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Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's Absence and Other Curiosities Surrounding Argentina's Presidential Inauguration


After taking office, the new president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, along with his family greet the public. Photo: Secretariat of Communications.

On 10 December, Mauricio Macri became the new president of Argentina, a position held for the last eight years by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. After the 25 October elections failed to deliver any of the candidates the majority required by the Argentinian Constitution, the two candidates who received the most votes, Daniel Scioli of then ruling party and Macri of the PRO party as part of the Cambiemos coalition, went to a second round of elections on 22 November.

The political transition had its fair share of controversy. This was due to the change of leadership protocol which, according to the Argentinian Constitution, says that the swearing-in ceremony of new presidents must be held in Congress. Tradition dictates that after being sworn in, the new leader then receives the presidential sash and baton in the Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace), the seat of the government.

The only presidents who have not followed the tradition are Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

A squabble over location

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner wanted both the swearing-in ceremony and the presidential sash and baton ceremony to happen in Congress, while Macri wanted to renew the custom of holding the latter at the Presidential Palace.

Due to the lack of agreement over how and where the baton and sash should be handed over, the situation quickly went viral on social media, with many Argentinians giving their opinion on what should be done:

This is the #BastonPresidencial (presidential baton) that Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is going to hand over to Macri. She kept it in the Central Bank reserves.

Macri, take over the leadership on your own. Let [Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner] keep that monarchic baton and she can hang herself with the presidential sash. Enough with these monarchistic symbols.

According to a blog post written by Matias Reggiardo, the controversy goes deepen than simply where the baton should be handed over — it has to do with the resignation of Kirchnerism:

El problema de fondo obviamente no es un aspecto tan menor como el lugar físico, sino que la gran expectativa esta dada por lo que al kirchnerismo siempre le ha costado resignar, la calle. La idea de CFK es despedirse de la militancia, pero no organizó un acto masivo a tales efectos, ni un último discurso en el patio de las palmeras el día 9, no, nada de eso, ella pretende que no haya una fiesta de bienvenida al nuevo presidente, sino una fiesta de despedida para ella, y eso incluye, todos los lugares de las gradas en el congreso para la Asamblea Legislativa y también las calles adyacentes al palacio del Congreso.

Clearly the underlying issue is not something as trivial as the actual place where the handover occurs, but instead the huge expectation over what Kirchnerism has never been able to give up, the public. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's idea is to leave the political party, but she did not organise any events to such effect, not even a final address from the patio of the palmeras (part of the Presidential Palace) on the 9th, no, none of that. She is pretending that there is no welcoming celebration for the new president, but instead a goodbye celebration for her, and this includes all the seats of congress for the legislative assembly as well as the streets surrounding the Palace of the Argentinian National Congress.

Presidential bad blood

Over the weekend of 5 December, the now former president wrote about a call she received from the president elect, in which he informed her — shouting, according to the her — where the handover of the presidential sash and baton should take place:

En cuanto a imagen de autoridad acuérdense de Nestor Kirchner que asumió con el 22% de los votos, que le decían que iba a ser el chirolita del anterior presidente o que la que mandaba iba a ser yo… ¿Dónde tendría que haber jurado para generar “imagen de autoridad?”. ¿Parado arriba de la mesa del Salón Blanco? La autoridad, no la imagen, no se logra en una ceremonia de trasmisión de mando y mucho menos gritándole a una mujer por teléfono…

Regarding the image of authority, let's not forget about [the late ex-President and husband of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner] Nestor Kirchner who got into power with 22% of the votes, and they all told him that he was going to be merely a puppet of the former president or that even I would be in charge… Where would he have needed to have been sworn in to generate an “image of authority”? Standing atop the table in the White Room in the Presidential Palace? Authority, and not its image, isn't earned at a swearing-in ceremony, and certainly not by shouting at a women on the phone…

And she continued:

Una mujer que además de estar sola quiere entregar el mando a quien ha tenido el honor de ser elegido presidente de todos los argentinos y hacerlo en el marco constitucional que significa la Asamblea Legislativa, que sintetiza la soberanía popular y la representación federal de un estado democrático.

A women who, besides being alone, wants to hand over leadership to the person who had the honour of being elected the president of all Argentinians and do so within the
constitutional framework which means Congress, which encapsulates the popular sovereignty and the federal representation of a democratic state.

Will the real Argentinian president please stand up?

Finally, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner made the decision not to attend the swearing-in ceremony in Congress due to a precautionary measure filed by the Cambiemos coalition, becoming the first Argentinian president not to attend the swearing-in ceremony of a democratically elected leader. The measure, upheld by a federal judge, meant that Fernandez de Kirchner's mandate ended on 10 December at midnight instead of 12 hours later at 12:59 pm, the argument being that if Macri was sworn in at noon, there could technically be two presidents for a moment.

This meant that for the 12 hours, President of the Senate Federico Pinedo was in charge of the country.

On 9 December, Fernandez de Kirchner gave her final address in front of millions of citizens who did not want to miss the moment:

La presidenta Cristina Fernández de Kirchner se despidió de la ciudadanía con un discurso ante una multitud que se congregó en la Plaza de Mayo, y pidió “a Dios que quienes nos sucedan por imperio de la voluntad popular” puedan “dentro de cuatro años, ante una Plaza colmada como esta, decirle a todos los argentinos que también pueden mirarlos a los ojos”.
Señaló que aspira a que “cada uno de los 42 millones de argentinos tenga un dirigente adentro y que cuando sienta que aquellos en los que confió y depositó su voto lo traicionaron, tomen su bandera y sean constructores del empoderamiento popular y ciudadano de las libertades y los derechos conseguidos”.

Former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said goodbye to the people, addressing the crowd amassed in the Plaza de Mayo (May Square). She asked God that “those who succeed us by the will of the people, within the next four years, in front of a square filled with people, can tell all Argentinians that they too can look them in the eyes.”

She mentioned it is her hope that “every one of the 42 million people of Argentina have a leader within them, and when they feel that those who they trusted and voted for betray them, they can take out their flag and work together for the popular empowerment of all our rights and freedoms”

The new president, who will serve until 2019, was sworn in at the Palace of the Argentinian National Congress, before moving to the Casa Rosada to receive the presidential sash and baton from Pinedo.

Early in the morning, the tag #Empezamos (Let's Begin) went viral:

How nice to see ALL these Argentinian flags in the street again

I'm happy it's not the former president…! I was going to cover my eyes.

“The time for dialogue is now” and they file a precautionary measure to stop Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner attending the ceremony.

We are going to have a president that not only reads his speeches, but reads them badly.

We begin a new presidential era. Mr. President, I hope you work hard for us..the Argentinian people

#GoodThursday #Let'sBegin! Hopefully like this! :’)

Even the Twitter official account of the Casa Rosada, the executive mansion and office of the president of Argentina, suffered during the transition. The previous account, @CasaRosadaAR, became the “unofficial” one after Cristina Kirchner refused to give it up. Macri's administration then opened a new one, @CasaRosada.

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