Argentina Presidential Feud Turns Handover Ceremony Into a Farce

Updated on
  • Outgoing president refuses to attend Thursday's event
  • Judge rules Fernandez relinquishes power at midnight

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Photographer: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

Argentina’s presidential inauguration ceremony on Thursday has taken a farcical turn after outgoing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner refused to attend the handover and hang the sash on her successor. A group of lawmakers from her alliance said they will also boycott the event.

The dispute follows President-elect Mauricio Macri’s decision to ask a federal court to rule that Fernandez’s presidency ends tonight at midnight rather than tomorrow. The request makes it impossible for her to oversee the ceremony, her Cabinet Chief Anibal Fernandez told reporters in Buenos Aires.

QuickTake Argentina

“This exposes the criteria that was used to make political decisions in the past few years,” said Sergio Berensztein, director of political consultancy Berensztein. “This is much more than a farce; it’s a political strategy to keep Fernandez in the limelight.”

Macri made the request to end Fernandez’s period in office early after her government filled the pages of the official gazette in the past few weeks with last minute hirings, extra budgetary spending decrees and the naming of ambassadors. The conflict turned petty Sunday when Fernandez accused Macri of raising his voice to her in a dispute over the location for the inauguration ceremony.

“This measure is intended to prevent the president from taking decisions that could affect the incoming authorities in the inauguration ceremony on Dec. 10,” the legal filing said.

Interim President

Federal Judge Maria Servini de Cubria upheld Macri’s petition, confirming that Fernandez’s mandate ends Wednesday at midnight. Otherwise, Servini ruled, Fernandez’s term would surpass the four years granted by the constitution.

Since Macri can’t assume office until he’s sworn in at noon on Thursday, Senate leader Federico Pinedo will serve as interim president for about 12 hours and hand over the sash, according to a statement from Macri’s Cambiemos alliance.

In a farewell speech Wednesday before thousands of supporters that had gathered outside the presidential palace, Fernandez said she was surprised and upset by the court ruling and that she never thought she’d see the day when Argentina would require an interim president. She would have liked to have taken part in the swearing-in ceremony, she said.

“At midnight, I’m going to turn into a pumpkin,” Fernandez joked.

Twitter Barrage

Fernandez sent about 80 messages on Sunday from her Twitter account, many complaining about Macri and the inauguration ceremony. The profile of the official Twitter page for the Casa Rosada, as the presidential palace is known, was even changed to show allegiance to the Kirchners and says it will be non-official starting Dec. 10.

Macri’s press team declined to comment. A group of lawmakers from Fernandez’s Victory Front alliance said they will boycott the ceremony in solidarity with Fernandez, although others, such as lawmakers from Salta province linked to Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey, said they would attend.

The quarrel began because Macri wants the swearing-in ceremony to take place in Congress and the presidential sash and scepter handed over in the presidential palace. Fernandez has argued that the entire ceremony should take place in Congress, where a group of her supporters had planned to gather outside to see her off.

The bickering follows years of tension between the former mayor of Buenos Aires and the president, when their offices faced each other across the central square. Fernandez has often warned that the opposition would unwind her social policies and hand decisions over to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. and corporate interests. While she received Macri at the presidential residence after his victory in a runoff on Nov. 22, there were no pictures from the meeting or video, and Macri described the encounter as “a waste of time.”

Thousands of Fernandez’s supporters gathered this afternoon outside the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires during her last full day as president. She plans to take a commercial flight to her home province of Santa Cruz tomorrow where her sister-in-law is being sworn in as governor. Her son Maximo will be a lawmaker in Congress.