De la Rua plans to maintain the economic reforms started by Menem, which curbed hyperinflation, but will emphasize job creation and stamping out corruption. Much will depend, however, on Menemís own reaction to the defeat. The ex-president has been cultivating ties with the trade unions he once battered when he was pressing through his austerity measures, and some observers fear a repeat of the fate of the last non-Peronist government, led by President Raul Alfonsin, which was brought down by Peronist-led general strikes. "Some observers believe that a desire to get back into power will lead Menem to lay siege to the De la Rua government, sooner rather than later," says McGirk. "With the Peronists as a strong opposition, the new government will have very little room for maneuvering." And plenty of tough choices.
Argentina won't cry for Carlos Saul Menem. Even his own Peronist party blames the high-living president of the past 10 years for their first-ever ouster from government at the polls rather than in a coup as voters flocked Sunday to the center-left alliance led by Fernando de la Rua. "In a political culture accustomed to flamboyant strongmen, De la Rua is something of an oddity," says TIME Latin America bureau chief Tim McGirk. "He's staid and boring, but his very stodginess may have been his biggest asset. Menem drove a Ferrari, hung out with soccer stars and danced with starlets, but a country beaten down by recession and unemployment, which doubled under Menem, was no longer amused by such antics."