She's been called the "New Evita", and the "Latin Hillary," but on Sunday, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner made history like no other woman has in her country. CFK, as she's simply known in Argentina, went from senator, and being the country's first lady, to being the first female elected president.
Fernandez needed 40 percent of the vote to win, and, according to the Associated Press, exit polling numbers indicated that she received between 42 percent and 46 percent of the votes.
"I'm for Cristina," said Enrique, a waiter arriving at his job in the trendy Palermo district of Buenos Aires after he had voted earlier in the day. "Some people don't remember that she and her husband helped Argentina out of the economic crisis in 2003. No one lasted in the presidency back then. The Kirchners were able to take control. They helped the country."
And at the polls Sunday, most Argentines agreed that she's the woman for the job.
In fact, many of the 27 million Argentines eligible to vote believe that the 54-year-old politician has already been very involed in her husband's government — attending high level meetings and advising during important decisions.
They also believe her husband President Nestor Kirchner, who she succeeds — will be very involved in her own government, albeit behind the scenes, since he's not expected to have any official position.
On the streets of Buenos Aires, many expressed the general belief that CFK rides into the Casa Rosada — The Pink House, Argentina's presidential palace — if not on the coattails of her husband, then certainly with his help.
Kirchner has enjoyed incredible popularity during his tenure, rarely dipping below 60 percent in his approval ratings. Many see the couple as the same political force. They are "The Kirchners," although each with a very different style. While the former president Kirchner is very low key — some say uncharismatic — CFK is a political rock star.
But her long hair, flashy makeup and jewelry should not fool you, her supporters say. CFK is a skilled politician who rose to power on her own. Indeed, she was elected to parliament in the southern province of Santa Cruz in 1989, two years before her husband became governor there.
CFK has been compared to Hillary Clinton throughout her campaign ¡ both lawyers, first ladies and senators. CFK expressed her admiration for the U.S. senator, but now, will the so-called "American Kirchners," the political power couple that is Hillary and Bill Clinton, see the success in Argentina as a cue for the American general campaign of 2008?
Would a "two is better than one stategy" help or hurt Clinton?
In the U.S. presidential election, only time will tell, but on Sunday, in Argentina, history was made. CFK is the second female to be elected president in the Western Hemipshere in the last two years. Argentina's western neighbor Chile elected Michelle Bachelett in 2006 — a woman who can tell CFK firsthand that the next four years will not be easy.
In fact, the headaches have already started.
Even as CFK and her husband live the victory celebration at their party's headquarters at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buenos Aires, the runner-up, a former lawmaker and beauty queen, Elisa Carrio, and many of the other 12 candidates, re calling foul — even fraud.
They say that, in many polling stations, there were insufficient ballots for their candidates, either through negligence, or because they were deliberately removed.
They also dencounced long waits at polling stations. Voting, which is compulsory in Argentina, was extended for one hour in the capital Buenos Aires, because of a last minute rush to polling stations.
This debate has just begun, as will be a long line of challenges for CFK from the Argentine opposition parties.