The stage is set for Tuesday’s inauguration of presidentelect Alberto Fernández, although various key details continue to hang in the air until the last minute. In A rgentina, of course, nothing is certain - not even that the unpredictable will always happen.
On Tuesday, December 10, the symbolic transfer of power between outgoing President Mauricio Macri and his elected successor will take place, though the odds are against the two men being the main protagonists of the central ceremony. Since the venue will be Congress (decided after over three weeks of negotiations) the general expectation until recently was that Vice-President Gabriela Michetti would be handing over the insignia of power to Fernández and vice-president-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as the hostess of the event, by virtue of being Senate head (as stipulated by Article 93 of the Constitution).
However, it now appears that Fernández de Kirchner has prevailed in her insistence on Michetti handing over the vice-presidency to her first so that, as the new head of Congress, the ex-president can install her former Cabinet chief in the presidency after originating his presidential candidacy last May.
Macri and Michetti reportedly yielded finally to these wishes last Thursday, according to reports.
Fernández de Kirchner’s vision of the transfer of power would seem to be at odds with Article 93 of the Constitution, which reads: “Upon taking office, the president and vicepresident will be sworn in by the President of the Senate,” but the outgoing administration showed no wish to press this point.
If the previous presidential inauguration in 2015 is any guide, such protocol tugs-ofwar can continue until almost the last minute. Back then outgoing president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had already spelled out her no-show intentions weeks beforehand, digging in her heels over the Congress venue for the entire event and arguing that the ceremony clashed with the inauguration of her sister-in-law Alicia Kirchner (who will again be inaugurated this Tuesday) down in Santa Cruz, but negotiations to avoid thisdivisive outcome continued through to December 8, just 40 hours before the inauguration. Only then was the decision taken to bridge the gap with the interim 12-hour presidency of Senator Federico Pinedo, who then handed over the insignia of office to Macri.
Back in 2011, the highly unconventional choice of her daughter Florencia to renew the presidency of a re-elected Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was a last-minute improvisation, even though nobody was seriously expecting her to receive the insignia, as constitutional protocol dictated, from her outgoing vice-president (and thus Senate head) Julio Cobos, with whom she was not on speaking terms (even if Cobos showed up).
In general, Argentina does not have too much experience of both the old and new presidents attending a transfer of power between opposing sides. Indeed it has only happened twice, in 1916 and 1999. Following the introduction of universal manhood suffrage in 1914, the last president of the pre-democratic regime h a n d e d o v e r p o w e r to Argentina’s first democratically elected president, the Radical Hipólito Yrigoyen. And in 1999 the neo-conservative Peronist Carlos Menem closed out a decade in power by handing over the insignia to another Radical, Fernando de la Rúa (who died five months ago on Independence Day). Yet this coming Tuesday will also be historic as the first time since 1928 that a non-Peronist president has completed a term of office.
But back to the present. Tuesday will start with the f ut ure president ’s humble grey Toyota Corolla car being escorted by the San Martín Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers from his Puerto Madero residence to Congress, where he will arrive shortly before 11am to begreeted by the vice-presidentelect and a congressional welcoming committee.
If everything goes according to plan, both Fernández and Macri would then enter Congress while Michetti swears in her successor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who would then promptly take charge of the Legislative Assembly which had previously been opened by Michetti. In that capacity she will then swear in the new president, followed by the reading of the official documentation of the change of presidency by the State Notary. It would then be Macri’s task to hand over the presidential sash and baton to Fernández, although doubts as to the outgoing leader’s presence continue to be expressed.
The new president and vicepre sident will then sign the official docu - ment in the presence of the Notary-General, with Macri and Michetti already making a rapid exit. Fernández will then kick off his brand-new presidency by delivering his inaugural speech to the Legislative Assembly, which will then conclude.
The new president will then board the presidential limousine, together with the new first lady Fabiola Yañez and drive down the Avenida de Mayo to Government House, followed by another car transporting Fernández de Kirchner. Fernández will thus be able to enter the Casa Rosada without its previous occupant there, whereas Macri’s original plan had been to hand over the insignia in Government House after accompanying his successor from the Legislative Assembly in Congress.
Once in Government House, Fernández will extend protocol greetings to all the foreign delegations coming to Buenos Aires for his inauguration at a reception scheduled for 3pm, before proceeding to the Casa Rosada’s Bicentennial Museum where he will swear in the Cabinet announced yesterday at around 6.30pm.
Party militants were reportedly working intensely to ensure a civilised atmosphere at the ceremony – not only between supporters of the outgoing and incoming presidents but also within Frente de Todos to avoid any imbalance in the representation of Kirchnerite and other Peronist factions which might trigger friction.
According to Frente de Todos sources, the new ruling party is then planning a “massive” march on the Plaza de Mayo celebrating the return of a Peronist government and in response to Macri’s farewell rally this evening.
Plaza de Mayo will also be the scene of a nighttime musical show with entertainment personalities close to the new president and (perhaps even more) vice-president although the guitar-strumming Fernández has his own friends in the musical world at least - Iván Noble, Súper Ratones, León Gieco and, above all, his idol Litto Nebbia.
Outside of these guidelines, given Argentina’s complicated relationship with certainty, anything is possible.