.
Alberto was the Chief of the Cabinet of ministers during the presidency of Cristina’s late husband Néstor Kirchner between 2003 and 2007 and at the start of Cristina’s presidency, but he split from CFK amid a fierce dispute between the government and the agricultural sector.
In an interview with Futurock just after the announcement, Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said: “When the hard times came, the president shouldered the burden without complaint. And now look at the polls, they’re not looking good, but he kept taking charge of the problems because it was a way of improving the survey results, taking decisions that improve the situation. The president has done what needed to be done and he’s ready, since he himself is not going to compete, to guarantee that the law on primary elections is complied with, that people compete in them, and that the person who triumphs can compete for the presidency and win.”
He added that the Frente de Todos was “absolutely” still competitive in the elections.
Foreign minister Santiago Cafiero retweeted the president’s message, writing: “Historic responsibility and commitment to the unity of Peronism. [Alberto Fernández] puts the homeland first and promotes a new logic of these times. The future leadership must be defined at the ballot boxes to consolidate a direction that involves the will of our people at every step.”