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Argentina's ruling party under strain after poor showing at polls

Several ministers have handed in their resignation after the ruling party suffered setbacks in weekend elections. Vice President Fernandez de Kirchner has challenged President Fernandez over the party's direction.

Argentina President Alberto Fernandez (left) next to Vice President Cristina Kirchner (right) in Congress

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner previously served as president between 2007 and 2015

Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called on her boss, President Alberto Fernandez, to undertake a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday after the ruling left-leaning government suffered a blow in recent primary elections.

Several leftist ministers aligned with the more militant "Kirchnerist" wing of the party resigned after a bruising defeat during a primary on Sunday that is seen as a reliable indicator of how November's mid-term congressional vote will go.

"Do you seriously believe that it is not necessary, after such a defeat, to publicly present the resignations and that those in charge facilitate the president to reorganize his government?" Kirchner wrote in an open letter to the president.

Setbacks in primary polls

The center-left Frente de Todos coalition party won less than a third of the votes in Sunday's poll. A center-right coalition led by former President Mauricio Macri obtained 40%.

A man holds his grandson as he leaves the theater where he cast his vote during midterm primary elections on September 12, 2021 in Buenos Aires

The government could lose control of Congress if the mid-terms follow the trajectory of Sunday's primaries

The election scheduled for mid-November will decide half of the seats in Argentina's lower house as well as a third in the Senate. The party led by Kirchner and Fernandez currently holds a majority in the Senate and was hoping for a similar result in the Chamber of Deputies.

Fernandez now faces the choice of siding with Kirchner and the Peronist wing of the party or attempting to woo middle-class voters who came out in support of the conservatives.

Kirchner said she had met with Fernandez and suggested someone to take over the role of cabinet chief to help "relaunch" the party. She also criticized the government's lack of response in light of its electoral challenges.

Argentina's economic woes

The vice president blamed the government's economic policies for the defeat, saying they will "have electoral consequences."

The South American country has been in a recession since 2018 and it has one of the highest inflation rates in the world. Its economy was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with GDP falling by almost 10% last year. The poverty rate is 42%.

The ruling party also lost ground to the conservatives in the vital electoral district of Buenos Aires. The capital had been a bastion of the Frente de Todos party.

Fernandez de Kirchner also served as president between 2007 and 2015, ascending to the position after having been the country's first lady while her husband, Nestor Kirchner, held the role.

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ab/msh (AFP, Reuters)