Departing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has made her farewell speech, thanking political supporters. She also lamented the judicial appointment of an interim president as head of state for 12 hours.
Thousands of Fernandez' supporters rallied outside Argentina's presidential palace - the Casa Rosada - as the outgoing president made her farewell speech before a sea of blue, white and gold flags.
"Thanks for so much happiness; thanks for so much joy… so much love. I cherish them. I hold them in my heart and I will always be with you," said a clearly emotional Fernandez.
"I only ask that those who succeed us by the will of the people are also able to look them in the eyes within four years, in a place like this." she added.
The outgoing president went on to complain about the judicial appointment of an interim president, who took over for 12 hours leading up to the swearing-in ceremony of her successor Mauricio Macri. The appointment followed an acrimonious dispute between Kirchner and Macri.
Disagreement goes to court
Macri had wanted to take his oath of office at Congress, before traveling on to the Casa Rosada to receive the presidential sash and scepter from Fernandez. However, Fernandez refused to attend a ceremony outside the iconic Buenos Aires palace, a famous rallying point for leaders such as Juan and Evita Peron. The outgoing president had insisted the whole ceremony could take place at Congress. Her cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez claimed Macri was "getting a little carried away."
The argument led to a court ruling that means an interim president, the provisional Senate head Federico Pineda, will become head of state for the 12 hours from midnight leading up to a handover ceremony at the Casa Rosada.
At the farewell rally, Kirchner said that she was pained by the appointment of a "president in a judicial ruling, who no-one voted for."
'Yes we can'
Meanwhile, hundreds of Macri's supporters gathered outside his private residence in the capital's Parque district, singing the national anthem and chanting the Spanish equivalent of US President Barack Obama's campaign slogan "Yes we can." The incoming president appeared on the balcony more than once, accompanied by his wife Juliana Awada.
Notwithstanding the court's interim ruling, business-friendly conservative Macri changed his Twitter profile at midnight, describing himself as "President of Argentina. Married. Four children. Fan of Boca," referring to Boca Juniors football club, in Buenos Aires.
Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, dominated the political landscape of Argentina for more than 12 years. The couple's administrations spent heavily on social programs for the poor and passed liberalizing laws, such as the legalization of gay marriage.
They also aligned Argentina with socialist Latin American leaders such as late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was present at Fernandez' goodbye speech.
rc/msh (EFE, AFP, dpa)