Argentina’s president has said he will not seek re-election when the South American nation goes to the polls later this year, throwing open a race to lead the ruling Peronist coalition at the ballot amid a deepening economic crisis.
In a video message on Friday, Alberto Fernandez said he would “hand over the presidential sash to whomever has been legitimately elected at the polls by the popular vote” in October and not seek a second term in office.
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The Peronists, Argentina’s foremost political power, are reeling in opinion polls with inflation running at more than 100 percent and dwindling dollar reserves, with infighting between factions over who should be its presidential candidate.
The centre-left Fernandez, who came into office in late 2019, acknowledged in the seven-and-a-half-minute video that “it is clear we did not achieve everything we set out to do” during his administration.
He said he now wants to “focus my effort, my commitment, and my heart on solving the problems of Argentines”.
Internal disputes in the ruling coalition have burst out into the open, and for months now allies of Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner have been calling on Fernandez to not seek re-election so they can better design an electoral strategy ahead of the August primaries.
Fernandez has suffered a plunge in opinion ratings as Argentina has been stuck in economic doldrums for years, with more than 50 percent of children living in poverty and a galloping annual inflation rate of more than 100 percent.
About seven in 10 Argentinians see Fernandez in a negative light, according to a March poll by Giacobbe & Asociados, a local consultancy.
Only 10 percent have a positive image of the president, the poll found.
Fernandez’s decision not to seek re-election comes at the end of a week in which the local currency has suffered a sharp depreciation in the financial markets and sovereign bond prices have plunged.
“The economic context put too much pressure on him,” said Mariel Fornoni, director of Management & Fit. Fornoni said “internal pressures” had forced Fernandez’s hand, though in reality with his low approval rating he never had much chance of winning.
“Alberto Fernandez is taking himself out of a race he was never really in.”