As Argentines enjoy the final summer before electing a new leader later this year, uncertainty surrounds the direction of the country's domestic and international policies. High levels of inflation, social unrest, growing insecurity, a dissatisfied and powerful agricultural sector, a continued spat with the U.K. over the Falkland Islands and accusations of being a haven for laundering drug money are but a few of the challenges the next Argentine leader will face.
Four years ago, on the eve of presidential elections in 2007, much of this uncertainty did not exist or had not yet become apparent. At the time, the question was not who would win the election, but rather which Kirchner would subsequently rule: outgoing President Nestor Kirchner or his trusted political adviser and wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who was poised to win the office. High global commodity prices and a refusal to pay close to $100 billion in debts to international creditors had helped Nestor stabilize the Argentine economy and consolidate political control to pave the way for his wife's election to the presidency.
The decision to cancel debt payments was enormously popular at home, but isolated Argentina and allowed its president to be characterized abroad as aloof and unpredictable. That was expected to change with Christina Kirchner at the helm. She was considered more of a stateswoman, and was expected to bolster Argentina's ties with key neighbors in the Americas, particularly neighbors in South America. The May 2010 appointment of Nestor Kirchner as the secretary-general of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), a regional bloc, strengthened that position.