Argentina’s Kirchner Returns to Limelight, Stays Mum on Candidacy

(Bloomberg) -- Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is leading opinion polls ahead of October presidential elections, spoke in public for the first time this year on Thursday to present her memoir but left her supporters hanging after opting to not unveil plans about a potential bid.

Greeted to a large, emphatic crowd -- and thousands more standing in the rain outside watching on jumbo screens -- the former president discussed her new book, “Sincerely,” at the annual Buenos Aires book fair. She was interrupted several times by chants of “my dear president” and “we’re coming back.” Flags and posters reading “Cristina 2019” were on sale while politicians from her coalition and union leaders applauded from their seats.

Argentina’s Kirchner Returns to Limelight, Stays Mum on Candidacy

“Argentines are living through difficult times,” said Kirchner, who was president from 2007 to 2015. “We can build something different.”

A self-described populist, Kirchner spoke on a range of topics during the 30-minute presentation including the U.S. economy, the need for a “social contract” to protect the most vulnerable and her late husband Nestor Kirchner.

More than five months before the vote, Kirchner, who still faces multiple corruption cases though enjoys immunity as a Senator, is polling slightly higher in potential runoff scenarios than President Mauricio Macri who is favored by investors. The mere prospect of her coming back to power has rattled Argentine markets in recent weeks as political uncertainty upends attempts to mend a battered economy and stop the free fall of the peso.

While she refrained from any strong, combative language against the government, her party loyalists were shown harassing a TV reporter from Grupo Clarin’s TN network, a frequent target during her time in office.

True to her style, Kirchner may keep her supporters, investors and political foes in suspense until the deadline to register on June 22.

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