Preaching a message of unity, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and running-mate Alberto Fernández kicked off their election campaign Saturday at an event in Merlo, almost a week after the former president stunned the country by saying she was running for vice-president.
The duo were very much on the same page. The former president delivered a call for a "great social pact" to lead the country out of the economic downturn while her running-mate called on Argentina's leaders to "solve the problem of poverty."
Many believed Fernández de Kirchner, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015, would head a presidential ticket. The news that she would play the undercard to her and her late husband's one-time Cabinet chief came as a surprise.
The ex-president was seen as the main challenger to President Mauricio Macri, who is running again for re-election amid a biting recession that has cost him support.
"I felt obliged to do this," Fernández de Kirchner said to thousands of supporters in Merlo, a poor area in western Buenos Aires. During her speech, she proposed the creation of a new "social contract" among political, social and economic leaders to resolve the country's problems.
The former president, 66, faces a series of corruption trials and her decision to only run as vice-president is seen as putting a more moderate challenger at the helm of the Unidad Ciudadana ticket.
Alberto Fernández served as Cabinet chief from 2003 to 2007 for Fernández de Kirchner's predecessor and late husband, Néstor Kirchner. He remained in the position during a portion of her term as president, but left in 2008 during a conflict with farmers over an increase in export taxes.
"Together we will do what is needed to get Argentina out of the terrible position it has been put in," he declared at the joint rally, hammering at the country's economic woes.
Some polls have suggested Fernández de Kirchner could defeat Macri in a second round of voting, but it is unclear as yet how those prospects will change now that she has thrown her hat in the ring in a lesser capacity.
The former president faces a string of court problems. She has been accused of taking bribes in exchange for public work contracts, but denies wrongdoing and says lower courts did not allow her to present more witnesses.
In separate cases, she faces several formal investigations into allegations of bribery, money-laundering and criminal association during her administration and her late husband's.
Still, many voters are frustrated by an inflation rate that reached 47.6 percent last year, the highest since 1991, and a decision by Macri's government to slash subsidies on utilities and public transportation. In April, the peso hit a record low due to growing distrust of the conservative president's economic management.
Macri says he underestimated the macroeconomic imbalances inherited from his populist predecessor.
"Those who are here are Argentines convinced we are the gateway out of this grey moment in Argentina," declared Alberto Fernández at the rally.
Linking today's economic problems to the situation when Néstor Kirchner took office in 2003, Alberto Fernández called for a new approach. "Four out of 10 people are poor, people do not have food and we can't allow that."
- AP with TIMES