You can love or hate her, but you cannot ignore her. Cristina Kirchner, current President of Argentina and former First Lady of the country is one of the most intriguing political leaders in the world. She has reached to create her public image along the lines of tango, Argentine’s national dance: vibrant and full of emotions and contradictions.
“It is a triumph of love” with those words Cristina Kirschner commented her victory in the 2007 presidential election. A politician with a long experience, she stepped into the shoes of her husband, Néstor and became the first directly elected and re-elected female President of Argentina. This short sentence sums up the essential of Kirschner’s political marketing: persuade using emotions. Her communication strategy relies on three main points: storytelling, direct communication and personal branding emphasizing various facets of her womanhood.
- Her own storytelling: Cristina Kirchner does much more than just taking care of her public image, she creates her own myth. She narrates thus two entertaining stories which on one hand help her to shape her own version of Argentine politics and on the other allowed her to captivate attention of public opinion and create emotional connection with her audience. In the first tale, appealing to Argentine patriotism, Cristina Kirchner speaks about Argentine and world’s politics as a play ground between the good and the bad. The world she depicts is black and white and there is no middle land. There are thus those who love Argentina, fight for social equality and want to break the hegemony of capitalism, and the enemies, who, for the sole aim of financial benefits, want to introduce economical and political elitism. Cristina Kirschner presents herself as the defender of Argentine Nation’s dignity and honor put in danger by opponent parties and media, big companies as well as world powers such as the United States or Great Britain. In the other narrative, strongly connected to the first one, Kirchner puts a spotlight on her private and political relation with Néstor Kirchner. Already in the 2007 presidential campaign Cristina Kirchner presented her candidature as a bid to continue her husband’s politics. When in November 2010 Nestor unexpectedly died, Cristina wore black cloths and multiplied her public activities. She created then a public image of a grieving widower, fragile and suffering from the loss of her loved one all the while working for the Nation as a remedy against her
- Direct communication: Cristina Kirchner loves to speak directly to Argentineans. She often goes to the poorest districts in towns and gives overwhelmingly emotional speeches. She is also very active on the Internet; she has an account on twitter, and even has her own web page which she keeps regularly fed. In other words, she gets hold of everything that would guarantee her a better control of her message and allow her to avoid interviews, press conferences or any other form of contact with the media. This possibility of avoiding contact is particularly important in light of the numerous conflicts engaged between the Argentine President and several media groups.
- The image of a woman: Cristina Kirchner embodies at the same time modern Evita, a sort of Latin-American Mother Teresa and the devil wearing Prada. Three distinctive, yet somehow coexisting images allow Kirchner to create her own identity. In an interview Kirchner said that she felt connected to the image of “Evita of the hair in a bun and the clenched fist before a microphone”. Since Kirchner’s presidency a return of the cult of Eva Peron, first female president of Argentina, can be observed. Cristina shares with Eva her militant experience, her image as a widow devoted to her Nation and her aura of a female politician fighting for women’s rights and helping the poor. This last point became particularly highlighted with Kirschner’s aid program aiming to help 5 million children from poor families called Asignación Universal por Hijo. Kirchner shaped her policies as turned to socially inclusion and against big companies. Moreover, she legalized same-sex marriages, thus making Argentina a pioneer Latin-American country in the advancement of LGBTQ rights. However, sensitiveness does not necessarily go with tenderness. In some aspects Cristina Kirchner is very similar to the movie character of decisive and authoritarian Miranda Priesley from “The Devil wears Prada”. “You only have to fear God, and me a little bit, at least while you are staff that depends from me” said once Cristina Kirchner to her team. Beside the strong character, Miranda and Cristina also share their love for cloths. It is commonly known that Cristina Kirchner cares a lot about her physical appearance. In the era when female politicians rather try to attenuate visual aspects which would allow any sexist comment, Kirchner takes the opposition path and exhibits her femininity. Obviously, her love for designer’s’ cloths and heavy make-up has more than once been criticized. The President seems however not to be preoccupied by this critics. “To be a good politician I don’t need to disguise as a poor person” she commented shortly.
The case of Cristina Kirchner shows that strongly emotional and controversial communication is like a roller-coaster – there are always ups and downs. After two largely won elections proving strong popular approval, Cristina Kirchner seems to be losing her power. She faces today a larger and stronger opposition front. Moreover, since 2014 she has been losing popular support and the case of the strange death of the prosecutor Nisman who accused Kirchner of being implicated in the 1994 bomb attack of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires provoked massive protests against her. However, it is almost impossible to imagine that Kirchner could leave politics at the end of her tenure. Despite an aborted trial of the Peronist party to change the Constitution and forge a way for Kirchner towards a third mandate, Kirchner will certainly remain on the political stage. After all, it is difficult to imagine Cristina Kirchner in any other role than the one of a political leader.