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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Evita echoes in Argentine election
By Martin Murphy
Americas analyst, BBC

Eva Peron in a file photo from 1947
Evita left a lasting mark on Argentina

A fashion designer who was recently comparing the looks and styles of the main Argentine presidential candidates described Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as a "very sexy, very strong and very attractive" woman.

He had not seen such a good-looking woman in Argentina politics since Eva Peron, who died 55 years ago, he said.

The designer's comments, however ungallant to the other two women also running for president, show how Cristina Kirchner, wife of the current president Nestor Kirchner and front-runner to win the 28 October election, has captured the limelight.

Since Mrs Kirchner announced in July that she was standing for president, people have talked about the similarities between her and Argentina's legendary first lady, Evita.

Eva Peron was an elegant woman who liked to wear fashionable clothes, and was a compelling public speaker.

Mrs Kirchner has the same vibrant way of speaking, and also enjoys dressing well.

Radical figure

But the similarities can only be pursued so far. Mrs Kirchner comes from a middle-class family while Evita was born into a poor, rural household.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Cristina Kirchner has been a senator since 1995

Mrs Kirchner, a senator for the province of Buenos Aires, was involved in politics for a long time before her husband was elected president and she assumed the mantle of first lady.

Evita was an actress when she met her husband, Juan Peron.

In 1951, more than two million people gathered in the centre of Buenos Aires to urge Evita to run as vice-president for her husband, who was seeking re-election.

Despite her huge popularity among Argentina's poor, her failing health combined with opposition from the country's elite and military, deterred her from running.

Evita was a radical figure who divided Argentines along very clear lines. The lower classes loved her while a large part of the middle class and the whole of the upper class hated her.

Mrs Kirchner's support base is more diverse, and although she identifies with traditional Peronist values such as social equality and the support of local industries, she is also keen to attract foreign investors.

And then there is the age difference. Mrs Kirchner is 54 and has a son who is 30. Evita was 33 when she died of cancer.

Pink House

Perhaps stronger parallels can be drawn between Cristina Kirchner and US Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Mrs Kirchner herself has welcomed the comparisons with Mrs Clinton, who she has praised as an "intelligent and modern woman".

Democratic contenders John Edwards (left0 Hillary Clinton (centre) and Barack Obama (right)
US presidential candidates face months of campaigning and debate

Both are, of course, bidding to become the first elected female president of their country.

They both met their future husbands in college while studying law and both saw them rise to become governor and then president.

Mrs Kirchner has been a senator since 1995, while Mrs Clinton has represented the state of New York in the US Senate since 2001.

And as in the US with the Clintons, there is talk of a political dynasty with the Kirchners in Argentina.

But here the differences emerge. Mrs Clinton has yet to win the nomination of her party, let alone the presidency, while Mrs Kirchner was hand-picked by her husband.

Mrs Clinton has had to present and publicly defend what she intends to do as president.

One of the biggest criticisms against Mrs Kirchner is that her campaign promises have been vague and that she has not debated them in public, criticisms she has been able to happily shrug off.

And unlike Mrs Clinton, Mrs Kirchner, if she wins her way to Argentina's presidential palace, the Pink House, could conceivably be followed in office by her husband.

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Q&A: Argentine election
23 Oct 07 |  Americas
Country profile: Argentina
11 Oct 07 |  Country profiles

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