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‘It’s Not His Birthday’: Leftist Argentine President Sabotaging Conservative Successor

With right-wing Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri set to assume his position as head of state on Thursday, outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has become a major stress point in the transition, issuing multiple decrees, spending government money, and arguing over the details of the inauguration ceremony.

“1. I am not his date. … 2. [I]t is not his birthday party,” Fernández de Kirchner wrote on her personal blog this week about her successor, accusing him of berating her on a phone call over the details of the inauguration ceremony. Unlike the United States, there is no set protocol for how an inauguration ceremony is designed, allowing for the president and president-elect to customize their transition at their choosing. There are basic elements to the ceremony, however, by which most abide: the handing over of the presidential sash and scepter, and an inauguration speech.

Argentina has not had an executive power transition in 12 years, and that ceremony went smoothly, as Fernández de Kirchner took over from her husband, Néstor Kirchner, who personally placed the sash on her:

Fernández de Kirchner has made the presidential heirloom items a point of major contention between her camp and the future Macri administration. Her latest proposal on the matter is for her to leave the presidential heirlooms in Congress to be picked up by an official designated by Macri, who will then hand them over to him during the swearing-in process. This would remove her from the ceremony and keep her from having to hand over her symbols of power personally. She has insisted, however, on being present at the swearing-in. Macri has suggested he take the heirlooms at the Pink House, the Argentine presidential office, after speaking before Congress.

While the discussion may appear superficial to the international observer, Fernández de Kirchner has used it to smear Macri before he assumed power. In a long, vernacular blog post, Fernández de Kirchner accuses Macri of “demanding in an elevated tone that I hand over the presidential scepter and sash at the Pink House because it is ‘his ceremony’ and that if I do not do as he says, he will go to the National Supreme Court of Justice!” She writes, “At one point I had to remind him that he was a man and I was a woman, and it was inappropriate for him to treat me in such a way.” She adds that Macri allegedly insisted she must stay for the duration of the ceremony, not merely the beginning. “I will not continue to tolerate in silence, as I have until now, the personal and public abuse that he has leveled towards me since the same day I invited him to Olivos [the presidential residence] after congratulating him for his victory.”

Following the publication of these accusations, which have not been corroborated by anyone in public, Macri’s representatives have requested the court grant him presidential power at midnight on Thursday, rather than at the swearing-in ceremony. This would make Fernández de Kirchner’s presence at the ceremony unnecessary.

The New York Times notes that Fernández de Kirchner has been irritating the Macri government-to-be far beyond the presidential swearing-in, however. Multiple Kirchnerite appointees have refused to step aside and allow Macri’s hand-chosen officials to take their positions. She has refused to speak to Macri about issues other than the swearing-in ceremony, Macri has said. She has also issued a decree paying Argentine provincial governments millions in pension payments, alleging that a recent court order demanded it. Her chief of staff, Aníbal Fernández (no relation), has confirmed to national media that the move will make it impossible “to fulfill the responsibility of paying pensions to those who are retiring.”

Macri, the now-former mayor of Buenos Aires, took the nation by surprise after forcing the presidential election into the nation’s first run-off vote between himself and Fernández de Kirchner’s handpicked successor, Daniel Scioli. Macri won that election 51 to 49 percent. He is expected to govern as a free-market, conservative leader and has promised to distance Argentina from Iran and Venezuela, major allies of the Kirchner regime.

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