Argentine President's wife locked in poll battle with former first lady

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The Independent US

In a battle that has divided loyalties in Argentina's ruling Peronist party Cristina Fernandez, President Kirchner's spouse, is running for the seat of Buenos Aires province, a political stronghold of the former President Eduardo Duhalde. Hilda "Chiche" Gonzalez, Duhalde's wife, begins her own campaign in the same region today.

"This is about more than just one province, it's about Argentina," Ms Fernandez, a senator for the Santa Cruz province, told an audience in La Plata, south-east of Buenos Aires. "This is about more than one political party, it's about the nation,"

Mr Kirchner came to power in 2003 with Mr Duhalde's backing, but the two Peronist leaders have fallen out over the handling of Argentina's ongoing economic crisis. Since the two men could not agree on one candidate for the Senate, President Kirchner's wife is running for the "Front for Victory" list while the wife of former president Duhalde is representing the Peronist Party. Ms Fernandez has focused on her husband's accomplishments during her campaign, praising the government's resistance to the International Monetary Fund, its massive debt restructuring and poverty reduction policies. "If someone asked what is the most important thing we have achieved in these two years, it is rebuilding people's trust in institutions," she said. But she also offered veiled critique of long-serving Mr Duhalde. "I am not one of those who suffer for power," she said. "The day I decide to go home, I leave forever. I am not one of those who announce their retirement and come back again and again."

President Kirchner said October's vote will be a test for his government, which has overseen both a huge debt default and a tentative economic recovery.