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In Argentine politics, all roads lead back to 'Evita'

The midterm election Sunday is being seen as a referendum on the populist policies of President Cristina Kirchner, whom the media often compare to Eva Perón.

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When Argentines head for the polls this Sunday, they might be surprised to find the names of singers, actresses, sports heroes, even popular politicians already in office, filling the ruling party's list for seats in the national legislature.

Many of these "testimonial candidates" have openly admitted that they have no intention of taking office. They are running only to lend their star power to the campaign, and, if elected, would step aside for the lesser-known party functionaries that run with them as deputies.

Foremost among the testimonial candidates is the famous actress Nacha Guevara, whose enthusiastic campaign has lent more than just her own star power to the government of President Cristina Kirchner.

Evoking 'Evita'

Ms. Guevara is widely known for her recent role in a popular musical portraying Argentina's biggest star of all: Eva Perón, the iconic first lady of populist 1940s President Juan Perón.

In Argentine politics, all roads seem to lead back to the Peróns.

"Evita" was the diva of Argentine politics, so influential as a champion of the poor that, in 1952, the country's Congress gave her the title of "spiritual leader of the nation."

Indeed, it is perhaps telling that the biggest challenge to Ms. Kirchner in this election is not from the formal opposition, but from a right-leaning splinter group within her own Perónist party. So powerful is the continuing legacy of the Peróns that few politicians here are successful without invoking it.

Cristina and Evita: populists to the core

The media have often compared Cristina and "Evita," and she has at times embraced the comparison. But what truly evokes the Perónist heritage of Cristina and her husband, previous president Nestor Kirchner (they are commonly referred to here as the "ruling couple") are their populist policies: generous public spending, nationalizing state resources, and a nationalistic "Argentina-first" attitude toward foreign relations.

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