Argentina's first lady eyes office
Leading in polls as presidential vote approaches
BUENOS AIRES - She met her future husband while studying law and joined him as he rose from governor of a small state to the presidency. A powerful first lady and senator in her own right, she's now campaigning hard to be the first woman elected president of her country.
Hillary Rodham Clinton? Try Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina's first lady.
The wife of President Nestor Kirchner is the clear front-runner on the presidential ballot, favored to clobber 12 rivals in voting Oct. 28 and succeed her husband at the helm of South America's second-largest economy.
And, like Bill Clinton, who jokes about becoming "first laddie" someday, President Kirchner says he's looking forward to becoming "first gentleman." If the polls are right, Kirchner will place the presidential sash on his wife on Dec. 10, ending his four-year term and launching hers.
Powerful women are nothing new in Argentine politics. Evita Peron set the mold in the 1950s as the wife of president Juan Peron. And in more recent times, women across Latin America have been reaching the top via the ballot box. Chile elected Michelle Bachelet president in 2005, and now its Argentine neighbors are also getting ready for una presidenta.
Although the Kirchners have expressed no desire to hold power indefinitely, critics pounced on the president's unusual decision to forgo seeking a second four-year term at the height of his popularity. As long as they keep trading places and winning elections, the couple could stay in power indefinitely, sidestepping the constitutional limit of eight consecutive years in office.
For now, this is Cristina Fernandez's hour, and her passion seems to be striking a chord.
At a campaign rally, the stadium thundered with the chants of 7,000 fans: "We feel it! We feel it! Cristina, president!"
"Get used to it," she responded, wagging a finger. "It's presidenta!"
With her long, brown hair and glamorous manner, Fernandez overshadows her husband at campaign rallies, and in her fiery way she has become a leading advocate for the center-left.
As far back as 2003, she angrily pounded her Senate desk as she demanded the Supreme Court repeal amnesty for officials accused of crimes during the 1976-83 military dictatorship, when as many as 30,000 Argentines were kidnapped and killed, including some of the Kirchners' friends.
"In a globalized world, human rights are not a matter of `left' or `right,' but a matter of humanity," she shouted, shaking visibly. "Once and for all, our country needs to make it known that those who broke the law of civilized society will be punished."
The high court listened, scrapped the amnesty, and "dirty war" trials resumed last year.
Argentines are only now overcoming a deep distrust of elected officials, bred by hyperinflation, recession, corruption, and failed promises of recent years. These woes provoked huge street protests that forced a succession of presidents from office.