Argentina election: Primary victory for candidate who demands Falkland Islands land grab

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner Alberto Fernandez

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Alberto Fernande celebrate success in the Argentinian primaries (Image: REUTERS)

The result sparked fears of a return to the populism of Mr Fernandez’s running mate, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose eight years in office were dominated by sabre-rattling over the future of the Falkland Islands. Mr Fernandez’s candidacy for the presidency came as a surprise as Ms Fernández de Kirchner – no relation – had been widely tipped to be the opposition coalition’s pick for the top office.

Malvinas has to be part of a state policy. It cannot be absent in what we conceive as our country

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

But in May she announced she had “asked Alberto Fernandez to lead a team that includes both of us, him as the presidential candidate and me as candidate for the vice position”.

Ms de Kirchner was forced to step down as president after eight years in charge, with conservative Mr Macri going on to beat her hand-picked successor in a 2015 election.

Her departure came as a relief on the Falklands where residents had grown tired of her bombastic rhetoric and thinly-veiled threats to retake the islands.

She regularly engaged in publicity stunts in a bid to garner support by trying to beef up Argentina’s bogus claim to the Falklands.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner became known for her Falklands rhetoric (Image: GETTY)

Her provocative outbursts included describing islanders as ”squatters” and threatening to prosecute British oil companies operating in the region.

Earlier this year, in an emotional video released on Argentina’s Day of the Veteran and the Fallen in the Falklands, she said: “Talking about the Falkland Islands, about our sovereignty, about our fighters, cannot be isolated from a global political context.

“You cannot defend Malvinas and not defend the national industry.

“You cannot defend Malvinas and not defend the science and technology that make our nation technologically sovereign.

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Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner casts her vote in last Sunday’s primaries (Image: GETTY)

“You cannot defend Malvinas and grow the debt of the country losing political sovereignty, financial sovereignty.

“Malvinas has to be part of a state policy. It cannot be absent in what we conceive as our country.”

And she could soon be back in government in Buenos Aires if Sunday’s primaries paint an accurate picture ahead of October’s national elections.

Mr Fernandez dominated the primary vote by a much wider-than-expected 15.5 percentage point margin over the president.

Falklands veterans

Falklands veterans take part in an Argentinian Independence Day parade (Image: GETTY)

The result indicates he has enough support to clinch the presidency in October’s first round, without having to go to a November run-off election.

A candidate needs at least 45 percent of the vote, or 40 percent and a difference of 10 percentage points over the second-place runner, in order to win the presidency outright.

Argentina’s main political parties had already chosen their presidential nominees, allowing the primary to serve as a first concrete measure of voter sentiment.

While Mr Fernández served as cabinet chief both under Ms Fernández and her husband and predecessor in office, Néstor Kirchner, he does not have the same name recognition as his more famous running mate.

Mr Fernández’s relations with his running mate have been rocky in the past. After leaving her administration in 2008.

He went on to become an outspoken critic of his former boss but he later dismissed their disagreements as “what happens to many Argentines, that you fight among friends because you disagree over politics”.

The impact of Mr Fernandez’s victory in the primaries has already been felt by the Argentina’s fragile economy.

The peso lost a fifth of its value as the markets opened after Sunday’s vote and the cost of insuring against debt default soared.

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Falklands veterans

Falklands veterans believe Argentina should reclaim the Falklands (Image: GETTY)

Argentina remains in the grip of a recession and has one of the highest inflation rates in the world.

The the peso lost half of its value against the dollar last year.

Inflation has eased in recent months from a high of 57.3 percent in May but the austerity policies introduced by Mr Macri to tackle the crisis have proved devastatingly unpopular.

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