By Miguel Ferreyra for Global Risk Insights
After the death of Alberto Nisman, the entire Argentine political arena has changed and politicians are fighting to get voters’ attention. Nisman died under mysterious circumstances from a gunshot on January 18th 2015, just a few hours before he was supposed to present evidence to the Argentine Congress regarding his accusation that the President of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, had tried to stop the investigation of the 1994 terrorist attacks at the AMIA Jewish center and Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.
Argentina is divided between those who think this has been a political murder, and those who think the prosecutor killed himself after several threats involving the safety of his family. Either way, with the public divided, it is no surprise that politicians are taking sides and demanding answers from the justice department and the federal government.
How is it possible that a federal prosecutor was found dead only a few hours before presenting his inquiry to the National Congress? That is the question everybody is demanding an answer to, especially given the fact that the government, which Nisman was accusing of committing a crime, was also the one responsible for providing him with private security.
No matter how Nisman died, it is evident that this sudden and very public death affects the image of Kirchner and her government – an image already tarnished by poor economic performance, inflation, insecurity, and authoritarianism.
Presidential elections are taking place this October, and the ruling Peronist party has not yet decided, who is running as their presidential candidate. Several names are being discussed but nobody currently knows who will get the President’s support as she rounds out her second and final term as the President of Argentina.
Kirchner ‘s support among Argentines at all-time low
Kirchner is already weak and isolated after many investigations and court scandals regarding her personal fortune, corruption in her government, and international relations – including the refusal to pay bondholders, who took Argentina to Court in New York and dragged the country to default on its debt in 2014.
After Nisman’s death the opposition is still struggling to find unity and some alliances are being created. In addition, several parties and presidential candidates have come out to talk in public about this case in an effort to return peace to society.
President Kirchner announced an increase of 18.26% in retirement pensions two weeks ago and took part in the launch of a new train line in a move to set the agenda for the media. These announcements were quickly overlooked. The President was also shown in a wheelchair a few hours before the announcement, again following a marketing strategy to rally public sympathy after she suffered an ankle fracture last December.
Her popularity level shows that this could be the most difficult moment for her government in the last ten years. Statistics about presidential approval have been showing negative results, with a 4% drop in the last two weeks. Only 29.1% of people agreed that they have a positive image of the president after the death of the prosecutor.
A death like this one clearly reverberates into the upcoming presidential election, scheduled for October 25, setting up a totally different scenario for the future ballot. Every dry leaf that falls from Kirchner’s tree as a result of this scandal could be a new opportunity for the opposition, who are fighting for their place in a country dominated by the Peronist party for many decades.