It's 'for or against' Kirchner


Sergio Massa marches down a corridor, casting aside his suit jacket and rolling up his shirtsleeves _ as if pre...


Sergio Massa marches down a corridor, casting aside his suit jacket and rolling up his shirtsleeves _ as if preparing for a schoolyard tussle _ before facing the camera: _If they want to fight, we_re going to fight,_ he says.
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That_s the controversial TV spot Mr. Massa, who is running for a congressional seat in Argentina_s upcoming midterm elections, chose for his campaign. But he is not the only politician to adopt an aggressive tone against the Front for Victory, President Cristina Fern__ndez de Kirchner_s ruling alliance.
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_Her or you_ is lawmaker Francisco de Narv__ez_s polarizing slogan. Meanwhile, the Front for Victory has implored voters to _choose love over hate_ in today_s open primaries _ in effect a mass poll for the decisive midterms on Oct. 27. The results will determine Kirchner_s level of support after a turbulent year of mass protests and unpopular economic policies.
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The campaigns lay bare a widening fissure here between government supporters and critics that some warn could lead to long-term social and cultural divisions. _The polarizing dynamic has become impossible to control,_ says Atilio Bor__n, a political author and sociologist in Buenos Aires.

Argentina is divided today into kirchneristas _ people who back the leftist policies of President Kirchner and her late husband and predecessor, N__stor Kirchner _ and anti-kirchneristas. Very few occupy a middle ground.
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_When interests clash, you_re forced to take sides,_ says kirchnerista Mariana Itzkovich at a recent rally to celebrate a decade of Kirchner rule. Echoing other populist governments in Latin America, Kirchner casts groups with _economic interests_ and _corporations_ as enemies trying to topple her administration or halt its reforms.
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Another Front for Victory slogan written across campaign posters is _choose people and not corporations._ Voters are seemingly presented with a simple choice of _with us or against us._

_Fomenting division suits Kirchner,_ says Carlos Germano, a political analyst here. _She has a strong nucleus of support _ around 30 percent of Argentines. But no opposing party or alliance has yet capitalized on the rest of the country, which remains split _ though Massa is now establishing himself as the figure in Buenos Aires province._
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That is reflected in the lack of allegiances among government critics. _I don_t know who I_ll vote for,_ says Amadeo Rodr__guez at a small anti-Kirchner rally in Buenos Aires Thursday night. _All I know is it won_t be for Front for Victory candidates._
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The political polarization is reflected both socially and culturally: Mr. Rodr__guez says he has friends in opposing camps who have become distant and knows families that have fractured. The media, meanwhile, is split between extreme pro- and anti-Kirchner coverage, the latter of which is led by the Clar__n group.
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Collecting an award this week, Jorge Lanata, Clar__n_s best-known journalist, warned that the _crack_ in society will transcend the Kirchners. _The social gap is going to be the hardest thing to mend,_ Mr. Lanata says. He adds that a similar division was present during the first government, from 1946 to 1952, of Juan Domingo Per__n _ one that lives on in today's Argentina.
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Like Kirchner, Per__n _ who was a hero of the working class _ split the country into supporters and detractors, known as gorilas. Per__n _divided Argentina into two irreconcilable subcultures,_ the editors of The New Cultural History of Peronism, wrote.

Some politicians, though, have now decided to attract voters through a call for unity. _We've come to unite a country_ is the slogan for congressional candidates of the Progressive Front.

Kirchner lost control of Congress in the 2009 midterms, but Mr. Germano does not expect a repeat. _The Front for Victory will keep its majority,_ he says. However, Kirchner is not expected to gain the seats necessary to push through long-rumored plans for constitutional reform and the subsequent lifting of presidential term limits.

The Christian Science Monitor | By Jonathan Gilbert

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