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Fernandez Makes History in Argentina, but Soon Comes the Real Work

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, senator and first lady, is the first woman to be elected president. The country faces energy shortages and high inflation. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Senator and first lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner this week became the first woman to be elected president of Argentina. The fifty-four-year-old lawyer and politician received about twice as many votes as her closest opponent, Elisa Carrio.

Cristina Fernandez will take office in December when her husband, President Nestor Kirchner, steps down after one term. She will face difficult issues including Argentina's high inflation rates and energy shortages.

Her support comes mainly from Argentina’s lower classes. Political observers say she could lose that support if she is unable to slow inflation and deal with the energy problems.

Elisa Carrio, a former legislator known for her campaign against corruption, had the strong support of wealthier voters. She won the big cities of Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Rosario.

Argentina has the second largest economy in South America, after Brazil. The economy has grown at more than eight percent a year during Nestor Kirchner's presidency. But the country has a large international debt. And one-fourth of its thirty-seven million people still live in poverty.

President-elect Fernandez has promised to continue her husband’s policies. Many people believe his success in improving the economy helped her rise to the presidency. Argentina suffered a financial crisis in two thousand one and two thousand two.

She says she will work to improve employment, health care, education -- and Argentina’s foreign relations. Her husband has traveled little outside the country during his four years as president. But she has spent recent months meeting with foreign leaders.

Citizens eighteen to seventy living in Argentina are required to vote. Those living outside the country are not required. But Argentine Embassy spokeswoman Danielle de la Fuente in Washington said many came to the consulate to vote in Sunday's election.

Argentina also has a law to support the involvement of women in politics. It requires one-third of legislative candidates to be women.

Cristina Fernandez will join Michelle Bachelet of Chile as the only female presidents in Latin America. But while Argentina will have its first elected female president, she will not be the first woman to lead the country. Vice President Isabel Peron became president after her husband, General Juan Peron, died in nineteen seventy-four.

President Kirchner and his wife lead the Peronist party, a movement that grew out of the rule of General Peron. Some people think they will try to exchange the presidency between them for the next twelve years. Argentine law permits a former president to run again after a four-year wait.

Many people compare Cristina Fernandez to American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Both women are senators and lawyers whose husbands were governors and then presidents.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. To learn more about Argentina and its politics, go to I’m Steve Ember.