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Justicialist Party

The Justicialist Party is a Peronist political party in Argentina, and the largest component of the Peronist movement.

The party is led by Nestor Kirchner, President of Argentina from 2003 to 2007. Clarin (10 Mar 2010) The current Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and former presidents Carlos Menem and Eduardo Duhalde are members. Justicialists have, since nearly the entire period since 1989, been the largest party in the Argentine Congress, and currently hold 122 of 257 members in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies, and 43 of 72 seats in the Argentine Senate. These numbers, however, do not reflect the divisions within the party over the role of kirchnerism, the ruling, left-wing faction of the party. Kirchnerists hold 87 and 33 seats in each house, and dissident peronists, 35 and 10 seats.

The Justicialist Party was founded in 1947 by Juan and Evita Peron, and superseded the Labor Party on which Peron had been elected a year earlier. Following the enactment of women's right to vote in 1948, a Peronist Women's Party, led by the First Lady, was also established. All Peronist entities were banned from elections after 1955, when the Revolucion Libertadora overthrew Peron, and civilian governments' attempt to lift Peronism's ban from legislative and local elections in 1962 and 1965 resulted in military coups.Crassweller, Robert. Peron and the Enigmas of Argentina. W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.

Basing itself on the policies espoused by Juan Peron as president of Argentina, the party's platform has from its inception centered around populism, and its most consistent base of support has historically been the CGT, Argentina's largest trade union. Peron ordered the mass nationalization of public services, strategic industries, and the critical farm export sector, while enacting progressive labor laws and social reforms, and accelerating public works investment. His 1946-55 tenure also favored technical schools while harassing university staff, and promoted urbanization as it raised taxes on the agrarian sector. These trends earned Peronism the loyalty of much of the working and lower classes, but helped alienate the upper and middle class sectors of society. Censorship and repression intensified, and following his loss of support from the influential Catholic Church, Peron was ultimately deposed in a violent 1955 coup.

The alignment of these groups as pro or anti-Peronist largely endured, though the policies of Peronism itself varied greatly over the subsequent decades, as did, increasingly, those put forth by its many competing figures. During Peron's exile, it became a big tent party united almost solely by their support for the aging leader's return. A series of violent incidents, as well as Peron's negotiations with both the military regime and diverse political factions, helped lead to his return to Argentina in 1973, and to his election. An impasse followed in which the PJ had a place both for leftist armed organizations such as Montoneros, and far-right factions such as Jose Lopez Rega's Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance. Following Peron's death in 1974, however, this tenuous understanding disintegrated, and a wave of political violence ensued, ultimately resulting in a March 1976 coup. The Dirty War of the late 1970s, which cost hundreds of Peronists (among thousands more) their lives, solidified the party's populist outlook, particularly following the failure of conservative Economy Minister Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz's free trade and deregulatory policies after 1980.Poneman, Daniel. Argentina: Democracy on Trial. Paragon House, 1987.

In the first democratic elections after the end of the dictatorship of the National Reorganization Process, in 1983, the Justicialist Party lost to the Radical Civic Union (UCR). Six years later, it returned to power with Carlos Menem, during whose term the Constitution was reformed to allow for presidential reelection. Menem (19891999) adopted neoliberal right-wing policies which changed the overall image of the party. The PJ was defeated by a coalition formed by the UCR and the centre-left FrePaSo (itself a left-wing offshoot of the PJ) in 1999, but regained political weight in the 2001 legislative elections, and was ultimately left in charge of managing the selection of an interim president after the collapse of December 2001. Justicialist Eduardo Duhalde, chosen by Congress, ruled during 2002 and part of 2003.

The 2003 elections saw the constituency of the party split in three, as Carlos Menem, Nestor Kirchner (backed by Duhalde) and Adolfo Rodriguez Saa ran for the presidency leading different party coalitions. After Kirchner's victory, the party started to align behind his leadership, moving slightly to the left.

The Justicialist Party effectively broke apart in the 2005 legislative elections when two factions ran for a Senate seat in Buenos Aires Province: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (then the first lady) and Hilda Gonzalez de Duhalde (wife of former president Duhalde). The campaign was particularly vicious. Kirchner's side allied with other minor forces and presented itself as a heterodox, left-leaning Front for Victory (FpV), while Duhalde's side stuck to older Peronist tradition. Gonzalez de Duhalde's defeat to her opponent marked, according to many political analysts, the end to Duhalde's dominance over the province, and was followed by a steady defection of his supporters to the winner's side.

Former president Nestor Kirchner proposed the entry of the party into the Socialist International in February 2008. His dominance of the party was undermined, however, by the 2008 Argentine government conflict with the agricultural sector, when a bill raising export taxes was introduced with presidential support. Subsequent growers' lockouts helped result in the defection of numerous Peronists from the FpV caucus, and further losses during the 2009 mid-term elections resulted in the loss of the FpV absolute majorities in both houses of Congress. Clarin (30 Jun 2009)

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